"Salt of the earth" once described Meigs County, as much for its downhome, hard-working people as for the fact that the county was famous for its salt mines. In a bygone era, this southeast corner of Appalachian Ohio was a major salt and coal mining center. The county seat, Pomeroy (pop. 2,312) was a popular stop for steamboats.
While the salt mines are gone and the coal mines downsizing, the county is emerging as a major player in two important ag products -- hardwoods and soft flowers.
One large operation is Facemyer Lumber Co., which produces 18 million board feet of lumber and veneer logs a year. Denny Facemyer, V.P., says Meigs and the surrounding region is an excellent location for harvesting Appalachian hardwoods. The wood is much in demand by foreign companies, and about half of the company's business is international. Facemyer earned the Governor's E Award for exports in 1994.
Meigs County officials see good opportunity in value-added activities, such as cabinets, furniture and flooring. Most Meigs lumber is shipped to southern companies, which then transport it back to northern markets as finished furniture. Freight accounts for half of the price northern homeowners pay for that new dining room table.
Moreover, Appalachian forest resources and availability of the river as a low-cost distribution lane indicate the area could support an additional pulp and paper mill. There are several along the Ohio River, including a proposed $1 billion, 1,000-job Parsons & Whittemore pulp mill.
But the fastest growing ag industry in Meigs is floriculture, accounting for 40 percent of farm production. Nearly four dozen commercial greenhouses supply such retailers as Wal-Mart and Kmart in 10 states. Most of the houses cluster in the warmer "bottoms" along the Ohio River.
Floriculture production in Meigs, a county of just 23,000 people and six traffic lights, is surpassed only by such cities as Cleveland and Cincinnati.
|Virgil Hill & Sons Greenhouses raises four crops a year in 65,000 sq. ft. of greenhouses. Starting business just five years ago, the fast-growing company now produces 90,000 flats -- 3.6 million plants -- a year.|
Meigs also produces fresh tomatoes and sweet corn for a market of nine to 10 states. The popular Ohio Valley tomato serves a four-week niche market sandwiched between produce coming out of the Carolinas and northern New Jersey.
Meigs lays out a large menu of advantages for industry: low taxes, low crime and a relatively low cost of living, good schools, ample power and competitive wage rates. The entire county is designated a Rural Enterprise Zone, where property tax incentives for new and expanding industry can be applied.
Among the county's several attractive properties is the Great Bend Industrial Site, one of the last large Ohio River tracts left. This is a choice site for such activities as plastics, paper or automotive.
Meigs' 13.6 percent unemployment rate is largely the result of a contracting coal industry. Southern Ohio Coal, still the county's largest employer, supports a significant retraining program to make such skills as hydraulics, electronics and machine maintenance available to other industries.
Reach Meigs from Columbus via U.S. 33, which is four-laned most of the way. Infrastructure projects in the works include completion of the four-laning of the I-77 connector.
|Meigs County||Pike County|
|Mid-Ohio / Obetz and Gahanna||Mercer and Auglaize Counties|
|Hardin County||Marion County|
|Village of Leipsic||West Central Ohio|