Intel is moving in, and everything along Monroe Township Road 63, a mile south of Johnstown, has changed in a matter of weeks. Heck, the president of the United States was across the road on Friday. That has never happened before.
President Joe Biden was maybe 500 yards from Danny’s and Barbara’s front porch for the official Intel groundbreaking. Never mind that earthmovers have been digging almost nonstop over there since at least June.
Barbara and Danny, who are both 74 and have lived here for 50 years, watched on television as Biden, Gov. Mike DeWine and a host of other dignitaries spoke about the importance of Intel’s investment in Ohio and the work it will do to advance computer-chip manufacturing in the U.S.
The $20 billion complex promises to be one of the largest of its kind in the world, one that will return a larger share of microchip manufacturing to the U.S. from overseas.
DeWine and Biden both said it was a great day for Ohio and America. Biden called it a “field of dreams.”
“My dream was to just grow old in my own home,” and live out her days here on a quiet country road.
“We almost made it,” Danny replied.
The Vanhooses raised three daughters in their century-old farmhouse that anchors a 5-acre oasis for all kinds of wildlife. St. Francis stands watch from a stained-glass ornament in their living room window.
The view from that window has changed dramatically in the past two months. During that time, the beeping of machinery on the move, and the incessant drone of engines in an army of heavy-laden earthmovers, have overtaken the trills of red-winged blackbirds and even the chirps of crickets that always become louder as summer wanes.
The shiny, new, chain-link fence just across the road, and the 20-foot-tall wall of former farm soil heaped up just beyond the fence are what rankle Danny. And the signs on the fence that say “Keep out,” “No Trespassing,” and the latest, “No Drones.” And the security guards who sit all day in their cars along the fence – until Danny and Barbara, walk their dog, Kirby, along Green Chapel Road as they have for years, and stop too long to look.
“Get too close or stop too long, and they’ll be right here, asking you what you’re up to,” Danny said.
This couple’s roots in the community go back more than a century. Barbara’s ancestors are the Greens, for whom the road is named. Barbara and Danny are just trying to comprehend what is happening to their dream home in the country.
They resent that everyone at the televised event across the road called their neighborhood “New Albany.” Technically the land across the road is part of New Albany, since the Columbus suburb to the west annexed the land in May.
“It’s always been Johnstown,” said Danny, noting that they’re a mile from the home of the Johnstown Johnnies.
Barbara sports a shirt that reads “Reserved but not subdued” as she moves about her living room. She can’t sit still, even as the President of the United States is about to speak from across the road. She pulls out a box full of thumb-sized, fossilized shark’s teeth that she and Danny had gathered during decades of beachcombing at Topsail in North Carolina. They haven’t been back in years. Too expensive. You have to pay for parking.
“Prestigious people want prestigious people,” Barbara said. She’s worried that the same thing will happen here in her neighborhood.
Barbara is an upbeat, positive person by nature. But when she hears politicians on TV speak of the “Silicon Heartland,” she’s skeptical. She says she doesn’t really trust politicians – on either side of the aisle.
“This is about our economic security … about our national security,” President Biden said as big earthmovers lumbered behind him. “The industrial Midwest is back.”
Early in the day on Friday, the only signal that something big was happening near Green Chapel Road was the red and blue flashing lights on a deputy sheriff’s car about 200 yards down the road from the Vanhoose home. The cruiser sat with a New Albany Service Department dump truck to block the intersection of Mink Street and Green Chapel Road.
When the Vanhoose’s children were young, Barbara and the girls would hike to a pond at the back of their land and pick blackberries and black raspberries along the way. Barbara said she had watched the evening before as rabbits, squirrels and raccoons nibbled from her garden at the feet of a St. Francis statue in her yard, a scene she said she’s always enjoyed.
But things are changing. Geese that used to land on a pond across the road now circle around, seemingly unsure about where to go. And since hundreds of trees were cut down across the road, brown bats have found a new home in their garage and in a neighbor’s barn.
Standing in her yard, in the shade of a Norway spruce, Barbara stopped mid-sentence to listen to two Cooper’s hawks calling out to each other. They may have lost their corn-field hunting grounds across the road, but they’ve found sanctuary here – for now.
Alan Miller, Thu Nguyen, and Jack Shuler write for TheReportingProject.org, the nonprofit news organization of the Denison University Journalism Program, which is sponsored in part by the Mellon Foundation.