By Patricia Beech
A group of Adams County residents were welcomed to the Ohio Statehouse on Thursday, April 14 by Attorney General Mike DeWine. The group traveled to Columbus to participate in ‘Adams County Day at the Capitol’. Mike Pell, President of First State Bank, commented, “This is a day to highlight the positive work we know is occurring in our communities and present it to those who can influence our continued growth.”
The Commissioner’s Office and the Leadership Adams organization partnered to create Capitol Day to provide a forum for conveying their message that “we are Adams County and we are open for business”.
The list of speakers for the day-long event included not only DeWine, but also Secretary of State John Husted, Lieutenant-Governor Mary Taylor, State Senator Joe Uecker, State Representative Terry Johnson, and ODNR Director Jim Zehringer.
Also present was Adams County native, and former State Senator Doug White who told the group, “Leadership is not complicated. The thing I learned growing up on a farm in Adams County is that you get a whole lot more hay in the barn by being out there working with the boys than you do sitting in the shade yelling at them. Same applies at the Statehouse, or in your business or agency.
Among the issues addressed were the heroin epidemic, the energy crisis, water quality, climate change, economic opportunities, and job growth.
Attorney General DeWine spoke about the heroin epidemic, telling those present: “It’s everywhere, every economic group, every social group, every race.” He said that his office believes that approximately three-quarters of all heroin addicts began as legal prescription users. “People get injured and become addicted to prescribed drugs, then later switch to heroin after their prescriptions runs out.” He added, “Heroin starts out as a $15-a-day habit, and builds to a $1500-a-day habit. Very few people have that kind of money, so they rip off their families and friends. We help local law enforcement fight the problem, but we’re not going to arrest our way out of this situation.”
DeWine recognized the multiple community programs that have arisen in Adams County in response to the drug epidemic, saying, “Communities are taking action because their children have died. Everyone needs to be involved – churches, businesses, and education need to be involved in this grassroots effort.”
There was also a panel discussion about the forces driving change in the energy market. Panel members included Kate Barter – Project Manager for the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth; Tom Raga – VP of External Affairs for DP&L; and Josh Knights, President of the Nature Conservancy.
Members of the Adams County coalition discussed several economic and social issues with Secretary of State John Husted, among them – the need for jobs.
Tad Mitchell, Career and Technical Supervisor for Ohio Valley School District, told the Secretary: “We happen to have a very skilled workforce in Adams County, unfortunately many of our students have to travel long distances to find high-paying jobs, or they choose to relocate, which is a brain-drain for the county, and that’s not what we want.”
Mitchell explained that those who choose to remain and work in Adams County are most often underemployed because there aren’t many high-paying jobs. “Coal is on it’s way out, and we have two coal-burning power plants that employ over 800 people in Adams County, they make up a large part of our tax base, and they have a life expectancy of only five to ten years. If they pull out and we have no other forms of jobs being created, it could leave our county even more devastated.”
Commissioner Paul Worley addressed the county’s energy issues, informing Husted of his office’s effort to bring natural gas into the area. “We’ve put together an informal group between GE, who has their test aviation site in Adams County, and DP&L which has two coal-fired power plants along the river,” said Worley. We’ve met with Duke Energy, we’ve met with Columbia Natural Gas, but unfortunately, we’re in an area without gas lines.”
Worley said that gas companies were interested in building in the county but without a major user, short of converting one of the power plants to natural gas, there was little hope they could recoup their investments. “There’s just not a lot of hope that they’ll invest over 50 million dollars to bring the pipeline in from Jackson, or from Mt. Orab. It’s a significant capital investment that they wouldn’t get back because we have a small population, but we’re keeping our options open, to be ready to capitalize on it when an opportunity does arise.”
The day’s events ended at the Governor’s Mansion where a new “Adams County Rock” was presented to the First Lady’s assistant, to be placed in the First Lady’s garden.