Sunday, July 22, 2001

Delaware County keeps on zooming

It's fastest-growing county in Ohio

The Associated Press

        DELAWARE, Ohio — If the economy is slowing down, it's not apparent in Delaware County.

        The central Ohio county just north of Columbus has been the county with the lowest unemployment rate in Ohio for 42 straight months. Its jobless rate for June was 2.2 percent.

        That compares with 4.2 percent in Ohio and 4.5 percent nationwide.

        Census figures show Delaware County is the fastest-growing county in Ohio and the 40th fastest nationwide. The population increase and brisk job growth has kept unemployment around 2 percent during a national economic downturn.

        “Delaware seems to be thumbing its nose at the economic slowdown,” said James Newton, a Delaware economist who directs the new Polaris Center campus of DeVry Institute of Technology's Keller Graduate School of Management.

        The county hasn't been immune from the economic slump. Its jobless rate has risen 0.7 percentage point since April. The number of unemployed residents increased by 400 last month, raising the total to 1,400, the highest so far this year.

        There are concerns about job security, especially after PPG Industries, one of the county's largest employers, laid off 42 workers in May.

        But the county continues to grow. Its current population of more than 109,000 is 64 percent higher than it was in 1990. People moving north from Franklin County accounted for a large amount of the increase.

        That growth dramatically increased demand for restaurants, housing construction and other services, which helped bolster employment, said Larry Less, an economist for the state's Bureau of Labor Market Information.

        Officials say that although there are many residents who live in Delaware County and work elsewhere, the county continues to attract companies because of its rapid population growth, location and highway access.

        In the past five years, Bank One has brought about 5,000 jobs from other locations in central Ohio to the company's corporate center on Polaris Parkway, with 3,000 more jobs on the way.

        The $200 million Polaris Fashion Place shopping mall, set to open in the fall, is expected to employ as many as 3,000 people.

        Times are so good that some companies are concerned about finding enough workers, and development officials are worried about new companies “stealing” workers from existing businesses.

        “I'd rather see that than vacant buildings,” said Gus Comstock, economic development director for the city of Delaware.

        The boom is likely to continue until the county reaches the peak of its population growth and development, which could be several years off.

        “For the time being, this is the place to be,” Mr. Newton said.


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