Leaders from across Licking County met Tuesday night to try and work out the future of the Ohio 161 corridor.
The "Are We Ready?" workshop, hosted at the Reese Center at the Newark campus of Ohio State University, was led by MS Consultants and planning NEXT, two consulting firms hired by the Licking County Area Transportation Study.
"The dynamics in the corridor are wildly different from five years ago," LCATS Executive Director Jerry Newton said. "And the dynamic from five months ago will be different five months from now."
The workshop was designed to examine what has happened and what the local community leaders hope to have happen in the coming years, he said.
"The title of the workshop is just an open question to try and help establish where these leaders think we are and what can be done in the area," Newton said.
Planning NEXT Principal Consultant Jamie Greene led the groups through their brainstorming sessions, directing attendees to focus on what they think should come to the region and what work would need to be done to accomplish those goals.
"Tonight, we're testing the temperature for how people feel about this corridor," Greene said. "LCATS will be using whatever data we gather and evaluate tonight. It's about exploring the potential of the area."
Given that Ohio is a home-rule state, Greene said it's important that local communities be proactive and come together to discuss the future of areas such as the 161 corridor.
Several main themes or ideas that came out of the discussions focused on growth of businesses while retaining a good rural feel. Many of the groups also wanted controlled growth, emphasizing the need for adequate infrastructure and utilities along the corridor.
"It's crucial for the community to focus on the corridor because it could explode here in the future, and we need to make sure that it benefits Licking County," Newark Mayor Jeff Hall said.
"This kind of input that we received tonight provides us insight that data can't," Newton said. "It lets us better understand what's happening in community networks, which is important for transportation networks in the area."