Member Spotlight Archive

Oberlin, Ohio

Live, learn, lead
Published July 2013

The history of the City of Oberlin is filled with strong alliances among community partners. The city has a continuing commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Named after an Alsatian minister, Jean-Frédéric Oberlin (1740-1826), the city was founded in 1833 by two Presbyterian ministers who wanted to create a religious community and a school for training Christian missionaries. The motto of the college was “Learning and Labor,” which meant tuition at Oberlin College was free, but students were expected to contribute by helping to build and sustain the community.

Oberlin became a major focus of the abolitionist movement in the United States. The town was conceived as an integrated community, and blacks have been attending Oberlin College since 1835. By 1852, the town of Oberlin was an active terminus on the Underground Railroad, and thousands had already passed through it on their way to freedom.

According to Oberlin College & Conservatory, it was the first college to grant undergraduate degrees to women.

An intellectual community
Oberlin was named the “Best Hometown” in northeast Ohio for 2012 by Ohio Magazine. The city, 35 miles west of Cleveland, has also been previously designated Ohio’s “Best College Town” and named one of the five “Best Intergenerational Communities” in the country.

According to Oberlin’s Facts & Figures, Oberlin College is the city’s largest employer, and so it’s not surprising that the city is well educated – 94 percent of the population are high school graduates and more than 40 percent hold bachelor’s degrees or higher (compared to 24.5 percent for Ohio). And according to the college, Oberlin graduates go on to earn more PhDs than alumni of other undergraduate colleges.

As stated on Oberlin College’s website, “Together, the campus and community create a place of urban sensibility reflecting the music, art, and cultural richness of the world. Oberlin’s size, residential character, variety, and selectivity provide an atmosphere that is conducive to intellectual and personal growth.”

A city with a population of more than 8,200, Oberlin is home to many eclectic shops and restaurants, and hosts a variety of arts and culture activities. The city works to advance economic development by offering project financing; and providing connections to community, state of Ohio and federal resources. This collaborative approach to economic development resulted in Oberlin being recognized, along with regional partners, with the 2010 Team NEO Plus Award for Business Attraction and the 2013 Team NEO Plus Award for Business Retention (fewer than 100 employees).

Working towards a healthy future
Oberlin promotes a fit community and the city’s ‘Healthy Oberlin’ program has many tips, resources, exercise regimens, and educational materials to encourage a healthy lifestyle for residents. The city estimates more than 33 percent of residents walk or bike to work.

Oberlin advocates a green and sustainable way of life. The Oberlin Project – a joint effort between the City of Oberlin, Oberlin College, and private and institutional partners – works to improve the resilience, prosperity and sustainability of the Oberlin community. The project aims to revitalize the local economy, eliminate carbon emissions, restore local agriculture, food supply and forestry, and create a sustainable base for economic community development.

Oberlin College has also partnered with Enterprise Rent-A-Car to offer a car sharing program for students, faculty, staff and community members. Similar to checking out a book at a library, the car-sharing program provides an affordable and on-demand transportation option which helps to uphold sustainability efforts.

Commitment to sustainable and reliable service
Oberlin was named a Reliable Power Public Provider (RP3) program recipient by the American Public Power Association (APPA) for 2012-13. RP3 is recognition for providing consumers with the highest degree of reliable and safe electric service. According to APPA, of the nation’s more than 2,000 public power utilities, 184 have earned RP3 recognition.

Created in 1934, the Oberlin Municipal Light & Power System (OMLPS) now serves more than 3,000 meters in residential and commercial customers. OMLPS is a community-owned, nonprofit, local public power utility that generates, transmits and distributes affordable and reliable power.

As a member of AMP, Oberlin participates in a number of AMP programs and projects that assist in providing reliable energy and other benefits to the community and its citizen-owners. These include:

  • Blue Creek Wind Farm, a 314-MW wind farm in northwest Ohio that helps diversify AMP's pool of resources providing power to members
  • Business/Economic Development, AMP assistance which is designed to augment local economic development efforts
  • Direct Connections, which assists municipal electric systems in organizing and/or enhancing and implementing a locally controlled key account, business retention and expansion program
  • Efficiency Smart, a comprehensive energy-efficiency program administered for AMP by the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation
  • Landfill Gas Energy, a mixture of gases produced by decomposing garbage and collected by a series of pipes for use in diesel generator units (landfill gas-to-energy sites directly reduce greenhouse gas emissions)
  • Meldahl/Greenup, which includes the run-of-the-river hydroelectric generating facility currently under construction at the Captain Anthony Meldahl Dam on the Ohio River and the existing generating facility at the Greenup Dam, also on the Ohio River
  • Municipal Energy Services Agency (MESA), which provides member communities a source of technical assistance including planning, design and engineering, field services and training assistance
  • Mutual Aid, a network of municipal electric systems that assist each other when utility emergencies occur that are too widespread to be handled by one system alone
  • Northeast AMP Service Group (NEASG)
  • New York Power Authority (NYPA), providing hydroelectricity generated by the Niagara and St. Lawrence rivers
  • OMEGA JV 1, a joint venture of NEASG communities that owns nine megawatts (MW) of diesel generation installed at Cuyahoga Falls
  • OMEGA JV 2, a joint venture that owns three gas turbine distributed generation units and 35 diesel units with a total capacity of 138.65 MW at sites across Ohio
  • OMEGA JV 5, a joint venture that operates a 42-MW hydroelectric plant on the Ohio River and has back-up generation sources located throughout Ohio
  • OMEGA JV 6, a joint venture that operates a four-turbine wind farm near Bowling Green, Ohio that generates 7.2 MW of power
  • OSHA compliance, a contractual-based program that expands on the general safety program
  • Phase 1 Hydro, which includes the run-of-the-river generating facilities currently under construction at the Cannelton, Smithland and Willow Island dams on the Ohio River

For more information, please visit