Industrial park moves ahead
- Published: August 25, 2011
The end may be in sight for the backers of the Center for Business and Education. According to a Village official, ground for the 35-acre industrial park on the western edge of the village may be broken as early as winter or spring 2012, and infrastructure completed within the next four to six months, so the park could be ready for buildings within a year to 18 months.
Given the unexpected past delays related to federal funding, no one at Community Resources, or CR, the local economic development group sponsoring the project, is making promises about the park’s timing. But CR members are certain of one thing: when finished, the park will have a significant impact on economic development in the village.
Described by Greene County Engineer Robert Geyer as the single most important economic development project in Greene County right now, the CBE is “a good investment that will help the village enormously,” said Community Resources President Kathryn Van der Heiden. “As the economy improves and people want to locate in a small town, we’ll be ready.”
The issue of the village’s lack of space for new businesses and the expansion of existing ones has been in the forefront of local conversation in recent weeks as e-Health Data Solutions sought a larger facility. That business, which as a growing technical company is the sort that Yellow Springs leaders have said they seek, was ultimately able to reach agreement to locate at Creative Memories with the help of a Village-backed loan. However, the business came close to moving out of town for lack of adequate space.
In the past few years, through such initiatives as the recent visioning project, a local consensus seems to have emerged that new business is essential to increasing Village revenues and offsetting current tax burdens, according to Van der Heiden.
“There’s clarity that there’s not enough business space in Yellow Springs,” she said, stating the CBE will be poised to fill that existing void.
It takes a village
As the CBE nears construction, Community Resources members in recent months have begun a dialogue with Synergy, a regional development company, on ways to market the industrial park. A first step will be renaming the park, according to Van der Heiden, to something that’s “easier to market, catchier.” Members of CR plan to choose a new name in the near future.
While Synergy will act as the development partner and direct to CR appropriate inquiries from interested businesses, it will not be marketing the park, largely because Community Resources, a nonprofit volunteer group, does not have the resources to hire a marketing firm.
To CR member Roi Qualls, a principal with e-Health Data Solutions, that limitation should not stand in the way of the project’s success. Rather, he believes, the community as a whole should step up as a marketing partner.
“One thing Yellow Springs is great at is creating a buzz if we want to,” he said. “Let’s get people thinking creatively about this and see what happens.”
Specifically, Qualls believes, many villagers know someone who grew up here, moved away and now, in their 30s or 40s with a family, “would love to come back.” He urges all villagers to start thinking about the possibilities, and network to let acquaintances know that the CBE will be ready within a year or two.
“Are there millions of people like that?” he said. “No, we only need a few.”
Even though the economy is currently stalled, Ohio stacks up favorably as a place to do business, Qualls said, and Yellow Springs in particular is attractive, an opinion he holds partly due to the preferences of his company’s own employees.
“If we look at the creativity and community nature of Yellow Springs, it’s a place that people want to live and work,” he said.
Formerly a cornfield, the CBE is also attractive as a “greenfield,” or a space never before developed, according to CR member Jerry Sutton, who said that building on such a space saves developers worries about running into previously constructed infrastructure when they begin digging.
“A lot of builders find that attractive,” Sutton said of building on greenspace.
Synergy has urged CR to market the unique aspects of the village to attract new businesses, according to ex officio CR member Judith Hempfling, who is president of Village Council.
Initially, Community Resources needs to become familiar with the development efforts currently underway by the local Chamber of Commerce and the Village Economic Sustainability Board, according to Van der Heiden, who said it’s important for these entities to be working together rather than duplicating efforts.
“The way forward is collaboration,” she said.
Community Resources will host a meeting with the public to share information when more becomes available, she said. The group held a public forum a year ago, but no one attended, a situation that CR members found disappointing.
It’s critical that the community get behind the project, Van der Heiden said.’
“If the Yellow Springs community can get behind this in a positive way, we’ll stand a better chance of success,” she said.
The CBE is a 35-acre piece of land that Community Resources will sell in parcels no smaller than 25,000 square feet, or one-half acre. After roads and sidewalks are constructed, the total land available for construction is about 25 acres, according to Sutton. Because no one knows what size companies may have interest in constructing facilities, he declined to speculate on the potential number of businesses that could locate there, nor on the potential number of jobs to be created.
While the CR is open to partnering with a business if they have interest in doing so, the nonprofit group does not have the resources to build spec buildings, so that potential CBE occupants need to have the means to build their own buildings, Sutton said.
It’s been a long haul, at least seven years since the Village first loaned Community Resources the money to purchase the then 40-acre industrial park, using a $300,000 no-interest loan from the Village Economic Revolving Loan Fund. CR members have since stated that CR expects to pay the money back to the Village when it has occupants.
Community Resources also received $100,000 from the Yellow Springs Community Foundation to purchase the land, and $149,000 from the Morgan Foundation in a matching grant.
One of CR’s reasons for purchasing the land was to offer Antioch University space for a new location for Antioch McGregor, which was previously located on the Antioch College campus, after then-president Barbara Gellman Danley expressed interest in moving the school out of town. After CR gifted the university with land for the school, McGregor, now Antioch University Midwest, built its new campus on the land in 2007.
Organizers expected that completion of the rest of the park was a few years away, but that was not to be. While it was good news that CR won about $1 million from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Ohio Department of Transportation, processing the state and federal grants took far more time than anticipated, Van der Heiden said.
At this point, the Village is overseeing construction of the CBE infrastructure, because the grants require that a municipality be the fiduciary agent, according to Village Assistant Planner Ed Amrhein, who is the CBE project manager. According to Sutton, delays in recent years have been related to the CBE having to compete with the many other demands of overworked Village employees.
“We’d like this to be their top priority but on a day to day basis, that’s not so,” said Sutton.
However, Village Manager Mark Cundiff and Amrhein have recently begun monthly meetings with CR leaders to make sure the project continues to move forward.
Currently, the CBE is nearing the end of its Stage 2 design, out of three stages, according to Amrhein. Stage 1 involved laying out the road, followed by plan approval from ODOT and the Corps of Engineers. Stage 2 includes more detailed infrastructure plans for sewer, water and storm drainage; the Village received the final Stage 2 design from its contracted engineer, Jacobs Engineering, earlier this month, and it’s now being reviewed by the granting agencies, which should take a month or two, Amrhein said.
After Stage 2 receives approval from the state and federal agencies, the Village will begin Stage 3, which involves final modifications, according to Amrhein. This stage should be shorter and the complete design process could be finished by late fall or early winter.
At the same time, the Village is moving ahead with acquisition of land on the property donated by the CR for a right-of-way necessary to construct the park road; Village Council gave initial approval of the acquisition at its Aug. 15 meeting. And the Village is also involved with the county in a separate process to put in a left-turn lane from Dayton-Yellow Springs Road into the CBE. The Village received Ohio Public Works Commission funding of $110,000 for that construction.
All three processes are expected to be finished by late fall or early winter, and at that point the Village will request bids for the infrastructure construction, Amrhein said. After that process is finished, construction will begin, and should not take more than four to six months, he believes.