Washington C.H. and Fayette County officials are making the case for Honda locating a new $400 million plant in the community.

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of three articles the Daily news will run exploring how each possible Honda location, including Greensburg, feels it stands with regard to landing the auto manufacturer.

Fayette Co., Ohio - While residents of Van Wert, Ohio and Greensburg, believe their communities should be the site Honda chooses for a new auto plant, Fayette County officials and citizens think they have a leg up on the competition.

The recent statement made by Fayette County Commissioner Jack DeWeese that, “Honda and Fayette County are a perfect fit,” has become a common conviction in this central Ohio community. But why is Fayette County such an enticing spot for a $400 million auto plant?

County Economic Development Director Rob Hedrick and the County Commissioners provide the answers:

• Great location: Fayette County connects nearly 2,000 acres of fully serviced and zoned industrial property with over 160 miles of interstate and state highways, making transportation easy and efficient for business. Less than one hour from Ohio’s largest markets, Fayette County is a low cost alternative to grow a business, Hedrick said.

“Less than an hour’s drive from Columbus, Cincinnati and Dayton, the county combines the benefits of a rural community with easy access to major metropolitan markets,” Hedrick said.

The location of the proposed site for the plant, a 1,060-acre piece of land at Interstate 71 and U.S. Route 35, offers easy access to other Honda plants and suppliers. All utilities are also available. Fayette County already has two successful Japanese plants, YUSA in Washington Court House and TFO in Jeffersonville, which is the second largest community in Fayette County behind Washington C.H.

Washington C.H. is the county seat.

“YUSA is not just an employer, it is a part of our community,” said Hedrick. He added that YUSA is expanding, adding a Research and Development facility at the plant. “It’s a sign of confidence in our community.”

County Commissioner Bob Peterson said that in addition to the great location at I-71 and U.S. 35, there is a 69,000 volt power line, gas, sewer and water facilities, a fiber optic line and a rail line near the site.

“The infrastructure needs are already there,” said Hedrick. “If Honda tells us tomorrow we’re the site, we’re ready to go.”

DeWeese pointed out that a new ethanol plant is locating in nearby Bloomingburg, the third largest community in Fayette County.

• Manpower: Fayette County, with a population of approximately 28,400 people, is within one hour of a population of over 3.5 million people. The Fayette County location provides businesses with the skilled workforce needed to make the business competitive in today’s global marketplace, according to the Center for Economic Development.

“If we were to get the plant, I think we’d see more people reside here,” said Hedrick. “But mostly I think it would be commuters. I think they’ll come here and work and they won’t have to move. We’ll see an increased tax base and more people may come and spend money at our restaurants and outlet malls.”

Hedrick added that the community has tremendous values. “This is a good community with good values,” he said. “It is a charitable and compassionate community. It’s the type of community Honda likes to be associated with.”

• Great opportunity: When it comes to business attraction and expansion, Fayette County is one of the most competitive communities in the region, Hedrick said. Partnering with the Ohio Department of Development, the county offers the latest business financing and incentives to help business and industry succeed in the community.

• Great quality of life: Fayette County offers excellent quality of life for businesses and residents alike, officials said. It’s an opportunity for everyone to live and work in a peaceful, rural community and to take advantage of the educational, sports, entertainment and cultural resources of three nearby metropolitan areas, officials said.

Together, the community’s many amenities provide an array of built-in benefits, including: Quality schools, historic downtown, low cost of living, easy access to public and private golf courses, and convenient shopping.

“Fayette County offers a diverse variety of housing stock to meet the various needs of the community,” according to the economic development web site. “Rest assured you and your employees will not have a problem finding the right home in the appropriate price range.”

Affordable housing is already in place, Hedrick said, and more is on the way. “A Honda plant would drive further development,” he said.

The county has two local public school districts, Miami Trace Local School District and Washington City School District. Both districts are in the early stages of building new schools. Other schools in the area are: Fayette Christian School, Fayette County MRDD Progressive School, Fayette County MRDD Progressive Industries, Great Oaks Institute of Technology and Career Development. Local and regional colleges are: Southern State Community College in Washington C.H., Wilmington College in nearby Wilmington, Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio University in Chillicothe, Sinclair Community College in Dayton, and Ohio State University in Columbus.

There are also plenty of leisure opportunities, officials said. Washington C.H. is home to an historic downtown that is filled with unique shops and restaurants that attract visitors from the region year round.

Fayette County is also home to two regional outlet malls. Prime Outlets are located at the intersection of U.S. Route 35 and Interstate 71. Nike, Ralph Lauren, and Pottery Barn are just a few reasons why thousands of shoppers visit Fayette County every year.

Just one exit north on Interstate 71 is the Homeworks Center. This outlet focuses on the home with such stores as Sofa Express.

Fayette County is also fortunate to be surrounded by 35 public and private golf courses and eight state parks. “There is something for everyone’s taste in Fayette County,” officials said.

When it comes to Honda, another advantage Fayette County has is a predominantly non-union workforce. Honda has traditionally located in areas where unionization was not a predominant force.

But what if Honda decides to go somewhere else? “We know we have a good site that will be attractive to other businesses as well,” said Hedrick. “If Honda decides to go in another direction, we move on. We have a better network of access with the two intersecting highways than the other two sites. So if Honda doesn’t choose us, it doesn’t change the fact that we have a great site and a great county.”

Ohio Lt. Gov. Bruce Johnson agrees that the Fayette County site is a great site, but also says that Van Wert would be a great location.

“Fayette County has the access to Interstate 71, a highly qualified workforce, and the infrastructure. They have the ability to work within Honda’s very tight time frame for this plant. I’m not going to compare the two sites (Fayette County and Van Wert). They are both highly qualified.”

In Monday’s edition we will explore why Van Wert thinks they have the lead in landing Honda.

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