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September 29, 2014 : Imagine Your Possibilities: Lancaster Director of Economic Development R. Michael Pettit
- Cheri Russo
Communications and Marketing Manager

 

Lancaster – R. Michael Pettit took the road less traveled when he graduated from Sheridan High School in Somerset in 1974.  He didn’t go straight to college, he signed up for the U.S. Marine Corps. After his service, Pettit got married, started a family and then started taking classes at Ohio University Lancaster.  It’s funny how life works sometimes because Pettit’s trip down the road less traveled led him to a career where a road was named after him.
 
michael way“Michael’s Way – the road to Menards and Walmart in Lancaster – that’s me!  I’m the Michael.”
 
Pettit has been the Economic Development Director for the City of Lancaster for the last 12 years.  He was directly involved in bringing many restaurants, stores and companies to town.  Pettit had a major role in the development of the Ety Road shopping area, where the road Michael’s Way is located.
 
“Developing that shopping area with Walmart, Kohl’s and Menards was a lot of work,” said Pettit.  “I’m so glad we did it because I believe Lancaster would not have survived the great recession if we wouldn’t have had those stores here.  Those stores helped keep Lancaster residents in town to do their shopping and brought in out-of-town customers.”
 
Pettit started at OUL in 1980 when he was 24 years old.  At the time, he was working as a carpenter in the construction trade.  Interest rates skyrocketed as the Federal Reserve tried to battle inflation and that really hurt the building trade.  Pettit decided to go to school and pursue a Manufacturing Technology degree so he could work in the oil and gas industry.
 
“OUL provided me the opportunity to go to school after work, which was very important,” said Pettit. “With a wife and kids, it gave me the flexibility that I needed.”
 
Pettit completed his associate’s degree in 1985.  He started working in Newark in the gas and oil industry and began working his way up the ranks.  Pettit eventually went back to school again at Otterbein to get his bachelor’s degree in Business Management and Leadership. 
 
Pettit was offered the position of General Manager at Lancaster Municipal Gas in December, 2000. In 2002, Pettit was named Lancaster Director of Economic Development, while continuing as the General Manager of Lancaster Municipal Gas.
 
“I was responsible for creation and implementation of a Marketing Plan to attract industry to Lancaster and facilitate expansion of existing businesses,” said Pettit. “One of the things I am really proud of is that I created a vision and structure for a regional partnership of neighboring communities and private companies which became the Fairfield 33 Development Alliance.”
 
In 2006, Pettit was named the Director of the Lancaster Port Authority, in addition to his other jobs and responsibilities. Pettit is thankful for all the opportunities he has had in his career, and said he knows Ohio University Lancaster helped put him on this career path.
 
“OUL really opened doors for me as I started into the energy business,” said Pettit. “The instructors were mentors to me and really encouraged me as well.”
 
Pettit believes doors are about to open for the City of Lancaster. He said the city has done a lot of work in recent years to be ready to attract jobs and development to the city.
 
“We have amazing infrastructure,” said Pettit. “We’re ready for development. I’m excited and grateful to be a part of it.”