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CBE could be ready in 2012

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Good fits for the new Center for Business and Education, or CBE, could be light manufacturers that make parts for wind turbines, or agricultural businesses that cater to people’s growing interest in local food. These were a few of the ideas considered at a meeting last Wednesday, Aug. 11, sponsored by Community Resources, or CR, the local nonprofit that is developing the 46-acre center as a commerce park on the western edge of town.

In process since 2004, the commerce park is expected to be ready for occupants in 2012, and the meeting offered the public an update on center progress. However, the public did not show up for the event, which took place at the Antioch University Midwest auditorium. While most of the CR board were present, along with a few elected officials and Village staff, only one villager attended.

Manufacturers of wind turbine components were identified as possible future CBE occupants partly because the State of Ohio Development department is encouraging Ohio communities to link into wind turbine production, according to Village Manager Mark Cundiff, who has attended a workshop about the Ohio wind turbine industry.

For environmental sustainability reasons, it makes sense for Ohio communities to manufacture the small parts needed for the turbines, which are located in the northern part of the state, rather than the parts being transported from long distances, Cundiff said. However, there’s stiff competition for the wind turbine business, and the CBE will be better served by focusing on agriculturerelated businesses or local firms needing more space, according to Village Council member Karen Wintrow.

“I think our opportunities will come from within,” she said.

But such speculation is wishful thinking for now, Community Resources members emphasized.

“We’ll entertain any reasonable offer,” said board member Jerry Sutton. “People are not lined up at the door.”

And while the state and national economy are still suffering, it’s a good time for Community Resources to do the legwork necessary to make sure the CBE is ready to go when the economy takes a better turn, he said. “From our perspective, this is the time to lay the groundwork to be ready when the economy comes back,” Sutton said.

An essential part of that groundwork is finding a development partner for Community Resources in order to market the CBE to potential businesses, according to CR President Lisa Abel, who said the group has advertised for Requests for Proposals, or RFPs, to area marketing firms. “We hope to find a firm that will figure out how to attract folks from other parts of the region who are growing out of their garages,” Abel said.

Other parts of commerce park development are also moving ahead, according to Abel, who said the process has taken longer than expected due to complications surrounding the group receiving state and federal grants for the center. The first design phase, which includes a preliminary design of the center’s roads and utilities, has been completed, and the second design phase, during which engineers will complete a detailed design, has begun.

And the construction of the center infrastructure will take place in the next year, Abel said.

“During most of 2011, you’ll see dirt being moved,” she said. The CBE is the largest project by far for Community Resources, which was incorporated as a nonprofit in 1998 for the purpose of aiding local economic development. Since that time, the group has sponsored several economic studies for the village and township, including a commerce park feasibility study, the 2003 Cost of Living Report, and studies of local business retention and hospitality needs.

In 2003 the Village entered into a development agreement with Community Resources to develop land identified on the western edge of the village as a potential site for a commerce park, which was annexed into the village after a Cooperative Economic Development Agreement, or CEDA, between the Village and Miami Township. With a loan from the Village Economic Revolving Loan Fund and a grant from the Yellow Springs Community Foundation, CR purchased the 46-acre plot in 2004.

In 2006, CR donated 11 acres of the parcel to Antioch University for the construction of a new building for the then Antioch University McGregor, now Antioch University Midwest. That building was completed in 2007.

Community Resources has received about $2 million in funding altogether for the purchase of the land and the design and construction of the commerce park infrastructure. That amount includes about $1 million from federal grants, a $300,000 no-interest loan from the Village Economic Revolving Loan Fund, a $100,000 grant from the Yellow Springs Foundation, a matching grant of $175,000 from the Morgan Family Foundation and a $165,000 grant from the Dayton Development Coalition. When the center is completed, CR intends to sell properties that will probably be about two to three acres in size to business occupants, according to Abel.

In response to a question, Abel said that it is the intention of Community Resources, after business occupants have purchased properties, to repay the loan to the Village Economic Revolving Loan Fund, which now has a balance of about $28,000. That fund had been used for about 20 years as a tool for economic development by providing loans to local small businesses.

Current members of Community Resources are Abel, Sutton, secretary Megan Bachman, vice-president Kathryn Van der Heiden, treasurer Karl Zalar of Friends Care Community, Mark Crockett of the Miami Township Trustees, David Boyer of Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Michael Fishbein of Antioch University Midwest, Matthew Derr of Antioch College and local businessmen Roi Qualls and Rick Kristensen. Village Council President Judith Hempfling and Economic Sustainability Coordinator Sarah Wildman are ex-officio members.

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