What’s the key to small towns thriving in the modern economy? Betty Smith sat down with Obetz Mayor Angela Kirk who says it’s a willingness to accept change. Obetz, a village of 5,000 in Franklin County, is one of the fastest-growing small communities in Ohio. In fact, by the time the next Census is complete, the mayor expects the community to become a city.
There are over 300 businesses in the 6 square miles occupied by Obetz. Mayor Kirk says more are on the way. The location, just 15 minutes outside of Columbus helps. “We have a logistic location like no other.” A new Love’s Truck Stop recently opened in the village and there are also plans for a Sheetz gas station and convenience store.
Growth hasn’t always come easily, though. “It got stagnant for a moment, but now we’re on the uptick again.” She said the local government was forced to make a lot of changes in order to attract businesses and keep young people in the community by offering jobs. She admitted that change can be scary. “There were a lot of growing pains.”
Thinking outside the box, or rather thinking about new ways to use the box, helped turn a major negative into a positive. When the Columbus Motor Speedway shut down in 2016, the village lost an important attraction. The owners approached the village government about buying the property. Obetz ended up replacing the speedway with Fortress Obetz. Fortress Obetz is a unique multi-purpose sports and entertainment facility with building constructed from shipping containers.
Kirk says Obetz hasn’t lost its small-town feel and that keeping downtown businesses happy is also a priority even as new companies come in.
Obetz, with a median household income of $55,476 compared to Scioto County $36,946 seems like its miles ahead of our area in development, Kirk says Scioto County is making great strides in bringing in development. She encouraged people to not fear change, but instead embrace it and welcome new business development and new ideas with open arms. “Kudos to Scioto County on your growth. There’s going to be some growing pains.”
We thank Mayor Kirk for her time with us. Watch Betty’s entire interview HERE.