- Eric Schwartzberg Staff Writer
Butler County is Ohio’s fastest-growing large county for jobs, and its weekly wage growth is 19th in the nation, according to new data.
Of the 13 largest counties in the state, Butler County is not only the fastest-growing in the state when it comes to jobs, it’s also enjoying the highest percentage increase in weekly wages, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Butler County saw a 2.4 percent increase in employment between March 2016 and March 2017, which exceeds the nationwide average of 1.6 percent. That ranked the county 95th among the nation’s 346 largest counties for growth.
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Those counties made up 72.8 percent of total U.S. employment in March 2017.
Large counties are defined as those with employment of 75,000 or more as measured by 2016 annual average employment. Collectively, Ohio’s 13 large counties accounted for 65.2 percent of total employment within the state.
Ohio itself saw only 0.8 percent growth in employment during that 12-month span.
Comparatively speaking, Butler County hit a job growth home run during that year compared to other large southwest Ohio counties. It’s growth was three times greater than Hamilton County’s 0.8 job growth and more than double Warren County’s 1.1 percent job growth.
David Fehr, the county’s development director, said he attributes the growth to several factors, including the geographic location between Cincinnati and Dayton, availability of land and the county being easy to work with.
“Builders and developers like to do projects in Butler County,” Fehr said. “We try to cut down on the amount of government regulation, getting permits turned around in a quick manner.”
Also a factor is the willingness to work with a company to avail them of any possible incentives, he said..
“That’s just a matter of being aware of what might be available, what might be a good fit for the company,” he said. “Sometimes that’s a state program and not a county program, but we’re trying to maximize what works best for the company. Even if we don’t quote-unquote get credit for it, that’s OK. We want them to get the maximum value of what they’re entitled to.”
That’s not just on the county level, Fehr said, but also on that of local economic development offices, which Fehr said work well behind the scenes.
“Maybe if a project isn’t a good fit for Hamilton, the folks from Hamilton will call Monroe and ask them if they have a site, because we know that if it lands it southwest Ohio, if it lands in Butler County, we all benefit,” Fehr said.
He said the data that shows the county’s growth ahead of other Ohio counties was “a pleasant surprise.”
Bureau of Labor Statistics data also show weekly wages for employees in Butler County grew 9.9 percent from March 2016 to March 2017, which places it at 19th in the nation.
That also has the county outpacing Hamilton County’s 6.5 percent weekly wage growth and Warren County’s 5.8 percent weekly wage growth.
Three of Ohio’s other largest counties placed in the top 100 of the national ranking: Montgomery (7.9 percent, 63rd) and Delaware and Lorain (both at 7.3 percent, ranked 98th).
Average weekly wage for Butler County is listed as $991, which is $15 more than Ohio’s average weekly wage of $976. When all 88 counties in Ohio were considered, all but 3 had wages below the national average of $1,111.
Fehr said Butler County’s weekly wage growth has been boosted by recent new construction, re-location or expansion projects with higher than average wages. That includes the new Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center/UC Health Proton Therapy Center at Cincinnati Children’s Liberty Campus in late 2016, a new building for DRT Medical in West Chester Twp., new construction at West Chester Twp.’s Contingent Network Services and GE Aviation, plus Veritiv Co.’s relocation to Fairfield.
“The wage increase is the most important factor to me,” Fehr said. “While all jobs are important, we want to encourage higher wage jobs so that families can prosper.
“We also strive to support industries that have a high-growth potential and will provide the jobs of the future. This is why the medical and advanced manufacturing industries are so important.”
Liberty Center also contributed numerous retail positions to the county’s job growth totals, it wasn’t the kind of employment that would have tipped the scales enough to push the average wages up, Fehr said.