The CEP continually updates content displayed on the 11 monitors – one at each of the five Champaign County high schools; one each at Urbana University, Ohio Hi-Point Career Center and in the CEP’s office window in the center of Urbana’s downtown business district; and one each in the windows of three downtown businesses in Mechanicsburg, North Lewisburg and St. Paris.
The project is being supported by Urbana University, Ohio Hi-Point, Dayton Power & Light, FASTLANE, Darby Dental Smiles, Urbana Dental Smiles, Berry Digital Solutions and Weidmann Electrical Technology, Inc.
CEP Director Marcia Bailey said the monitors help inform students, county residents and visitors about local economic and community development growth, job opportunities, and education and workforce training. The monitors, she added, complement CEP’s partnership with local schools and manufacturers to prepare students for local career opportunities. Job openings advertised on the monitors come from the CEP’s local job posting website, Community Job Connect.
“I’m a strong believer in the education-workforce ecosystem. And the CEP is leading the way to organizing education and employers, preparing talent to meet the needs of our employers,” Christopher Washington, Executive Vice President and CEO of Urbana University, a branch campus of Franklin University, said.
The monitors are the ideal way to deliver the information, he adds. “Kids today are digitally wired and pay attention to what’s on the screen.”
Kelsey Webb, Ohio Hi-Point Director of Communications and Marketing, said, “We’re participating because this is completely in our wheelhouse to prepare students for career or college. We’re excited to help spread the message that there are great opportunities here for students.”
By Christopher Selmek, Urbana Daily Citizen
The Urbana City Council voted to rezone the southern portion of a parcel located at 1040 S. Main St. from R-3 High Density Residential to B-2 General Business District at the regular meeting on Tuesday. All council members voted to approve the rezoning following its third reading except for council member Eugene Fields, who abstained because, he said, a member of his family had married into the group of investors. Council members Dwight Paul and Doug Hoffman were absent.
Zoning map and code changes become effective 30 days after council passage. This rezoning is intended to allow for the construction of a 54-room hotel with a swimming pool on three acres of an 11-acre plot near the corner of State Route 55 and South US 68 along South High Street.
"I want to thank coucil for passing the rezoning down at the south end," said Mayor Bill Bean. "When I became mayor, both (Champaign Economic Partnership Executive Director) Marcia (Bailey) and I realized that we were losing a lot of revenue and people were going elsewhere. At least 7,500 room nights a year we were losing. By having the hotel there, it's going to really cement people staying here, and that's good for Urbana, it's good for taxes, and it's something that we needed desperately."
According to Community Development Manager Doug Crabill, the next step in the process will be a site plan review process through the city's Technical Review Committee and the Planning Commission.
Investment group chair Mike Major said the group has been working with Cobblestone Hotels and that investors in communities smaller than Urbana have been pleased with the hotels and in some instances were building more.
"The investment group is made up of community members and people who have invested heavily in the community in many different aspects," he said. "We have the field of medicine represented, we have agriculture, downtown business ownership, real estate ownership, people who really care about seeing this community grow and putting some of the pieces of the puzzle together. We feel this is necessary because there is so much slippage of hotel nights going to Springfield, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars not only from hotel fees, but if people stay in town, they're going to be eating in the restaurants, they're going to be shopping. The university doesn't have enough facilities for the sports teams that are coming in. There are so many different layers of businesses and entities who really need hotel space in town."
He added that there will be a partnership between the investors and Urbana University which will create a program training people in the hotel business.
According to Major, research has indicated a need for more than 70 rooms, but investors were being conservative by putting in 54 rooms to make sure the project was a success. The Champaign County Chamber of Commerce website cites a 2013 study by Tourism Economics that shows that total tourism impact in Champaign County resulted in over $47 million in sales and enables the employment of over 350 people in the county.
Major said the developers would keep a curtain of trees behind the hotel so there is a margin between the hotel and the zoned residential property directly behind it. Bailey added that the parking lot would be in front of the building, possibly wrapping around the sides, and that there would be room for future development.
Hotels are a principal use of the B-2 zoning code, meaning that only the site plan review and the zoning permit processes are required. Other principal uses of this land may include commercial recreation, retail businesses, personal services, offices, eating and drinking establishments, or automotive filling stations. There is an extensive list of conditionally permitted uses that require the additional step of getting approval from the city's board of zoning appeals.
"I was asked by (Urbana Zoning Officer) Adam (Moore) maybe six to eight months ago if we had enough B-2 area in the city limits to be able to encourage retail growth or business growth. We really don't," Bailey said at a public hearing for the rezoning on Oct. 16. "The land that is vacant for new builds in B-2 is very hard-pressed to find. By allowing this rezoning, not only to have this hotel project and the potential of that but just having some b-2 area for potential businesses, is really important."
The group has agreed to a potential sale price with the property’s owner, but the deal is contingent on a zoning change under review as well as an official commitment from the investors, Howell said.
“We have a pretty nice group and I think most people think Urbana needs it, so let’s give it a try,” Howell said.
According to its website, the Cobblestone chain focuses on providing upper-midscale rooms, typically in smaller towns. The chain’s only other hotel in Ohio is located in Orrville, south of Akron.
Assuming the project moves forward it’s possible construction could start in March and be finished by mid-September next year, Howell said.
A request to rezone 8.7 acres of a roughly 11-acre parcel has been approved by Urbana’s planning commission and recently had a first reading at Urbana City Council, said Adam Moore, zoning officer for the city. The request would change the zoning from high-density residential to a general business district, allowing the hotel project to move forward. The proposal needs two more readings before council members can vote whether to approve the change.
Local economic development officials began taking a closer look at a possible hotel project earlier this year after a consultant from the Core Distinction Group determined there’s enough demand for rooms to make a new hotel feasible. Champaign County has been losing possible revenue to Clark County, where there are several newer options for guests to stay overnight, said Jessica Junker, a managing partner for Core.
“The community is losing revenue not only in hotel revenue, they’re losing money on the room taxes, convenience store purchases, grocery sales and restaurants,” Junker said.
The area has several large manufacturing firms that could attract guests overnight, and Urbana University is also nearby and could attract additional business, she said.
Core’s report recommended as many as 70 to 80 guest rooms, but the project being discussed by investors is more conservative to make sure the project is a success, said Marcia Bailey, economic development coordinator for the Champaign Economic Partnership.
“It is anticipated that a new hotel would capture displaced lodging demand currently staying in markets surrounding Urbana, OH,” the report states. “Additionally, the newness of the hotel should be well received in the marketplace. It’s location will be ideal to serve Urbana and regional markets. This type of hotel would also be capable of adjusting rates to best fit the demand in the market and the seasonality of the area.”
Champaign County has rooms available for overnight stays, including a downtown bed and breakfast and businesses like the Econo Lodge Inn and Suites and the Logan Lodge Motel. But there hasn’t been a new hotel in years, Bailey said. The goal isn’t to harm existing lodging businesses in the county, Bailey said, but to ensure enough rooms are available to meet demand.
A 2013 study by Tourism Economics showed that the total tourism impact in Champaign County resulted in more than $47 million in sales and enables the employment of more than 350 people in the county, according to information on the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce website.
The Springfield News-Sun is commited to providing unmatched coverage of business and jobs in Clark and Champaign Counties. For this story, the paper spoke to city and economic development officials in Champaign County about a proposal to build a new hotel to attract more business to the city.
By the numbers:
3 — Estimated acres for the hotel
8.7 — Acres that may be rezoned
58 — Possible guest rooms
15 to 25 — Possible full-time jobs based on a 70 to 80 room hotel
“The idea is essentially investors are able to defer a portion of their gains if they invest the proceeds from a sale into one of the opportunity zones,” said Devesh Kamal, a certified public accountant with Clark Schaefer Hackett, a Springfield accounting firm.
The program could lead to significant new investments into some of the region’s high-poverty neighborhoods, said Tom Franzen, assistant city manager and director of economic development for Springfield. There are a few limitations on the types of business that can qualify according to Clark Schaefer Hackett. For example, investment in a golf course or massage parlor is not allowed, but numerous other projects including housing and retail could qualify.
“Now that we have the designated Opportunity Zones, the next step for us to is to analyze the area contained within the Opportunity Zone to ensure that we identify and address potential barriers to attracting investments, such as zoning, permitting, and any others,” Franzen said.
One challenge is some of the rules for the new program have not been finalized, said Marcia Bailey, economic development coordinator for the Champaign Economic District which focuses on economic development in Champaign County.
“We can market we have an opportunity zone and where it is,” Bailey said. “We just don’t know what the rules are as far as the (Internal Revenue Service) is concerned.
Clark County’s four tracts generally focus on an area that includes downtown Springfield. The rough borders include Snyder Park Road to the north and West Grand Avenue to the South. Norfolk Southern rail lines to near Snyder Park form a portion of the West border with East Street on the Eastern border.
Franzen said the next step will be for the city to work with partners including the Chamber of Greater Springfield to develop a long-term strategy for the area as well as opportunities to market the zone.
“The Opportunity Zone, combined with recent efforts by the city commission to expand Community Reinvestment Act tax abatement opportunities in these same areas, as well as the commission’s refocused efforts on improving our neighborhoods, downtown and major corridors, could prove to be a compelling draw for investors,” Franzen said.
Bailey said local economic development officials also need to work with area residents to determine what kinds of investments will be most beneficial.
“Just because we have this Opportunity Zone, it’s still up to the property owner of do they want to sell their property for development to occur,” Bailey said.
Wendy Patton, a senior project director with Policy Matters Ohio, said one reason to be cautious about the new program is it’s left up to local communities to ensure the investments benefit current residents and businesses in the approved areas.
The idea behind the program is to provide a boost to areas that have some momentum, but historically Patton said tax incentives have a poor record in creating jobs. There’s also a concern expensive new developments could force up rents and make it tougher for some lower-income residents to remain in their neighborhoods.
A report from Policy Matters Ohio also pointed out the main beneficiaries will be the wealthiest tax filers who have the capital available to invest in the program.
“This program could help drive inequality or it could bring opportunity to these low-income people in these communities,” Patton said.
The report argues reporting requirements, transparency and enforceable community benefit agreements should be included in the program’s rules to prevent harm to residents.
“Our local elected officials and community leaders need to take it on themselves to ensure there’s some wealth that’s coming back to the community,” Patton said.
On the web:
FACTS & FIGURES
320 — Census tracts in Ohio
73 — Ohio counties in which eligible tracts were submitted
4 — Tracts in Springfield
1 — Tract in Champaign County
Ashley Cook, Ohio Hi-Point’s new supply chain management instructor at Urbana High School, will serve as the business liaison 10 hours a week. She will coordinate activities that bring educators, students and manufacturers together.
Cook, who will report to Bailey in her role as business liaison, is an Urbana High School graduate and in 2016 received a bachelor’s in organizational leadership from Wright State University. Before becoming supply chain management instructor, she recruited students from 14 partner schools for Ohio Hi-Point’s main campus in Bellefontaine, launched the school’s first online application and led Hi-Point’s Student Ambassador program.
“Ashley will visit manufacturers to see what their workforce needs are, and she’ll be going to the schools to help make sure their curriculum is where it needs to be to prepare students for career opportunities,” Deb Wortman, Ohio Hi-Point satellite director, said.
Cook adds that she will help manufacturers spread the word to schools about internships and job shadowing opportunities, advertise open positions, and help coordinate job fairs, open houses and other activities where students can learn about career opportunities in local manufacturing.
In her roles as instructor and business liaison, Cook said, “I look forward to being in the business world and working with students to prepare them for successful careers.”
“At least 75 percent of economic development is retention – helping existing businesses succeed and possibly expand their operations to provide jobs and a tax base that improves our county’s quality of life,” says Marcia Bailey, director of the Champaign Economic Partnership (CEP).
That’s why she and the CEP Board of Trustees created a team that visits local businesses to learn more about them, including what’s working for them and what challenges they face in reaching their goals.
So far, the JOBS (Jobs, Opportunities, Buildings and Space) team has visited Honeywell Aerospace, Bundy Baking Solutions and the Hall Company. The JOBS team is available to visit any type of business – not just manufacturing. Businesses wanting a visit may call the CEP at 937-653-7200.
The CEP is a partnership of local government and business created in 2015 to promote economic development, workforce development and job retention and creation in Champaign County.
The JOBS team varies from one visit to the next, but generally consists of Bailey; a county commissioner; a city and/or village administrator; an education representative, from Urbana University, Clark State Community College and/or Ohio Hi-Point Career Center; and a workforce development representative, from Ohio Means Jobs Champaign County or the Champaign County Department of Job and Family Services.
During the visits, the team learns about each business:
· Their products, services, markets and history
· Local companies they do business with
· What they like about doing business in Champaign County
· What they think would make doing business easier
· Plans, such as expansion, new products or markets, and what they’ll need to make it happen, such as more land or building space, additional utility access, more employees or training for existing staff
“Our JOBS team visits enable us to see how the CEP and our partnerships with private businesses, local government, education, workforce development, and regional and state economic development agencies can boost local businesses,” Bailey says. “And our visits help businesses learn about the resources the CEP and our partners have to offer. They learn that we’re ready to help.”
She adds, “From these visits I’ve learned a lot about our local businesses. I’m impressed by the quality of the products they produce, the skill and technology that goes into making them and the high regard they’ve earned in markets across the country and around the globe.”
In the visits the businesses have cited as advantages good relationships with the city of Urbana, utilities and local suppliers; a relatively good cost of doing business; and the Grimes Field airport.
Challenges that they’ve cited include upcoming retirements and meeting current workforce needs, including machinists and entry-level positions. A need for more space to increase business capacity was also mentioned at one of the visits.
Ten monitors will be placed in public areas – one each at the five Champaign County high schools; in the villages of Mechanicsburg, North Lewisburg and St. Paris; Urbana University; and Ohio Hi-Point. The monitors will be installed beginning in late August. Content shown on the monitors will be generated by the CEP.
Urbana University and Ohio Hi-Point Career Center are providing funds to purchase the monitors and associated equipment, while DP&L and FASTLANE are assisting with funding for ongoing media service to broadcast content on the monitors.
CEP Director Marcia Bailey added that Berry Digital Solutions is helping the CEP manage the project and that Weidmann Electrical Technology Inc. funded the original monitor at the CEP.
The purpose, she said, is to inform students and other county residents about local career opportunities and education and training available to prepare students for the workforce “I’m a strong believer in the education-workforce ecosystem. And the CEP is leading the way to organizing education and employers, preparing talent to meet the needs of our employers,” said Christopher Washington, executive vice president and CEO of Urbana University, a branch campus of Franklin University.
The monitors are the ideal way to deliver the information, he adds.
“Kids today are digitally wired and pay attention to what’s on the screen.”
Kelsey Webb, Ohio Hi-Point director of communications and marketing, said, “We’re participating because this is completely in our wheelhouse to prepare students for career or college. We’re excited to help spread the message that there are great opportunities here for students.”