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Local Yellow Springs businesses hold steady

While the top five businesses in Yellow Springs generate about a third of the Village’s total income tax revenue, dozens of smaller businesses together contribute a significant portion of the total. While a few of the village’s smaller businesses have declined, many are increasing their forces again and showing signs of recovering from the economic downturn.

The businesses on the Regional Income Tax Agency’s list of the top 25 contributors shift slightly every year, but several businesses that employ between five and 20 people have remained strong for many years, including Vernay Laboratories, The Winds Cafe, Miami Valley Educational Computer Association (MVECA), Anthrotech and Ertel Publishing. Several employers, such as Antioch Publishing and Wright State University, have fallen off or down the top 25 tax distribution report, while others are new additions, such as Premier Health Specialists, which owns Dr. Keith Watson’s OB/Gyn practice, and Speedway, which is owned by Marathon. And a few of the village’s businesses have drawn contracting employers who are sigificant enough to appear in the distribution report, such as Thomas & Marker Construction, the contractor for Antioch College.

Small but steady

According to RITA, the Village of Yellow Springs was eighth on its own list of the top local tax contributors last year. Through withholding taxes, the Village’s 27 full-time employees and 13 part-timers paid $27,000 to the Village budget. The number of employees, including Village infrastructure maintenance crew, billing services personnel, police and administrators, has slowly ratcheted down since 1994, when the Village employed 32 people. But local public services have not decreased, and according to Village Interim Manager Kent Bristol, many full-service cities that provide their own water and sewer services tend to have one municipal worker for each 100 residents.

“That comparison and my own subjective impression of our staff and the demands upon them, lead to my conclusion that the Village is understaffed,” Bristol wrote in an email last week.

However, while the Village struggles with the recent loss of estate taxes and local government funds from the state, as well as a shrinking industrial base, Bristol doesn’t anticipate significant staff increases anytime soon.

Thirteenth on the distribution list is Anthrotech, a small business that has remained relatively steady, with fluctuations from year to year. Because the body-size data collection business is project-oriented, the volume and scope of its contracts determines the number of people it employs. According to business manager Belva Hodge, Anthrotech, owned by Bruce Bradtmiller, currently employs four full-time people, and retains eight regular part-time employees, which represents a decrease from 2010–12, when the company hired a 21-person team for a contract with the U.S. Army. Still, last year was made unexpectedly “fantastic” by several new contracts, some of which are rolling into this year as well, Hodge said.

“Last year and now there are a lot of commercial clients coming forward. When the economy was at its worst, it was the Army, and now it’s turning around with a lot more commercial [business],” she said. “There is some validity that we’re seeing the economy improving, because that’s when people are more likely to invest in research.”

Tom’s Market, 17th on the list, has steadily employed about 15 full- and 15 part-time employees to run the village’s only grocery store. Though business has been relatively flat for the last 10 years, owner Tom Gray said “we’re holding our own — we’re not going anywhere, at least not now.”

Ertel Publishing has also “sailed through the recession,” according to business partner Vicki McClellan, who said the niche publisher has 11 employees in sales, administration, editing and design. The business, owned by Patrick Ertel, is experiencing “slow and steady growth” as it offers clients a wider variety of services, including copy editing, book keeping and book publishing, and may look to hire one or two additional people this year, McClellan said.

Another design/communications business is Bing Design, whose broad spectrum of branding and marketing services has been rolled into the parent company G Communication Design, Inc. The business, which grew out of Vie Design and was purchased in 2000 by current owners Nick and Chris Gaskins, employs five full-time and two part-time people in the village. Though the business struggled through the early part of the recession, the past four years have been pretty stable, Nick Gaskins said.

“It’s not easy, we’ve had a lot of struggles to keep that stability to maintain staffing levels,” he said. “But we’re hard working, focused and driven by customer need. And we love our space here on East Center College.”

Though neither its owners nor any of its employees live in Yellow Springs, Gaskins said he is thrilled to have the business in a town that appeals to clients and where they can go to eat lunch or take a walk in the Glen after their meeting. In addition to clientele around the U.S., Bing also serves local and regional businesses, including eHealth Data Solutions, SOCHE of Dayton and Terra Data of Miamisburg.

Some growing, changing

Several businesses on the tax distribution list are either in a position to grow, or have reduced their scope and stepped down or out of the top 25.

Though MVECA has been in the village for over 20 years, not everyone is familiar with the technical support organization that helps 24 public school districts in seven counties with their computing needs. MVECA suffered with the economy and reduced school budgets until 2011, when it began to ramp up again to the current 14 employees, 11 of whom work at the main office MVECA leases from the Greene County Learning Center. The organization may hire one or two more people in the coming year and is currently exploring a bigger arena of opportunity, according to executive director Thor Sage.

Because MVECA is dependent on shrinking school budgets while the costs of computing and technical services is constantly increasing, the organization has been trying to develop new revenue streams outside primary education. Specifically, MVECA has initiated partnerships with municipalities in the region, including the Village of Yellow Springs and the City of Springfield, to provide services to local governments, who can then offer those services to their own constituents.

“We’re in a growing state — things are going well for us and there’s a lot of interest in our service offerings outside of K–12,” Sage said.

Dr. Watson’s business is another that has grown in recent years. The office on Kahoe Drive employs six people, including the physician, two medical assistants, an ultrasound technician and support staff. While the practice was not on the top 25 distribution list previously, since joining Premier Health Services in 2011 the business rose to the number 12 spot, right behind Electroshield and The Winds Cafe. According to Premier spokesperson Stefanie Baker, “The practice has experienced growth, and trending looks towards continued growth.”

Speedway gas station also showed up on the list for the first time last year, having jumped to nearly 14 times the previous year’s tax withholding level after being purchased by Marathon Petroleum Corporation in 2011. The parent company would not allow the local store manager to comment, but Marathon spokesperson Stefanie Griffith stated that while the company’s Marathon stores are operated as franchises, its Speedway outfits are company-owned and operated convenience stores. And while the local store paid almost $6,000 in withholding taxes last year, Marathon recorded $2.1 billion in profits last year, including $375 million for Speedway, up 78 percent since the merger, according to data from Marathon.com.

Other local businesses that saw small increases from the previous year were The Winds Cafe, e-Health Data Solutions and Peach’s Grill. A few businesses that saw a downturn from the previous year include Vernay Laboratories and The Antioch Company, which relocated its Creative Memories business to St. Cloud, Minn. in 2012.

Contracting businesses

There are several businesses that contribute to Village revenues each year that are ancillary to a primary establishment. Healthcare Services Group Inc., for instance, pays the 20 housekeeping and dining services staff at Friends Care Community. The company, based in Bensalem, Pa., is 23rd on the tax distribution list.

Thomas & Marker Construction contributed $10,000 to Village coffers in 2013 with the renovation of the college’s new Health and Wellness Center and other campus projects last year.

ADP Total Source III, a payroll service company, contributed $38,000 in withholding taxes to the Village in 2011 and did not appear in the top 25 in 2012. ADP spokesperson Jim Duffy would not disclose the reason for the company’s presence in Yellow Springs.

* Next week the News will cover the state of downtown business retailers.

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