In Ohio, food and agribusiness contributes over $124 billion to Ohio’s economy with 1,300+ food manufacturers contributing nearly $16.4 billion in GSP to Ohio’s economy. Moreover, the food/agribusiness sector is the largest industry in Ohio, boasting hundreds of companies that cultivate, process, package, distribute and market food and drinks enjoyed by consumers around the world. The proximity to and relationships with industry and academic partners result in faster, more affordable access to every part of the value chain. Companies at any point in the value chain have access to the partners they need to succeed in Ohio.
Licking County boasts an expanding, vibrant, diverse economy that is proven to serve the food/agribusiness sector. Economic growth this last year across all industries has shown that the county has the infrastructure, available sites, and supporting workforce to welcome a wide variety of businesses with many successes in the food and agribusiness space. It is not simply one element that is attracting a new range of commerce to locate in this area just east of Columbus, Ohio.
“Of course, it isn’t just that we have the buildings and sites ready-to-go for businesses, a great accessible location, or a broad base of skilled workers to draw on, but what sets us apart is our community spirit and adaptability to ‘get it done,’” comments Robert O’Neill, GROW Licking County Board Member and President of the Southgate Corporation.
Gathered Foods Corporation, makers of Good Catch Foods, believe that plant-based eating will change – and ultimately save – the world, and they strive to create plant-based foods that taste amazing. They decided to invest $20 million in a 42,500 square foot new facility on the Central Ohio Aerospace and Technology Center campus in Heath.
The largely decentralized company chose to locate in Licking County based on easy access to much of the United States population. The campus, controlled by the Heath-Newark-Licking County Port Authority, made many strategic investments in utility and road improvements, offering potential and current clients a turnkey solution to their site selection.
Gathered Foods Executive Chair Chris Kerr said, “We hired the local team, starting with the general manager and expanded from there. From the beginning we had knowledgeable staff on hand to get things moving.”
The plant, which has plenty of room for expansion, can produce products that earn about $100 million in revenue a year, Kerr estimated. There are currently about thirty employees working in the facility, but Kerr said it will eventually have around eighty.
In Licking County, the food and agribusiness industry, particularly those that specialize in non-GMO and plant-based nutrition, including Nature’s One, are thriving.
“GROW Licking County (GROW) has become a trusted business partner with Nature’s One. GROW has been supporting us since our first step forward at the groundbreaking of our new state of the art facility in Heath, Ohio,” said Jay Highman, President & CEO of Nature’s One. “With GROW’s support, Nature’s One successfully launched commercial production of our branded Baby’s Only Organic complete nutrition formulas … Today, GROW continues to assist Nature’s One in job recruitment, job training, safety training, and professional and skill development within the organization. We consider GROW to be a true partner and look forward to our long-term working relationship.”
In addition to Nature’s One and Gathered Foods, Licking County has seen expansions by GB Food, a non-GMO producer of “soy -protein crisps” and KeHo Foods, a nut-based nutrition and spread contract manufacturer.
However, these successes do not happen overnight, and sustained success requires strong partnerships – especially in workforce development. With infrastructure supporting credential-focused learning, associate degrees, and full bachelor’s degrees in key fields, Licking County is supported by a range of specialized workforce programs at C-TEC of Licking County, Central Ohio Technical College, and The Ohio State University at Newark.
Lauren Massie, Adult Education Director at the Career and Technology Education Centers of Licking County (C-TEC), states, “C-TEC is leading the way with a new FREE Manufacturing Certification Program – C-TEC Edge. The training enables displaced workers to gain experience in a manufacturing setting as they re-skill or up-skill their careers. Coming together with support from businesses and government, we were able to respond and offer training to over 100+ adults by the end of 2020 and more planned for 2021.”
The economy is booming in Licking County, attracting businesses that are non-traditional and innovative. In addition to the region’s central location, the area has the infrastructure, sites which are build-ready, and a trained workforce, ticking off many boxes for a wide variety of developing commerce.
With sites and buildings available, let’s connect and see how Licking County can serve your growing food industry needs!
About GROW Licking County CIC
GROW’s mission is to provide responsive and individualized economic development support that enables business to expand or locate in Licking County, Ohio. GROW Licking County serves as the community’s lead economic development organization – welcoming development, connecting resources and increasing opportunities.
“ALL WE NEED IS YOU.”
Contact: Stephanie I. Bosco