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Analysis: Low water level will decimate jobs, economic output




Steve Weitzner, President of Silverlode Consulting of Cleveland, presented the firm’s report on the economic impact to the Buckeye Lake area from ODNR’s decision to hold the lake water levels at “winter pool’ until the dam is replaced. He spoke to about 50 residents and local officials Tuesday morning at the Buckeye Lake Winery. Beacon photo by Charles Prince.

Steve Weitzner, President of Silverlode Consulting of Cleveland, presented the firm’s report on the economic impact to the Buckeye Lake area from ODNR’s decision to hold the lake water levels at “winter pool’ until the dam is replaced. He spoke to about 50 residents and local officials Tuesday morning at the Buckeye Lake Winery. Beacon photo by Charles Prince.

BUCKEYE LAKE – Ohio Governor John Kasich’s decision to keep Buckeye Lake’s water level at “winter pool” until its dam is replaced could cost almost 1,200 jobs with a nearly $800 million negative economic impact in Fairfield, Licking and Perry counties

At the state level, job losses could exceed 1,336 with more than a $1 billion negative impact state-wide.

The devastating losses were calculated over the estimated five-year period needed to design and build the new dam. Steve Weitzner, President of Silverlode Consulting of Cleveland, presented the findings to a somber crowd of about 50 residents and local officials Tuesday morning at the Buckeye Lake Winery.

Silverlode was engaged by the Boards of County Commissioners of Fairfield, Licking and Perry counties. Columbus 2020 and the Ohio Rural Electric Cooperative also provided financial support for the study.

“ It is really just math,” Weitzner explained.

The direct effect study area was defined as zip codes 43008 (Buckeye Lake Village), 43046 (Millersport area), and 43076 (Fairfield Beach and Thornville area). The direct effect study area appears understated since most of 43030 (Jacksontown area) and a significant portion of 45025 (Hebron area) are also directly effected.

The report is based on 2013 data which is the most recent available. All dollars are based on 2015 values.

The three direct effect zip codes have almost 6,000 jobs in nearly 200 industry sectors. Silverlode identified 31 industry sectors with approximately 1,200 jobs as most likely to be affected by the loss of the lake’s recreational season.

Based on local interviews, the report estimates that 40 – 70 percent of these direct jobs (approximately 483 to 849 jobs) may be lost or temporarily lost. The low to high range for indirect jobs is 106 to 187 and 78 to 138 for induced jobs. Indirect jobs are defined as “jobs supported by industries purchasing from industries,” while induced jobs are those supported by individual spending on goods and services.

Even assuming the new dam is in place five years from now, Weitzner believes it will take four to five years “to get back to where you were.” In other words it could be 10 years before lake area jobs and economic activity return to 2013 levels.

The economic impact is also understated since the report doesn’t quantify the impact of lower property values. “It is a difficult piece of the puzzle,” Weitzner explained. In Ohio, real property is reappraised every six years and updated every three years. Values are calculated on sales data. At this point, there is very little sales data as property owners are reluctant to test pricing levels so early in the five-year period. Taxes being paid this year are based on 2014 values and tax rates. Some owners are expected to seek property tax reductions next year as they seek to align taxes more closely to current values.

Weitzner acknowledged that the impact of lower property values could be very significant at the individual level. Its biggest impact will be in situations where circumstances – for example moving into an assisted living center – forces a sale in uncertain times.

The study also addressed the total labor income loss in the three-county area during the five-year low level period. The low to high range was $91.7 million to $161.1 million.

Silverlode has also calculated the total cumulative loss in economic output over the five-year period. The low to high range is $344.7 million to $605.9 million. Reduced employment and economic output will also reduce axes and fees paid at the state and local level. The low to high range for the cumulative impact over five years is $24 million to $42.2 million.

Lost gas tax revenue will be particularly noticeable to area townships and villages. Many visitors filled up their boat and tow vehicle tanks at local gasoline stations. Less gas tax revenue means local governments will have less money to repair roads.


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