MOUNT VERNON — You know a project is significant when the president of the United States is invited to its kick-off event.

That was evident Friday, when a number of Knox County officials ventured to Johnstown as President Joe Biden delivered the keynote address at Intel’s long-anticipated groundbreaking ceremony.

Jeff Gottke, president of the Knox County Area Development Foundation, believes Intel’s project creates a generational opportunity for Knox County – and may affect multiple generations.

“We’ve never been faced with this kind of thing before. So it’s a tremendous opportunity for us to grow and develop, but in a way that we want to. It’s great for local businesses because one, for our local manufacturers, to do business directly with Intel,” Gottke said. “It’s great for our local economy because just across the (county) border, you’ve got a company that’s gonna inject $400 million annually in payroll.

“So that’s an incredible opportunity for new economic activity in (Knox) County. So think about the potential new residents, think about the payroll that they bring to the county.”

Obviously, a larger pool of people will begin spending more money in the community, which has a multiplier effect — including the creation of new businesses. In turn that brings in new sales tax revenue, Gottke said.

“That’s new income tax for the governments, to provide high-quality services. That’s tourism opportunities,” he noted. “If I was Olivia (Toth, marketing manager for the Knox County Convention and Visitors Bureau), I’d be licking my chops over trying to get people to come up here and spend their time in Knox County.

“I think we talked about residents, too. Just from a residential standpoint, from what we’ve seen lately, with the number of people from out of the county moving into the county, this is only going to accelerate that.”

Knox County Commissioners Teresa Bemiller, and Bill Pursel joined Gottke in the trip, which was a matter of traveling just 12 miles south of Centerburg to be on site.

“It’s extremely good news for our region and for the counties that surround it,” Bemiller said. “I think it’ll be exciting to see it here.” 

She is also weighing the planning stage and strategizing how Intel will impact the local workforce. 

“I think we’re doing the right things on getting started early,” Bemiller said. “We don’t know the full impact this will have on us so we want to be as prepared as we can.

“This doesn’t come around very often.”

Mount Vernon Mayor Matt Starr was not among the local leaders to venture south. But he applauded the event.

“It’s getting real now,” Starr said of the local impact. “We know that because people are looking for homes. Families looking for homes for their kids. Mount Vernon is positioned quite (well) to offer that.”

Despite some national hiccups with the stalled Chips Act in Congress, Starr had no doubt the project would eventually get off the ground.

“I think it’s very important because this is really shoring up jobs in manufacturing to the United States,” the mayor said. “It’s exciting … There’s no turning back.” 

When Intel comes to town, other business will follow, Starr said.

“It’s really nice because it’s going to create more revenue … higher number of tax contributors to take care of infrastructure and safety services. Also, it’s going to increase market demand for things to do.”

Starr also noted the educational impact Intel will have, particularly among the higher-education institutions. 

Central Ohio Technical College has been certified as an Intel school, meaning students can obtain an associate’s degree and have a career opportunity at Intel. 

The two-year degree, electrical engineering technology, is “offering skilled training to complement a wide variety of industries. COTC’S associate degree in electrical engineering is an exceptionally good fit for careers as an Intel technician/fabricator,” the school noted. 

COTC President Dr. John M. Berry also went to the groundbreaking, COTC’s Public Relations representative Suzanne Bressoud said. 

“I’m honored to represent Central Ohio Technical College at the groundbreaking for Intel’s chip manufacturing facilities in Licking County,” Berry said. “Intel’s announced plan to hire 70% of its Ohio workforce at the associate degree level draws welcome attention to the importance of COTC’s two-year associate degrees.

“The college’s Associate of Applied Science in Electrical Engineering Technology offers a fast, affordable and conveniently located degree option that will well position COTC graduates for Intel technician roles. We’re ready to begin filling Intel’s skilled workforce pipeline.” 

Knox County Career Center’s Superintendent Kathrine Greenich sees the groundbreaking as a way for Intel to “provide many opportunities for workers of all ages and bring revenue to local businesses in many ways.” 

“We know that it will affect Knox County in many ways,” Greenich said. “I have been serving on committees, attending meetings, and working on plans from a local perspective and also from a statewide education perspective for months, so the groundbreaking is a positive step.” 

Greenich said the career center will continue to offer programs that meet the demands that local workforce needs. 

“We have already made the connections with personnel at Intel and hope to have them visit our campus in the near future to see our career tech programs that prepare high school and adult students with industry credentials that can be used by Intel or other supporting companies,” she said. 

Knox Pages reporter Grant Pepper contributed to this report. 

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