BY ED GEBERT
Business Journal Writer
CELINA — Mercer County, in western Ohio, boasts the largest inland lake in the state. This 591-acre lake is home to year-round recreation including boating, picnicking, hunting, camping, fishing, and swimming. The lake stretches between St. Marys in Auglaize County and Celina, the county seat of Mercer County, and accounts for a great deal of tourism for the county. The lake was dug by hand and was completed in 1845 as the largest man-made lake in the world. It served as a reservoir to keep the Miami-Eric Canal at five-foot depth. The canal lost favor as a major method of transportation in the 1880s with the growing popularity of railroads. The lake is zoned open for skiing and has unlimited horsepower for power boating. A 300-foot no-wake zone provides for safety and protection of the 52 miles of shoreline. Not only is the fishing good around the lake, but the Mercer County lake also lies along one the the country’s major bird migration routes, making it a great place to spot Canadian geese, ducks, grebes, swans, egrets, loons, herons, cormorants, ospreys, ducks, eagles and heron.
There are five wildlife areas, nature preserves, or state parks in the county with an area of nearly 11,800 acres. This includes Grand Lake St. Marys State Park.
The county itself has an estimated 2013 population of 40,784 scattered across its 463.3 square miles of area. The highest concentration of people is found in Celina with a population of 20,376. Other villages in the county include Coldwater (4,447 people), St. Henry (2,483 people), and Fort Recovery (1,418 people). The county population is projected to be 41,230 by the year 2030.Just over 50 percent of the county residents are between the ages of 25 and 64 with another 19.3 percent being between the ages of 5-17.
More than 52 percent of the population is made up of married couples with both husband and wife in the work force. Another 11.9 percent are married couples with only the husband in the work force.
Unemployment is consistently low in Mercer County. It has ranked as the Ohio county with the lowest unemployment rate for many consecutive months and the October 2014 rate is 2.7 percent. The average unemployment rate in 2012-2013 was 4.5 percent. Personal Per Capita income in the county is $38,582 as of 2013. That means that 93.7 percent of families live above the poverty level, with only 6.3 percent below the poverty level. The median household income is $52,234.
Business consists of 941 establishments in the private sector in Mercer County and another 224 goods-producing companies. The average weekly wage in the good-producing firms is $809 per week. The average for all private sector establishments is $660. Service-producing establishments number 717 in the county and pay an average of $539 weekly.
There were 43 business starts in 2013 and 219 between 2009-2013.
Major employers in Mercer County include Awardcraft, Celina Aluminum Precision Technology, Cooper Farms, Crown Equipment, Fort Recover Industries, Pax Machine Works, Reynolds & Reynolds, Workflow One, Mercer Health, and Celina City Schools.
Other popular stops include Fort Recovery, the site of two major Indian battles in the 1790’s that changed the history of a young nation, and Miami-Erie Canal, and Land of the Cross-tipped Churches State Scenic Byways. The Greater Grand Lake St. Marys Region offers plenty of unique shopping and great places to stay.
Mercer County has 37 physicians and an 88-bed registered hospital, Mercer Health in Coldwater. There are also six licensed nursing homes with 406 beds and six licensed residential care facilities with 228 beds. There are 22 public education buildings in the county and one non-public school. There are approximately 541 students in public schooling and 105 non-public students. Wright State University Lake Campus is located along St. Rt. 703 just east of Celina. The county boasts four main public libraries and three branch libraries.