JOHNSTOWN — In its first year as a city, Johnstown’s growing community is preparing for potentially the fastest pace of development in its history.
Two business owners decided that the expected growth made it a good time to start a Johnstown Chamber of Commerce to improve communication, education and networking between businesses in the city.
Jesse Coppel, owner of Johnstown Title, and Tiffany Hollis, owner of Dashing Diner, sent out around 100 invitations to gauge interest in creating a chamber, 16 years after the last closed.
The inaugural meeting drew about 50 people Thursday at Gather, a downtown event space. The fledgling organization already has 30 members.
“We’re thrilled because we’ve had such a response from the community,” Coppel said. “I know it will be a success.
“Everyone knows that Johnstown is going to change a lot. We have a lot of development to come. Coordination with new development will be important. We can do it in a stronger way by acting collectively.
Hollis said there are already a lot more businesses in Johnstown than most locals realize.
“I’ve wanted to do this for at least two or three years,” Hollis said. “I think that’s important for a business owner in Johnstown. It is important to have a hub where all business owners go.
“We have such a diverse group of companies. It’s exciting and we should be proud of it. Many companies could benefit from each other, some of which we don’t even know exist. There are more businesses here now and we need them.
The former village officially became a city on October 21, 2021, after the 2020 census showed its population had exceeded 5,000. The village had a population of 3,440 in 2000 and 4,644 in 2010. The 2020 census results show it had 5,182.
Then, on January 21, Intel Corporation has announced plans to build a $20 billion computer chip manufacturing plant a few miles south of Johnstown on Jersey Township lands to be annexed to New Albany. It’s possible that this step is just the first part of a $100 billion investment by the company. The company plans to hire 3,000 employees and the project is expected to create 7,000 construction jobs and 10,000 indirect jobs.
“I think now is the perfect time for us as business owners to collectively organize and grow Johnstown,” Coppel said. “We still have a lot of work to do. Our goal is to have things in place by 2023. We want everyone to be involved.
In 2006, the Johnstown Area Chamber of Commerce folded for financial reasons after its membership dropped from 118 to 80 in four years.
Denise Blankemeyer, owner of downtown Johnstown businesses Ghostwrite Public House restaurant and Crow Works, a designer/builder of commercial furniture for hospitality spaces, welcomed the idea of creating a chamber of commerce.
“It’s very exciting,” Blankemeyer said. “I think it’s really necessary.”
Steve Matheny, Executive Director of the Granville Area Chamber of Commerce, attended the meeting to provide support and guidance to the new chamber. He said local communities should cooperate to prepare for Intel’s development.
“We are not in competition with each other,” Matheny said. “We really collaborate. We are all in the same boat. I don’t know if that’s always been the case, but it is now. I think this is an excellent initiative on your part.
Coppel said the new chamber will be able to provide more to Johnstown than the county chamber.
“We have a Licking County Chamber of Commerce that has kind of served our area for a number of years, and we appreciate that,” Coppel said. “They’ve had different levels of involvement over the years.”
Jennifer McDonald, president of the Licking County Chamber of Commerce, said, “We support their efforts. We realize that their needs there will be very much focused on those of Johnstown’s business needs in particular.
“There is certainly room for Johnstown to have its own, as does Granville, Pataskala and Buckeye Lake.”