Unemployment rates tumbled by 0.5 percent in March, placing Auglaize County among the lowest in the state.
In data released by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Auglaize County registered an unemployment rate of 6.4 percent, down from 6.9 percent in February. That figure placed Auglaize County as one of eight counties statewide to have an unemployment rate of less than 6.5 percent. Last year in March, the unemployment rate sat at 7.8 percent.
Wapakoneta Area Economic Development Council Executive Director Greg Myers said the decreasing unemployment numbers in the region is now a trend.
“I think we have seen a significant change in the last 12 months and I think it is important for us to understand that this is beginning to look like a trend now,” Myers told the Wapakoneta Daily News. “When this happens regionally, Mercer County and Auglaize County were first and fifth in the state last month and when we drop another one-half a percentage point on top of that I think that is a very solid statement about what is happening with our companies in the county.”
He noted existing companies are hiring and new companies are starting operations and those two factors are helping decrease the unemployment rate.
The development manager in St. Marys echoed Myers’ statements.
“I am hopeful that it indicates a turnaround in the economy,” St. Marys Development Manager Susan Crotty said. “We are seeing improvement as Auglaize County has been lower than the state average. It dropped again, and that’s a good sign.”
The surrounding area also experienced a similar decrease in unemployment rates. Mercer County came in at 4.9 percent, a decrease from 5.5 percent. That figure gave Mercer County the distinction of having the lowest unemployment rate in the state.
Allen County was at 8.5 percent, a decrease from 9.3 percent, Shelby County was at 7.9 percent, a decrease from 8.6 percent, Van Wert County was at 7.9 percent, a decrease from 8.6 percent, Logan County was at 7.7 percent, a decrease from 8.2 percent, Hardin County was at 8.1 percent, a decrease from 9.5 percent and Darke County was at 8.1 percent, a decrease from 8.9 percent.
Crotty, who was hired in March to replace the retiring Todd Fleagle, said she has been scheduling visits to local industrial and manufacturing operations in the city. The visits, she noted, will help her get acclimated to the area and assess the needs of the companies in St. Marys.
“It seems like a lot of them are going to be bringing on new product lines or will be seeing an increase in business in the near future,” Crotty said, noting the recent growth in the city. “That always helps encourage new growth and people want to go where they see the potential for economic growth.That’s an indicator to them a city is doing well and is a good place to do business.”
Before joining the city, Crotty previously worked for the city of Pickerington as well as the state of Ohio and the Columbus Urban Growth Corporation. Crotty said no matter the size of a municipality, the factors that go into attracting development remain the same.
“I think in the end, the challenges that communities face are similar,” Crotty said. “Each one is unique and everyone wants improved quality of life, job creation and economic growth so I think those challenges are similar across the board. I do think St. Marys has a lot of assets that make it easier. It’s a beautiful town with a lot of good people who have a strong work ethic.”
One area Crotty said she plans to target is increasing the city’s portfolio of development sites for potential end users.
“My focus is on job creation and industrial development aspects and what I think we have shown a lot of success in is auto-related industries,” Crotty said. “I think that would be a good target for this community and I would also like to see some improvements in the downtown.”
Managing Editor William Laney contributed to this story.