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YS Development Corporation asks $40k of Village Council

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In the coming years, the economic landscape of Southwest Ohio may shift dramatically.

Construction is well underway for several massive manufacturing facilities between Columbus and Cincinnati, thus paving the way for many thousands of employment opportunities for Ohioans — and the Yellow Springs Development Corporation, or YSDC, wants to strike while the iron’s hot to bring some of those opportunities to the village.

In New Albany, Ohio — an hour east of Yellow Springs — Intel has begun construction on a $20 billion semiconductor chip manufacturing plant that, according to a recent press release from Intel, could create 3,000 jobs and support “tens of thousands of additional local long-term jobs across a broad ecosystem of suppliers and partners.”

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Less than an hour northeast of Yellow Springs, in Marysville, Honda is set to open an electric vehicle manufacturing plant, with production beginning in 2025. A press release indicates that Honda’s “EV Hub” is expected to hire and train 300 associates.

Closer to the village will soon be Joby Aviation, an “air taxi” manufacturing company that develops electric aircraft for commercial passenger service. Last year, the California-based company announced its acquisition of a 140-acre site near the Dayton International Airport, with plans to begin manufacturing operations in 2025 with up to 2,000 jobs.

Taken together, these new facilities could not only provide Yellow Springs and regional residents with employment opportunities, but could also attract new residents and supplier companies to the village. So said YSDC representatives Lisa Abel and Mike Slaughter at Village Council’s most recent meeting, Monday, July 1.

“Other communities are working really hard to attract suppliers, jobs and housing,” YSDC Interim Director Abel said. “We don’t want to get left behind on this.”

“We want young professionals to consider our village as a place to live and work,” Slaughter added. “[YSDC] intends to promote our residential and commercial space capabilities in addition to the neat things our village offers. I believe now is the time to promote our village for this new economy.”

To accomplish those and other long-term economic goals, YSDC is requesting $40,000 from the Village to hire a part-time director of the development corporation.

According to a memo from Abel — who is stepping down from her volunteer role as interim director on Aug. 9 — a salaried part-time director would be able to devote more time and energy to communicating with Intel, Honda, Joby and related companies that supply materials and services to those manufacturing efforts.

“It’s a lot of marketing, meeting with folks, making calls, making those drives and keeping connections with regional folks,” Abel explained.

Per a position description, the hired director would:

• Actively engage and collaborate with regional partners.

• Develop plans to attract and retain businesses.

• Develop and strengthen the local economy to create new jobs, retain current residents and attract new ones.

• Focus on businesses that can support diversity and make significant impacts on the local tax base.

• Work with realtors and property managers to establish a list of available commercial properties.

• Write proposals for business incentives and seek funding for economic leverage.

“So, a point person who, if Intel needs data [about Yellow Springs] or has questions — that person would be in charge of disseminating that,” Slaughter said.

As Abel further explained, the creation of such a paid position is contingent upon the Village’s $40,000 funding — money that Village Council previously earmarked for economic development in the Village’s 2024 budget.

Because a paid director would also advocate in the economic interests of Miami Township, of which the Village is a part, the Miami Township Trustees agreed at their June 17 meeting that they may be willing to contribute $10,000 in additional funds to the creation of the position.

Some Council members were reluctant to authorize the funds at Monday’s meeting, despite Abel’s impending departure.

Council Vice President Gavin DeVore Leonard and member Carmen Brown said they sought more tangible “deliverables” that a future paid director could provide, as well as a plan or timeline for when those results would occur.

“Being responsible for public funds, I would be more comfortable if we had a plan or at least an outline,” Brown said. “Right now, it seems arbitrary. I’m not 100% on board with this request without something more concrete.”

Council member Brian Housh pushed back and suggested that the Village ought to first fund the position, then after filling the role, task the new director with outlining a plan for their work.

“[The YSDC] has already shown that it can do a lot of things with just volunteer work,” Housh said. “Unless a lot of volunteers are willing to put in significant time, I think creating a plan without a paid person is going to be problematic.”

While he supported an eventual funding of the position, DeVore Leonard maintained that he needed more information about what, specifically, a new director would accomplish and when.

“There isn’t clear information about what the purpose is, especially with the expectation of long-term funding,” he said. “So, I think it’s reasonable that we get … some clarity from an institution that has not had a lot of communication about what its purpose is.”

YSDC first convened in February 2020 as a quasi-governmental, nonprofit corporation that the Village and Township had designated as their official community improvement corporation — a public economic development body that is able to apply for grants, borrow money, give loans and sell municipal property.

Presently, the group has nine voting members including some elected officials, including Trish Gustafson and Housh representing Village Council, Amy Magnus representing the school board and Marilan Moir representing the Miami Township Trustees. Village Manager Johnnie Burns, Community Foundation Director Jeannamarie Cox, Antioch College President Jane Fernandes and YS Schools Superintendent Terri Holden are ex-officio members.

Since its formation, YSDC’s activities have included partnering with the Township to sell the old fire station to Iron Table Holdings, LLC, for the creation of Dave Chappelle’s comedy club; receiving a Department of Energy prize of $100,000 for community solar assessment; holding a widely attended regional stakeholder meetings to receive feedback on its marketing materials; and more.

As Housh said at Monday’s Council meeting, “We committed to YSDC being the Village’s economic arm, and if we’re not willing to fund it at this point — when we’re poised for success — then I’m not sure what we’re talking about.”

Ultimately, Village Council tabled its motion to approve the resolution that would have granted YSDC $40,000; Abel and Slaughter were encouraged to return to the drawing board to outline a more detailed job description for the paid director position.

Council agreed to revisit the matter at the group’s next meeting on Monday, July 15.

In a future issue, the News will provide additional reporting on the prospective local economic effects of the impending manufacturing facilities being built in Southwest Ohio.

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