Groveport is a bigger city than it appears to be

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By Rick Palsgrove
Southeast Editor

Groveport is a city of a little over 5,000 people. But that number is deceiving because the city’s daytime population at times can swell to three times that number.

The increase in the city’s daytime population is due to the number of workers who enter the city, especially in the city’s industrial parks.

“According to the U.S. Census, the city of Groveport has the largest percentage of increase in daytime population of any community in Central Ohio,” said Groveport Assistant City Administrator and Finance Director Jeff Green.

Green said that, during non-peak times, the city’s population grows to around 12,000. During peak times, from September to December, that number increases to around 17,000.

“It’s not uncommon for some of our larger centers, such as Gap and Eddie Bauer, to add 1,500 to 2,000 seasonal workers,” said Green.

The seasonal hirings are just beginning as Radial Fulfillment Center, located on Port Road, has already announced it is bringing on 500 seasonal workers this fall.

Green said jobs in the industrial parks are primarily pick and pack, loading and unloading of trucks and, in the case of Eddie Bauer, customer service and call center operations.

Green said the addition of seasonal workers in the industrial parks from September to December, has a positive impact on the city’s income tax revenues.

“Generally we see between 15 to 20 percent (income tax revenue) increase during peak season,” said Green. “For example, in August 2016, income tax withholdings were $801,868. In December 2016, withholdings were $1,007,056, an increase of just under 20 percent.”

In spite of the fact the city’s population can triple in the daytime, Green said there’s no significant impact on the city’s utility infrastructure.

“Roadways are obviously a little more congested at peak shift hours, but it hasn’t been a cause for concern,” said Green. “Roadways in the Rickenbacker area were built to stand up to the heavy truck traffic as well as automobile traffic generated by the large number of distribution operations in the Rickenbacker area.”

Groveport is a city that traces its roots back to the 19th century when it served as an agricultural produce shipping center along the Ohio and Erie Canal in the days when farming was the principal business in the area. Nowadays the town still retains its historical identity as a commercial distribution point that Green says reflects the modern United States economy.

“A large percentage of our companies are retailers,” said Green. “Some of the distribution centers are dedicated to online sales, while others ship to both ‘brick and mortal’ stores and handle online order fulfillment. The stronger economy and higher level of consumer confidence means people are buying more, companies are shipping more and companies are expanding more.”

Green said the increase in seasonal workers is a good thing for the city.

“Obviously, the influx of seasonal workers results in higher withholdings paid to the city,” said Green. “It’s a mixed blessing, though. For the companies located here, as unemployment stays down around the 3 to 4 percent range, there’s more difficulty finding people to fill the high number of jobs needed to meet seasonal demand. The city has tried to help by enhancing transportation opportunities through our GREAT (Groveport Rickenbacker Employee Access Transit) service, but there are other barriers to employment for many in the available workforce that the city does not have the resources to address.”

GREAT is the city’s shuttle bus transportation program that connects with COTA bus lines to bring employees to the city’s industrial parks.

Groveport Transportation Director Bob Dowler said, according to data from 2016, GREAT ridership, from January through August, averages 435 rides per week.He said ridership from September through December, averages 531 rides per week.

“Ridership during the peak season increases at a steep rate in November and early December before declining drastically to nearly half of peak within the last week of December,” said Dowler.

Dowler said the number of rides does not have “an appreciable impact” on GREAT operational costs. He said the majority of riders use GREAT when shuttles are serving all stops at published intervals regardless of the number of riders.

“Off-peak ridership is high enough to make fixed route operation the preferred structure for our AM and PM operations,” said Dowler. “Using a demand responsive system for evenings and weekends has the benefits of cost savings while retaining the capacity necessary year round.”

Crime and traffic issues

When asked if the city’s daytime population results in an increase of crime in the area, Groveport Police Chief Ralph Portier said, “Not really. Many of the employees throughout the various logistic services leave and go directly home. On occasion we might have car break ins or simple thefts within the businesses.”

However, the increased daytime population does affect traffic issues in the city.

“This should be pretty obvious – it’s terrible during the hours of 6-7:30 a.m., 3:30-4:30 p.m. and 10:30 to 11:30 p.m.,” said Portier. “This does not include the daily increase of semi-trucks, especially during this season, which we see so many more. We often have to keep trucks from blocking roads while waiting to enter businesses.”

Portier said the police also receive complaints regarding industrial park workers who throw fast food trash from their cars.

“We also see some speeders, but it is not a problem on the side streets due to the amount of traffic, but we do see faster speeds on State Route 317,” said Portier. “We also see accident causing traffic violations more than the rest of the year, as well as increase in drivers who are suspended or have no license.

Portier said police patrols increase somewhat in the industrial parks during the time seasonal workers are in the city.

“We go through open areas but not locked out areas,” said Portier. “Associates’ (employees’) vehicles are easy targets if security systems are down or inoperative. But in general, we provide the same service throughout the year, as best as we can.”

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