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Ohio’s winning ways stem from collaboration and commitment to community

By Norwalk Reflector staff • Mar 14, 2019 at 2:00 PM

Micropolitan is a fancy word for a small town. The U.S. Census Bureau provides an exhaustive definition, but when it comes down to it, a micropolitan statistical area (MSA) is a geographic region of one or more counties with one city of 10,000 to 50,000 people. Micropolitans are sprinkled throughout the state of Ohio, and some are right out of a work by Norman Rockwell.

Charming, yes. Sleepy, no. Not in Ohio, as emphatically shown in Site Selection’s ranking of Top Micropolitans for 2018. In 2018, as in the three previous years, Ohio produced more Top 100 micropolitans —17 — than any other state. Four Ohio micropolitans — Findlay, Wooster, Ashland and Defiance — made the Top 10. Perhaps most impressive of all, micropolitan Ohio’s 109 qualifying investments dwarfed those of second-place Kentucky, which totaled 40. The remainder of the Top 10 include Georgia, North Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Tennessee, Indiana, Alabama and Pennsylvania.

Norwalk is ranked in a tie for 62nd in the listings.

“It’s about economic development, really,” Norwalk Mayor Rob Duncan said. “Dollars invested in our community last year was significant.”

Duncan said any news like this is good for the community.

“People who are looking do look at ths type of information,” Duncan said. “It is good to see investment taking place in our community. I hope they ask why and we can tell them. Really the good news for us is the investment continues in our community. We would like new businesses but it is important our the businesses we have here now continue to re-invest in themselves.”

Here is a look at Ohio’s top three cities in the rankings:

No. 1: Findlay

The best athletes work like mad to remain at the tops of their games. The best teams play through injuries and put individual egos aside.

So it is with Findlay, which might be seen as the concentrated essence of small town Ohio. With 23 qualifying investments, Findlay, an hour south of Toledo, is Site Selection’s top micropolitan for the fifth straight year. It’s a record of dominance that has helped propel the town of 41,000 residents to superstar status, so much so that Tim Mayle, director of Findlay-Hancock County Economic Development, is forever being asked to explain the “Findlay Formula.”

“What sets Findlay apart,” Mayle tells Site Selection, “is our ability to collaborate within the community to solve problems. We have the ability in Findlay to pull everybody together.”

And that includes the business community.

“I’ve seen how people work together to truly try to find the ideal ‘win-win’ for Findlay,” says Dale Laws, vice president of manufacturing operations for Whirlpool, one of Findlay’s top employers. “It’s been that mindset that has contributed to the great success that Findlay has seen.”

Whirlpool, which last year plowed another $13 million into its Findlay dishwasher plant, is one of the town’s “Big Three” of repeat investors, which also includes Marathon Petroleum and Cooper Tire and Rubber Company. Marathon and Cooper deploy their top brains to Findlay, as each has its headquarters there.

Findlay also brings a powerful bench to the game, especially in logistics and the automotive industry. Findlay’s 2018 investors include MITEC Powertrain ($20 million), Freudenberg ($3.7 million), Nissin Brake ($15 million), Home Depot Rapid Deployment Center ($25 million), Ohio Logistics ($7 million) and Best Buy Warehousing Logistics ($2 million).

No. 2: Wooster

In 1897, Jerome Monroe Smucker began selling apple butter from a horse-drawn buggy in Orrville, Ohio, on the outskirts of Wooster. Today, the J.M. Smucker company is synonymous with fruit spreads and peanut butter, and a market leader in shortening and oils, ice cream toppings and beverages. Smucker still makes apple butter, too, and with 25 manufacturing operations spread across the United States, the company enjoyed 2018 net sales of $7.3 billion. It still calls the Wooster region home.

“Orrville is home to our corporate headquarters and a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility,” says Ray Hancart, chief of corporate communications. “Wayne County has contributed to our success in many ways, but one of the principal contributions is the quality of life the area offers our employees. The quality of life in Wayne is a true selling point.”

Tied for No. 5: Ashland

There’s nothing like the presence of a brewpub to indicate economic fermentation in a small-town economy. Doug Reynolds has seen it, himself, since he and his wife, Anna, opened Uniontown Brewing Co. in downtown Ashland, Ohio, in December of 2017.

“A year before we opened, 75 percent of the downtown buildings were leased,” Reynolds tells Site Selection. “As of today, that’s up to about 95 percent. Six buildings have sold since we opened. It’s just a really good vibe downtown now.”

2018 Top Micropolitan Cities

(By number of projects)

1 Findlay, Ohio (23)

2 Wooster, Ohio (17)

3 Batavia, N.Y. (13)

4 Shelby, N.C. (12)

T5 Tupelo, Miss. (11)

T5 Ashland, Ohio (11)

7 Cullman, Ala. (10)

8 Defiance, Ohio (9)

9 Wilson, N.C. (8)

T10 Angola, Ind. (7)

T10 Danville, Ky. (7)

T10 Orangeburg, S.C. (7)

T10 Danville, Va. (7)

T14 London, Ky. (6)

T14 Beatrice, Neb. (6)

T14 Tiffin, Ohio (6)

T14 Wapakoneta, Ohio (6)

T14 Manitowoc, Wis. (6)

T19 Blytheville, Ark. (5)

T19 Thomasville, Ga. (5)

T19 Waycross, Ga. (5)

T19 Glasgow, Ky. (5)

T19 Mayfield, Ky. (5)

T19 Ogdensburg-Massena, N.Y. (5)

T19 Sanford, N.C. (5)

T19 Fremont, Ohio (5)

T19 Sidney, Ohio (5) 

T19 Greenwood, S.C. (5)

T29 Selma, Ala. (4) 

T29 Bainbridge, Ga. (4)

T29 Calhoun, Ga. (4)

T29 Plymouth, Ind. (4)

T29 Frankfort, Ky. (4)

T29 Madisonville, Ky. (4) 

T29 Opelousas, La. (4)

T29 Hastings, Neb. (4) 

T29 Kearney, Neb. (4)

T29 Marion, N.C. (4) 

T29 New Castle, Pa. (4) 

T29 Somerset, Pa. (4) 

T41 Talladega-Sylacauga, Ala. (3)

T41 Cordele, Ga. (3)

T41 McPherson, Kan. (3)

T41 Adrian, Mich. (3) 

T41 Vicksburg, Miss. (3)

T41 Norfolk, Neb. (3)

T41 Plattsburgh, N.Y. (3)

T41 Albemarle, N.C. (3)

T41 Roanoke Rapids, N.C. (3)

T41 Ashtabula, Ohio (3)

T41 Bellefontaine, Ohio (3)

T41 Bucyrus, Ohio (3)

T41 Celina, Ohio (3)

T41 Zanesville, Ohio (3)

T41 Athens, Tenn. (3)

T41 Crossville, Tenn. (3)

T41 Union City, Tenn.-Ky. (3)

T41 Corsicana, Texas (3) 

T41 Lufkin, Texas (3)

T41 Big Stone Gap, Va. (3)

T41 Sheridan, Wyo. (3)

T62 Albertville, Ala. (2)

T62 Troy, Ala. (2)

T62 Douglas, Ga. (2)

T62 Fitzgerald, Ga. (2)

T62 Jefferson, Ga. (2)

T62 Jesup, Ga. (2) 

T62 LaGrange, Ga. (2) 

T62 Freeport, Ill. (2) 

T62 Auburn, Ind. (2) 

T62 Frankfort, Ind. (2)

T62 Huntington, Ind. (2)

T62 Warsaw, Ind. (2)

T62 Bardstown, Ky. (2)

T62 Maysville, Ky. (2)

T62 Mount Sterling, Ky. (2)

T62 Minden, La. (2)

T62 Hannibal, Mo. (2) 

T62 Lebanon, Mo. (2)

T62 Sedalia, Mo. (2

T62 Columbus, Neb. (2)

T62 Fremont, Neb. (2) 

T62 Scottsbluff, Neb. (2)

T62 Auburn, N.Y. (2) 

T62 Rockingham, N.C. (2) 

T62 Washington, N.C. (2)

T62 New Philadelphia-Dover, Ohio (2)

T62 Norwalk, Ohio (2)

T62 Salem, Ohio (2)

T62 Wilmington, Ohio (2) 

T62 Meadville, Pa. (2)

T62 Pottsville, Pa. (2) 

T62 Sayre, Pa. (2)

T62 Gaffney, S.C. (2)

T62 Seneca, S.C. (2)

T62 Watertown, S.D. (2) 

T62  Cookeville, Tenn. (2)

T62 Martin, Tenn. (2) 

T62 Pecos, Texas (2) 

T62 Plainview, Texas (2) 

T62 Rio Grande City, Texas (2)

T62 Sevierville, Tenn. (2) 

T62 Sulphur Springs, Texas (2)



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