InSite Evaluation a ‘Great Opportunity’

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 12.08.33 PM A recent visit by InSite Consulting represents, according to Highland County Commissioner Shane Wilkin, a “great opportunity” for the entire county.

InSite is a South Carolina company which specializes in economic development, site selection, and real estate services. As a part of a program sponsored by AEP, known as the Community Economic Development Academy (CEDA), counties across the state could choose to have InSite survey locations and offer formal suggestions for development.

After an all-day seminar in Marietta earlier this year, attended by Wilkin and Highland County Board of Commissioners Deputy Clerk Nicole Oberrecht, Highland County opted to participate in the CEDA program. InSite’s subsequent services, according Wilkin, were “on AEP’s nickel,” and that financial aid is something for which he and other officials are “thankful.”

“To get (InSite) to come in and do all this work, it would have been hard for us to afford without AEP,” he said.

Over the course of two days, representatives from InSite, AEP, the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth (APEG), and local governments, met with commissioners to evaluate and discuss various sites.

Among those in attendance at different points throughout the process were Wilkin; Oberrecht; commissioners Tom Horst and Jeremy Shaffer; John Buck, AEP community affairs; Katie Farber, APEG project manager; Marty Walsh, vice president of programs for APEG; Rob Cornwell and Tonya Crist, managers of InSite; Greenfield City Manager Ron Coffey; Brian Smith, public service director of Greenfield; and Leesburg Mayor Danny Daulton.

Representatives from Hillsboro were unable to attend due to timing conflicts. However, Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings met with the AEP Ohio president Pablo Vega on Wednesday afternoon in the mayor’s office. Hastings described the meeting as “cordial and productive.”

“Knowing that AEP has a lot of economic development funds at their disposal, I told him that he could not give economic development funds to any city in Ohio that would show a greater tangible result than right here in Hillsboro,” said Hastings, adding that he felt confident about receiving assistance from AEP for city projects.

“It was a really productive meeting,” said Hastings.

Locations visited during the InSite visit included Hobart Drive in Hillsboro, the Leesburg Industrial Park, and the Greenfield Industrial Park. In addition, they toured the former R.R. Donnelley Building in Greenfield.

Out of several other counties participating in the CEDA program, Wilkin said that Highland County was the first that InSite visited.

He said Cornwell and Crist were “impressed with some of our sites.”

Wilkin added that, following this visit, Highland County is now “on (InSite’s) radar,” which, as a business that works with companies across the nation, could be an added advantage to the CEDA program.

Additionally, Wilkin said InSite brought “a lot of expertise that you’re not going to find locally.”

“We got to tap into that knowledge,” he said, finding out “what is important and why it’s important.”

The meetings which occurred this week, Wilkin said, were “mostly … a big discussion back and forth.”

Formal suggestions, he said, are expected to come within a month. And that feedback, he said, will help the county to improve its “lot as far as economic development goes.”

“It’s a very different game than it used to be,” Wilkin said, adding that the county has “a little work to get ready” for businesses to come.

Going forward, Wilkin said, “As the financial situation of the county improves, we’ll look at recreating an official economic development program.”

Another focus, he said, would be to foster a partnership among the villages of Highland County, especially Greenfield and Leesburg, with Hillsboro as they all grow.

Wilkin said InSite will be working with Highland County throughout the rest of the year as a plan is designed and implemented.

Also on the agenda for the meeting was the $88 million the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has allocated for state park improvements. The ODNR is seeking public input in determining how the funding will be used.

The $88.5 million received by ODNR through the capital budget is “for projects targeted for updating and renovating parks facilities across the state,” according to the ODNR website.

Ohioans can go to the ODNR website at and click on the “Suggest Ohio Park Improvements” in the top banner on the page, or click on the park improvement plan on the page’s featured content. There, visitors can take a survey and let ODNR know what needs repaired or improved at a state park, which can be chosen from a drop-down menu on the survey.

While on the survey, it says that the agency “may not be able to make every improvement offered,” ODNR wants the public’s input to be sure that the matters brought up by visitors are what is being addressed.

The survey can be found at

From Times Gazette, Hillsboro, Ohio | May 22, 2014

By Sarah Allen |