Licking County has long prided itself on being a place friendly to business, with land available for development, government leaders willing to collaborate and people willing to work.
That self-image will be put to the ultimate test in the coming years as Intel this week announced plans to invest $20 billion into a semiconductor manufacturing facility in Jersey Township.
It is impossible to overstate the ramifications for the county from what will be the largest private development project in Ohio's history. A few stats to highlight the project's immensity:
1,700 acres are being set aside for the manufacturing site - roughly the size of Ohio State's main campus
3,000 jobs will be created - making it one of the county's largest employers
$135,000 average salaries - bringing more than $400 million in earnings to the county
The project is expected to create 7,000 construction jobs and up to 10,000 indirect jobs.
And all that is just the first phase of what is potentially a multi-phase project. It is fair to say this development will change the local landscape permanently.
Numbers like that are impressive and local and state leaders should be commended for securing such an investment, but attracting the company is not the finish line. Especially for our local leaders, the real work must begin in earnest to ensure Licking County will grow with this investment in a way that works for the community already here.
To put it bluntly, without proper planning, this development could be a nightmare for residents. It could worsen already existing problems: the lack of available housing, the lack of a coordinated transportation system and the lack of available workers for local businesses.
Jersey Township officials on Friday announced an effort to gather public input to update their comprehensive plan, an excellent step that county officials should look at emulating.
The money being invested in the chip plant is likely to attract more money in terms of industrial, commercial and housing development. Those developers coming to town will likely have their own plans and their own attorneys. That makes it that much more critical for leaders to have well drafted, reasoned plans for where housing should go, how utilities should be expanded and how infrastructure must be improved.
The Intel project will bring many benefits to the community: more high-wage jobs, more diversity, more opportunities. It is definitely an exciting time for the area.
But we must not only see this announcement as Pollyanna. Hard work and difficult choices must be made by our leaders to direct the growth as wisely as possible.
For whatever issues existed before, our leaders will - and should - be judged for how they handle this unprecedented opportunity.
Licking County's rural landscape was already changing, and this development will make that happen all the quicker. That is why the time is now to for our elected leaders to plan for the inevitable.
This article originally appeared on Newark Advocate: Our view: Intel presents unprecedented opportunity for Licking County