Ohio officials are trying to determine how much Intel’s $20 billion “mega-site” project will impact the lives of citizens living an hour or two away from the tech giant’s facility in New Albany.
The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission wants to provide professional services and assistance to communities within a 40-minute drive of the Intel site in New Albany, Licking County, with transportation and land use plans, with a focus on Knox, Marion, and Morrow counties in particular for what their needs will be as the region grows.
MORPC issued a request for proposals to commence such work in November.
The Ohio Department of Transportation has already begun similar planning, but only 20 minutes away from where Intel expects to invest $20 billion on the project, which is expected to attract adjacent suppliers as well as the employment, traffic, and housing demands that come with it.
Intel has stated that it anticipates 5,000 to 7,000 construction employees on the site at some point. The two chip manufacturing units are set to start in 2025 and will employ 3,000 people.
“Basically, Intel, when it was announced, it was a major shock to communities out there,” Nick Gill, MORPC’s transportation study director, said.
Gill mentioned that officials have already been working on immediate and short-term impacts. “What’s long-term?” he questioned.
MORPC will also provide planning assistance to smaller authorities in the area.
According to ODOT spokesperson Matt Bruning, authorities are investigating whether enhancements to local road networks are needed, as well as the potential commercial consequences.
“There might be a hotel that locates in an area where there isn’t one now,” he said.
“There should always be a more coordinated effort on something like this,” Bruning added. “Within Ohio we don’t control every roadway in the state.”
According to Jamie Brucker, director of operations for the Morrow County commissioners, authorities in Morrow County, roughly 45 minutes north of Columbus, are already talking about the need to enhance capacity at the Interstate 71/Route 61 intersection and the I-71/Route 95 interchange.
Chester Crossing, a multi-use complex with 500 units of housing, including flats, condominiums, and single-family houses, is being built near the latter, according to Brucker.
Based on Brucker, Morrow County authorities believe Intel will help the county. He speculated that county inhabitants may commute to Intel, and that other industries might want to set up shop in the county.
He added that a 707,000-square-foot warehouse near the Dollar Tree Distribution Center at the I-71/Route 61 intersection was completed earlier this year.
“Moving people is something we’re keeping an eye on,” he said.
Gus Comstock, Executive Director of Marion CAN DO!, an economic development organization, said having sufficient housing might be a huge incentive for firms considering settling in the region. He stated that his organization would host a meeting on Sept. 21 with Jon Melchi, executive director of the Building Industry Association, to discuss housing trends and needs.
“Communities with housing are going to be the winning communities,” Comstock said.
“We feel like we’re getting things ready. There are a number of developers looking up here,” he said.
Melchi stated that he will examine overall housing patterns in Ohio as well as future community design.
“Not just do we have a housing deficit, we have an aging housing stock,” Melchi said. While communities may have a number of homes available, they may not align with what current or future homeowners want, he added.
According to Jeff Gottke, president of the Area Development Foundation of Knox County, Knox County authorities have previously worked on an Intel development strategy that includes transportation proposals for making east-west traffic movement simpler.
“More of like an audit of our preparedness, with some suggestions to get there,” Gottke said.
“If we want to maximize the benefits of growth, we should all be thinking about the next 10 years,” he added.