An abandoned site can be a significant safety and financial liability to a community. Urbana’s 605 Miami Street was just that.
Vacant since 2008, the once thriving manufacturing site became a community eyesore and was prone to persistent vandalism. But its prime location and existing utilities had too much potential for Urbana. The community sought out partners to revitalize the site, including much-needed financial support from JobsOhio.
A Major Undertaking
The former home of Q3 and Johnson Manufacturing had everything a company would want: space; nearby highways; proximity to major cities; current and future rail service; and existing utilities, including water, sewer, gas, and electric, thus making it an ideal site for revitalization.
Many companies were interested in the site, but costs to clean it up were a deterrent. The property needed an overhaul to eliminate the ongoing threats to public health, safety and the environment for it to be a viable site. The Journey BackCleanup began in 2015, but the magnitude of remediation needed was beyond what Urbana could accomplish on its own. A collaborative including JobsOhio, Honeywell International Inc., the Dayton Development Coalition, True Inspection Services, the Champaign Economic Partnership and the Champaign County Board of Revision was able to take the project to the next step.
Compelled by the potential for economic impact, JobsOhio committed almost $890,000 from the JobsOhio Redevelopment Pilot Program toward demolition, environmental remediation, asbestos abatement, removal and disposal of waste, and site preparation.
After months of hard work, the remediation is almost complete and final permitting is anticipated to reach the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency by May 2019. Once received, the site will be marketed nationally to attract a new tenant. Because of Urbana’s dedication to the site and the community, it successfully led a movement to turn an abandoned area into an economic opportunity.
To date, JobsOhio has committed over $240 million in revitalization, leveraging an additional $11 billion in capital investment and creating more than 15,500 jobs in Ohio. JobsOhio is committed to working with communities across Ohio to revitalize abandoned properties and return them to sources of job creation and economic growth.
(This article appeared on page 22 in the 2018 JobsOhio Annual Report. To view the entire Annual Report, click below.
Pullins to lead Ohio Produce Network
Mike and Cathy Pullins of Champaign Berry Farm in Urbana won the Value Added Product Tasting with their Black Raspberry Jam entry during the Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association’s annual Ohio Produce Network on Jan. 16-17 in Dublin. In this contest, growers vote for their favorite jam, salsa, jelly or specialty product. This year the Ohio Produce Network featured 56 educational sessions, a membership meeting, keynote address by Wendy’s Chief Communications Officer Liliana Esposito, a sold-out industry trade show and a few hands-on sessions.
Also at this year’s conference, Cathy was elected president of the Ohio Produce Network, where she will serve with Alex Buck of Fruit Growers Marketing Association in Newcomerstown as vice president.
Cathy’s husband, Mike, served as executive director of the Ohio Produce Network during the 1990s and early 2000s.
The Champaign Berry Farm began as an FFA project for Cathy and Mike’s son, Matt. The farm evolved from 5 acres in 1995 to its current 25 acres. On their farm in Mutual (village just outside of Urbana), the Pullins grow black raspberries, red raspberries, currants and gooseberries.
“I see us as providing a service to the public; every year we have people saying ‘thank you for being here, thank you for doing this,’” said Cathy.
Both Cathy and Mike are retired from other jobs and Cathy said farming keeps them physically fit and busy. “[We farm] to help people have good food to eat,” said Cathy, adding that there are a lot of healthy benefits to raspberries. “Any dark fruit is good for you.”
“And we just love doing it. We’ll probably [farm] until we can’t,” said Cathy.
Cathy worked with children with disabilities for 34 years at the Lawnview Child and Family Center in Urbana (which is now called Madison-Champaign Educational Service Center). Mike worked for the Ohio Farm Bureau for 33 years before he retired and he served as executive director of the Ohio Fruit Growers Society, Ohio Vegetable and Potato Growers. However, they farmed in addition to their jobs. They bought their first farm in the late 1970s and Cathy said that they were able to “hang on” when the 1980s Farm Crisis hit because they had other jobs. They lived in eastern Ohio until 1988, when they moved to Champaign County.
In 2013, they planted a test plot of peach trees and have been growing them since. They have a total of 1,000 peach trees on their home farm on South Ludlow Road in Urbana and on the test plot in Mutual.
Three weeks out of the summer, usually mid-June to mid-July (depending on the weather), they open up their farm to the public, bringing in seasonal workers. People are welcome to visit the farm and pick their own berries, or people can put in orders to have berries picked for them. More than 80 percent of Champaign Berry Farm’s raspberries are pick-your-own. According to the Pullins, more than 40 percent of the customers come from the Columbus area, some others coming from as far as Kansas, Colorado, Virginia, New York, and Florida.
Champaign Berry Farm is registered with the Ohio Farm Bureau Buying Local directory and the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Farm Markets directory. Twenty percent of their berries are sold wholesale to farmers who will then sell them at farmers markets, such as the Clark’s Farm Market in Springfield; Miami County Farmers Market in Troy; Champaign County’s Virtual Farmers Market; Logan County Farmer’s Market; and others throughout Ohio. They have jams and sauces that are made with their product, which are available year round.
Mike said that their geographical location is very beneficial to them, an hour’s drive or less from Columbus, Dayton, Marysville, Bellefontaine, Delaware, Piqua, Springfield, London and other surrounding towns and cities. “We have two to three million people within 40 miles,” said Mike.
Overall, the Pullins family owns and farms about 1,400 acres, including the berry farm, peach trees, corn, soybeans and hay. Some land they farm themselves, and some they lease to others. Mike and Cathy have two sons, who are both managers and investors in the family farm business. They also have a daughter, who raises livestock.
Red raspberries are grown throughout the world, said Mike, but black raspberries are only native to the Midwest. Raspberries have to be picked dry because they will mold if wet, and they are difficult to grow.
“[Black and red raspberries] are a very difficult crop to grow because of all of the pests and diseases,” said Mike, adding that there are more than 20 fungal diseases to which raspberries are susceptible. “Raspberries are very closely related to roses; they’re in the same family. And so any gardener who grows roses knows all the insects and diseases that attack raspberries.”
Mike added that within the past 6 years, an invasive species from Asia called Drosophila suzukii, or the spotted wing Drosophila, commonly known as a fruit fly, “has attacked all soft fruits, but particularly is devastating to raspberries and black berries…and it’s very difficult to control.”
“There’s a spray program that Mike follows with fungicide for the fungal diseases and then with insecticides for the SWD (spotted wing Drosophila),” said Cathy, adding that because of these obstacles it’s difficult to be organic. “People ask us all the time if we’re organic. We could not have a crop—however, we do follow recommended practices in spraying and we’re very cognizant of the bees…because we love the bees and the bees love the berries when the red raspberries are in bloom.”
Most raspberries are biennial plants, which means the flowering plant takes two years to complete its biological lifecycle. In the first year, the plants grow leaves, stems and roots and enter a period of dormancy during the colder months.
“The cane (stem) grows one year, overwinters, and then fruits in early summer,” said Mike. “Then that cane dies, not the plant, just that cane dies. And at the same time the cane is growing for the next year. So you have two crops always growing at the same time.” Raspberries require 2,000 hours of cold.
For more information about Champaign Berry Farm visit: www.champaignberryfarm.com.
The Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association is a non-profit organization that works for the betterment of the produce industry in Ohio. For more information about the organization, visit the OPGMA website at www.opgma.org.
Computer numerical control (CNC) machining is a manufacturing process in which pre-programmed computer software dictates the movement of factory tools and machinery.
Clark State’s current machines are 3-axis machines. The new 5-axis machine will allow for additional fourth and fifth axis machining capabilities. The part can basically be approached from all directions simultaneously and machined in one operation.
According to JobsOhio, Clark State is the first college or university in the state of Ohio to offer training on a 5-axis CNC machine.
“5-axis CNC is a technical skill that is needed in many manufacturing facilities throughout our region,” said Aimee Belanger-Haas, dean of business and applied technologies for Clark State. “Having this technology at Clark State helps us further our mission for student and community success by providing this training to our manufacturing students, and the ability to offer the advanced manufacturing lab for customized training for current employees."
Having a machine at Clark State means employers can trust that the local community college is providing workers for the future in Clark County, Chilman said.
“It really opens up an opportunity to acquire new employees from our current student body but to also bring in their current employees for retraining or up training to help them advance within their own company,” he said.
The need for manufacturing education continues to expand, Director of Workforce and Business Solutions Lesli Beavers said.
“We are all very aware of the need in Clark County in manufacturing,” she said, “We have a great manufacturing base here in Clark County and this will also to help revitalize our community. We want to be able to attract new employers and fill that need for new employees and employers to grow.”
The corporation said it worked on 266 projects with companies committed to create a record 27,071 jobs, a rise of 19 percent over 2017, and a record $1.3 billion in new payroll, an increase of 23 percent year over year.
The 2018 results also include record capital investment of just over $9.6 billion, JobsOhio said in its 2018 annual report.
Sectors leading to the largest number of jobs included logistics and distribution, advanced manufacturing and health care industries.
Of the 266 projects, 73 percent involved small and middle-market enterprises, JobsOhio said.
2018 figures offered by JobsOhio:
“Our 2018 job creation, payroll and capital investment are the highest that our associates and partners have ever achieved,” JobsOhio Chairman Jim Boland said in a statement. “These strong results illustrate the commitment of JobsOhio and its statewide network to generate economic opportunities for Ohioans.”
The new report also notes perhaps the biggest bad news of the year: General Motors’ decision to end production of the Chevrolet Cruze at its Lordstown plant, impacting about 1,500 workers.
“GM’s decision has generated significant attention at the local, state and national levels,” the report said. “JobsOhio has maintained a strong dialogue with GM’s senior team, including meetings with the company’s CEO, and continues to explore opportunities for retaining jobs for the Lordstown workers.”
The report also notes Crown Equipment’s decision to expand in New Bremen, as well as Axo Gen Inc.’s choice to invest some $5 million in a Vandalia Scholz Industrial Park location as a production site.
“These results reflect our culture of collaboration and client focus that makes Ohio more attractive for companies,” JobsOhio President John Minor also said in a release. “Along with our partners, JobsOhio has a strong foundation to address important business issues, and we are well-positioned for the future.”
In December, Ernst & Young ranked Ohio first for job creation in business investment projects for the second year in a row.
Nearly $30 million in new projects were started in 2017 in Springfield, down to $16.8 million in 2018. But much of the investment and construction on permits spilled over into the next year as major projects can take years to complete.
“Just because you see the number and the valuation down in 2018 does not mean necessarily that the economy was down,” said Horton Hobbs, vice president of economic development. “It just means the timing may have been in 2017 when the permits were filed.”
In 2017, the city pulled 519 permits, but it pulled nearly triple that number at 1,533 last year, despite the sharp decline in total valuation. During a healthy economy, there’s typically an uptick in activity, but it doesn’t always translate to dollar value, he said.
“Depending on the types of expansion , they may have a little bit less valuation necessarily than a new construction, s o I think it’s really the type of investment versus the volume,” Hobbs said.
Instead of high dollar new construction, 2018 was full of several smaller permits like remodels at Walmart and Kroger, leading to the large number of permits despite lower values.
The economy saw strong growth in 2017 and many businesses began investing money in the Miami Valley, including Clark and Champaign counties.
“They had the extra funding or whatever was needed, so they took advantage of it in that year,” Jene Gaver, Springfield’s chief building official.
Several big projects boosted values across the region, including Wittenberg’s $40 million indoor athletic facility and Topre’s $55 million expansion in Springfield.
In Champaign County, more than $70 million in permits were filed in 2017 including Navistar’s $12 million manufacturing warehouse, a new Memorial Health facility, renovations on a new ColePak building and additions at KTH Parts Industries and Weidmann Electrical Technology, said Marcia Bailey, economic development director for the Champaign Economic Partnership.
In 2018, Champaign’s permits dropped to $2.6 million in valuation.
“It’s just that the big projects did happen in ‘17 with openings in ‘18 and then for ‘18 we didn’t really have major projects going on, but I think we’re going to see more permits this year again,” said Bailey.
Looking into 2019
Springfield leaders echoed Bailey’s optimism, with Gaver saying he expects 2019 to outpace 2017. In 2018. the permits were smaller sprinkler, fire alarm and mechanical permits that followed the major construction values of 2017.
“It’s just timing, honestly. I project that in 2019 we’re going to see an uptick because there are a couple of bigger projects that are continuing into 2019,” Hobbs said.
Last year, Topre announced plans of another $73 million expansion. Along with the growth comes 138,000 square feet and 204 jobs at the Champion City Business Park. Topre has had back-to-back expansions since it first built in the city in late 2016.
Silfex also plans to finish its $223 million facility in 2019. When complete, the project will add 400 total jobs to Springfield.
A major housing development near the Tuttle Road Walmart could bring 226 new homes as well. Construction could begin as early as March or April on the 37 acres with homes meant to handle increased hiring in the region.
Other projects include a second phase to senior housing Community Gardens and a $5.5 million parking garage with funds from the state, county and city.
“There’s a lot of stuff going on . I mean , it’s just we’re constantly busy,” Gaver said.
Local investors in Champaign County are working on a proposal for a new Cobblestone hotel in Urbana. Mercy Hospital in Urbana is also continuing facade changes.
A potential downtown project could turn an Urbana building, along with North and South Elementary schools, into affordable senior housing. If that project develops, it could redevelop a longtime eyesore downtown, find a new use for two of the school district’s aging buildings and provide more senior housing options for residents.
“If we see this hotel start being built , we’re hoping that’s going to spur more activity along that same corridor,” Bailey said.
How development impacts Springfield
Higher permit values are a good thing because they often represent more real estate taxes. Many of the big values that received incentives are about to expire, so the counties could pull more taxes, Bailey said. But it’s also a trade off because some new projects could also receive incentives.
“If you’ve got these high permits, usually it means you’ve got manufacturing coming in,” Gaver said. “When manufacturing comes in, it means more people; more people means more housing, so it just kind of trickles down.”
When commercial is up, usually residential is down and vice versa, but Hobbs said he expects both the be up in 2019 when hundreds of jobs could come to Springfield.
“The more money that’s generated here in the city of Springfield , the more people to come in here and spend money , the more places will be open up and survive,” Gaver said.
Even though permit values didn’t have high dollar values in 2018, it doesn’t mean the companies weren’t expanding and improving, Hobbs said.
“There is investment that goes on in companies that may not actually require the point of a permit , but that doesn’t mean that they’re not investing in , you know , infrastructure or they’re not investing in equipment or those kinds of things,” he said.
Clark County, which has its own building department had $14.6 million invested in permits last year, down slightly from the $15 million in 2017.
Parts of the planned $43 million Speedway expansion could also show up 2019 permits, boosting those values. The expansion could bring 200 new full-time workers over the next few years.
“There’s no science still , you know, it’s just like doing your budget , you kind of guess what’s coming in ,” Gaver said.
Local permit values
The Springfield News-Sun is committed to covering business and economic development in Clark and Champaign counties.
Montego Designs Unlimited is OPEN for business at 114 Scioto in Urbana. Welcome to Champaign County!
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.”