A lot of factors are driving development in Butler and Warren counties, but Interstates 71 and 75 are two of the biggest.

“Those are two huge factors,” says David Fehr, Butler County economic development director. “Companies I talk to want to be close to the interstate… They want to get on the interstate quickly [because] once they do, they can get about anywhere. It’s getting from their facility to the interstate that’s important.”

Other factors such as plenty of developable land, good infrastructure, relatively low taxes and a stable political environment play a role, but the interstates are the engines for economic growth, local officials say.

“Each of our exits along 71 and 75 has their own unique flair. I think that’s a great thing because we’re diverse,” says Martin Russell, Warren County economic development director.

At I-75 and Ohio 63, for example, distribution companies predominate. At I-71 and Ohio 48 in Lebanon, Russell sees a cluster of advanced manufacturing. And at I-71 and Fields Ertel and Western Row roads, there are clusters of research and professional offices.

“The beauty is you have multiple locations. It keeps us at the table on most development leads,” he says.

Both counties are seeing a surge in development with the economy improving.

ThyssenKrupp Bilstein of America in Hamilton, an automotive shock manufacturer, launched a $26 million expansion last year, its third in four years, that’s expected to add 200 jobs by 2017.

A “Health Care Highway” has emerged along I-75 with major expansions by West Chester Hospital and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s Liberty campus and plans by The Christ Hospital for a new facility nearby. In West Chester, pharmaceutical maker AstraZeneca has a large manufacturing and distribution facility, and equipment maker DRT Medical LLC is building a $5 million research facility. To supply trained workers, Butler Tech’s $13 million Bioscience Center is taking shape overlooking I-75 at Cincinnati-Dayton Road.

In Warren County, software developer London Computer Systems is building a $15 million headquarters in Deerfield Township, and automotive suppliers Advics Manufacturing Ohio in Lebanon, UGN in Monroe and Faurecia Emission Control Technologies in Franklin are expanding or building new facilities.

And last year, tourism spending, a major local industry, topped $1 billion in Warren County for the first time, Russell says.

The biggest challenge is recruiting workforce talent, although both counties can draw workers from Cincinnati and Dayton.

“Most of the comments from our companies are about recruiting qualified workers,” says Fehr. “To us, that’s more important than tax breaks and incentives. Unless a company can get qualified workers, the other stuff doesn’t matter.”

Warren County is taking a proactive approach, working with a local nonprofit called the Small Business Development Alliance. It has created an initiative called the Workforce Investment and Innovation Network (WIIN) to aggregate the employment needs of local companies so local educational institutions can respond quicker.

“What we’re trying to tell employers is, ‘You know your need better than we do. Tell us, and we’ll be the facilitators to get you that curriculum,’” Russell says.