It’s been a little more than three years since Franklin University stepped in at the last minute and acquired Urbana University’s assets. But in that time, Washington, the executive vice president and provost, estimated Franklin has poured more than $15 million into Urbana’s facilities as part of a long-term plan to attract new students and shore up a campus that was on the verge of closing for good.
“I don’t think there’s a place you can see that we haven’t impacted with investments,” Washington said.
Officials from Franklin provided a two-page list of the improvements made since its acquisition of Urbana University in 2014. The improvements ranged from relatively small projects like removing tree stumps and repairing the grass soccer field to renovating the university’s physics and biology labs.
The improvements also included relocating the campus’ Johnny Appleseed Museum, developing a Graduate Services Office, ramping up wireless accessibility campus-wide and signing on with a new food service vendor.
Urbana University’s financial situation still isn’t in the black a few years after Franklin’s takeover, Washington said. But along with developing new academic programs and building better ties with local businesses, the improvements are part of a larger plan to drive up enrollment and make the campus a thriving part of the community, he said.
The university has always played an important role in the city and Champaign County, he said. But many people throughout the region still don’t realize Urbana is home to a private university with a history that dates back to 1850.
“Years from now, I would love it if everybody in the community believed it was a college town,” Washington said of Urbana.
Coming off probation
Urbana University had a long history in the city, but it has also faced financial challenges for years. Those problems became critical in 2014, when lean enrollment, a handful of failed business decisions and effects of the Great Recession meant Urbana couldn’t take on more debt to survive. At that time, the university nearly shut down entirely, until Franklin University, based in Columbus, stepped in.
A handful of local banks accepted millions of dollars in losses to wipe the debt clean, allowing the transaction to occur. As part of that deal, Urbana now functions as a division of Franklin but retains its name.
Local leaders have said saving Urbana University was critical because it employs more than 200 staff and faculty members and provides a potential pipeline of skilled workers for local businesses.
A 2017 economic impact study by the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education estimated that Urbana University provided more than $60 million to the economies of Champaign and Logan counties for the 2015 to 2016 school year. That study considered the university’s impacts from operations, student spending in the community and capital investment.
Urbana had been under academic probation since November 2014. But that was wiped away in July last year when Franklin University received approval by the Higher Learning Commission to make Urbana University a branch campus.
Taking the Urbana campus under Franklin’s accreditation was a critical step as Franklin looks to develop new academic programs and provide better service to students, Washington said.
“There’s work to be done here and as we grow our goals are designed to create a sustainable university,” Washington said.
Boosting community ties
Washington said drawing more students to the university also means developing closer ties to alumni, providing more reasons for students to stay on campus and working more closely with local businesses to provide job options for students.
The university hosted its first-ever night football game last fall, an event that drew about 3,500 alumni and other guests to the campus. The university also hosted its spring game at night this year, and there are already plans to host additional night games this fall as one way to make the campus more entertaining for students and to develop better relationships with alumni, he said.
There are some signs that the work is paying dividends, Washington said. He noted the university received about 420 applications for new students last year, but that figure has about doubled to more than 800 applications for the upcoming academic year.
“To offer the programs we want to offer, we have to have a sufficient number of students to support those programs,” Washington said.
Another key, Washington said, is developing closer ties with area businesses. The university has developed a program called UrbanaWORKS, which will provide students with leadership skills while tying educational programs more closely to the needs of local businesses.
Marcia Bailey, economic development coordinator for the Champaign Economic Partnership, said the university is making a more visible effort to work with local companies and determine what training is needed to match current demands. The CEP is the economic development agency for Champaign County.
She said Washington is part of a team developed to address the needs of local businesses. That group recently visited Honeywell Aerospace in Urbana and is scheduled to meet soon with Bundy Baking Solutions, a local manufacturer.
“They are intimately getting involved in the community,” Bailey said of Urbana University’s recent emphasis on local business.
The community is also embracing the campus more than may have been the case in the past, she said. Last year was the first year community members hosted a block party in downtown Urbana to welcome students to the campus at the start of the school year, and a similar event is scheduled for August.
“The university is making certain they’re a part of the community and the community is making certain they’re engaging the university with different events and activities too,” Bailey said.
[Read More at SpringfieldNewsSun.com]
Demolition and cleanup of the former Q3/JMC Inc. manufacturing site in Urbana is ready to begin – a key step toward preparing the abandoned property for new industrial development and job creation.
Urbana Director of Administration Kerry Brugger announced at Tuesday’s Urbana City Council meeting that an agreement has been finalized between the city of Urbana and Urbana-based developer True Inspection Services (TIS), which will direct redevelopment work of the 20-acre site at 605 Miami St. and 200 Beech St. The property, zoned for manufacturing, has been vacant since Q3/JMC ceased operations in 2008.
TIS has been awarded a JobsOhio Redevelopment Pilot Program reimbursable grant of $883,947 to help cover the cost of the two-year project, which will involve demolition, environmental remediation, asbestos abatement, removal and disposal of waste, and site preparation.
The city gained title to the abandoned property in May and is providing $348,435 in matching funds. TIS is contributing $116,145.
Through a separate agreement with the city, Honeywell International Inc. is responsible for cleaning up groundwater contamination in an approximately four-acre section on the west side of the property, which had been used by Grimes Aerospace’s Plastic Research Products business. Honeywell became liable for the cleanup, having acquired Grimes Aerospace.
Brugger said that the Honeywell cleanup is targeted to begin in October. Barry Couts, TIS founder and owner, said his company will soon begin advertising for bids for demolition and cleanup of the site.
Once cleanup is completed and meets Ohio Environmental Protection Agency VAP cleanup requirements, title to the property will transfer from the city to TIS, Brugger said. TIS will prepare the site for development by a new owner.
The Champaign Economic Partnership will work with TIS to market the property for reuse, Marcia Bailey, CEP director, said. “Having a 20-acre greenfield in Urbana that is zoned M-1, for industrial use, will be extremely advantageous for economic growth and job creation in our county.” She added that the CEP will use its established network of local, regional and state contacts to market the property to businesses seeking space to expand or establish operations.
Bringing the project to this point has required cooperation of many parties, Bailey said. These include the city, Honeywell, JobsOhio, the Dayton Development Coalition (DDC), TIS, the CEP and the Champaign County Board of Revision, which earlier this year approved transferring the property from the county to the city and directed the county auditor to cancel delinquent taxes on the property.
Bailey assisted with the private development agreement between the city and TIS. And last year on behalf of TIS, she wrote an application for the JobsOhio Site Redevelopment Pilot Program grant.
JobsOhio was encouraged by the number of community partners involved. “We want to see partners at the table,” said Kristi Clouse, executive director of operations for JobsOhio. “The community has to work together to help us market the site” to attract business development.
Using revitalization funds, JobsOhio created the Site Redevelopment Pilot Program to return properties in need of remediation to the commercial development market – and to help make up for a deficit of commercial properties ready for development and business expansion since recovery from the recession.
“Ohio didn’t have all the inventory we needed to attract job-creating companies,” she said. “Champaign County didn’t have available inventory for business development and was missing out on job-creation opportunities. And there was this site, right in Urbana, on U.S. 36, already with utilities on site. It has a lot of good attributes to it.
“We had multiple discussions with the city,” Clouse added. “The city has played a key part in the grant. This project has been a lot for the city to take on and not all cities would do this. But they recognized how important this site is for their community. They really stepped up to the plate.”
Sarah Custer, project manager at the Dayton Development Coalition, said, “Older industrial sites can present significant redevelopment challenges for communities, since they often need extensive remediation. JobsOhio’s Redevelopment Pilot Program will provide vital resources for the Q3/JMC property, allowing the community to plan for the site’s reuse and attract new users to bring new jobs and investment to the heart of Champaign County.”
“As a developer,” Barry Couts of TIS said, “you look at the end result of a development. This project will help add jobs. I want to bring development to the county and jobs to the community.”
A native of Urbana, Couts said, “I remember when this property was booming as Johnson Manufacturing. That’s another reason I want to see it developed. There’s a lot of history in it.”
Couts founded True Inspection Services in Springfield in 2007 and two years ago relocated to Urbana after redeveloping the vacant former Buckles Motors property at 871 S. Main St., Urbana, where TIS now operates.
First Posted on UrbanaCitizen.com: March 10th, 2016
By Joshua Keeran - firstname.lastname@example.org
In cities like New York, Boston and San Francisco, where parking is at a premium, individuals often shell out thousands of dollars or in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars for one parking space. This past November, Honeywell Aerospace’s Game Changers Employee Club in Urbana found out just how much their fellow associates are willing to pay for parking at the workplace.
As a way to raise funds for local organizations, the club was given approval to place up for bid 56 prime parking spots at Honeywell Aerospace’s state Route 55 location. The spots had previously been available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“The online bidding process was open for all associates at all levels throughout the site for several weeks,” Honeywell Aerospace Executive Assistant April Shockey said. “Employees were able to use an alias throughout, making the process fun and exciting. Cheers and applause broke out when the last bids processed through.”
The result of the fundraiser revealed Honeywell Aerospace employees value prime parking spots, as bids ranged from $50 to $305. In total, the 56 spaces brought in over $6,000, and the winning bidders have access to their spots until November.
After the auction wrapped up, Shockey said, employees were asked to provide feedback as to which organizations the club should donate the funds to. The decision was made to donate $2,000 to the Grimes Flying Lab Foundation, $2,000 to the GrandWorks Foundation/Gloria Theatre, and $1,000 to the Champaign County 4-H Committee.
During an employee meeting on Wednesday, Tom Duggan, senior director/plant general manager, presented the donations to representatives from all three organizations. On hand to accept the checks were Randy Henson, vice president of the Grimes Flying Lab Foundation Board; Lydia Hess, GrandWorks Foundation administrative manager; Diane Jess, Champaign County 4-H Committee treasurer; and Melinda Morrison, Champaign County OSU Extension director/4-H educator.
Honeywell Aerospace employees also decided to put aside $1,000 from the auction to be used to bid on livestock at the Champaign County Fair in August.
While not at the same scale as the parking space fundraiser, the Game Changers Employee Club raises funds for different organizations throughout the county on a monthly basis.
“They sell awareness ribbons and badge buddies that employees are able to wear on their badge lanyards that gives them a casual dress pass for the month,” Shockey said.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.
Over three dozen students enrolled in an Ohio Hi-Point Career Center satellite manufacturing program at Triad High School celebrated Manufacturing Day on Oct. 2 by touring one of the oldest operating manufacturing companies in Champaign County – Honeywell Aerospace (formerly Grimes Manufacturing/Grimes Aerospace).
“Honeywell is one of the largest employers in the county, and we felt it was important to broaden community understanding of the products we manufacture here and the services we provide,” said Tom Duggan, senior director and site leader of the Honeywell Aerospace in Champaign County. “There isn’t a better way to do that than to bring community members onsite on national Manufacturing Day to see for themselves.”
Founded in Urbana in 1933 by entrepreneur and inventor Warren G. Grimes, who later became known as “The Father of the Aircraft Lighting Industry,” Grimes Manufacturing made a name for itself as a leader in the aerospace lighting industry. In 1997, the company was acquired by AlliedSignal Inc., which later became Honeywell International Inc. after merging with Honeywell Inc. in 1999.
“Honeywell Urbana has two plants focused on the production and repair of interior and exterior lighting for commercial and military aircraft,” Duggan said. “We also manufacturing airplane wipers and some internal displays. Primarily, our products end up on Boeing aircraft, but we have other Aerospace customers as well.
“Our Russell Street facility is focused on parts fabrication such as machining, polishing and non-destructive testing. They supply materials to the Route 55 facilities and other Honeywell facilities around the globe,” he added.
Field trip details
The 40 students interested in a career in the manufacturing sector who took part in the Manufacturing Day event, were given a unique look into the daily operations of Honeywell Aerospace during guided tours of the company’s two Urbana facilities – 550 state Route 55 and 515 N. Russell St.
Duggan said students saw 80 percent of the company’s operations on the factory floor, but students had to view some operations through windows because those particular areas required specific personal protective equipment and training.
Duggan said the company hopes the tours helped “provide insight and possibly inspiration around careers in manufacturing and Aerospace.
“Some of the students may one day be operators, technicians, engineers and leaders at Honeywell Urbana,” he added.
Rachel Lewis, Champaign Economic Partnership administrative assistant, said local economic development officials and manufacturers have taken part in national Manufacturing Day in one way or another for the past four years. Last year, students from Urbana High School and Ohio Hi-Point toured the Bundy Baking Solutions’ Shaffer Production Facility located at 720 S. Edgewood Ave. in Urbana.
Lewis said the aim of the Manufacturing Day student tours is to give students interested in a career in manufacturing an inside look into local companies while increasing community exposure for local employers.
“Manufacturing Day is vitally important as it allows the community to show the future generation of workers that manufacturing is making a comeback, that manufacturing can support a strong community network, and that it can provide stable employment,” she said. “Manufacturing Day also gives an opportunity to focus on our current local employers and the wonderful employees right here in Champaign County who help to create American-made products for a variety of industries.”
Triad High School principal Kyle Huffman said the 40 students who participated in the Manufacturing Day tours of the Honeywell Aerospace facilities were high schoolers currently enrolled in the advanced manufacturing program, a satellite program offered to students through a joint effort between Triad and Ohio Hi-Point Career Center.
The advanced manufacturing program, which includes a feeder program at Triad Middle School, replaced the district’s industrial arts program decommissioned following the 2014-2015 school year, Huffman said.
“Our goal is to take our manufacturing students on tours of the various businesses in the county so that they are aware of the employment opportunities that may be available to them because of our program,” he added. “We decided to have our first tour on Oct. 2 to celebrate Manufacturing Day, and Honeywell graciously offered to allow us to tour their facilities.”
As for the importance of such tours, Huffman said, “The goal is for these students to realize the employment opportunities that are available in Champaign County and make real life connections to what they are learning in the classroom.”
Huffman added he hopes tours like this help the younger generation realize the local manufacturing sector consists of more than just a certain car manufacturer located in Marysville.
“When we think about manufacturing jobs, most people think of Honda and don’t realize that there are other local manufacturing companies looking for skilled and dedicated workers,” he said. “Champaign County is a great community, and for those students who want to make it their home as adults, we want to help them find employment opportunities.”
Manufacturing firms in Champaign County have added jobs and had a greater economic impact as the economy has begun to recover, local officials said Tuesday.
Both private and government officials have worked more closely together in recent years, and are working together to address issues like workforce development, said Marcia Bailey, economic development coordinator for the Champaign Economic Partnership.
Representatives from several area manufacturing firms met Tuesday morning as part of a manufacturer’s council in which local companies gather with education and government officials and discuss ways to address workforce issues.
Some signs indicate those efforts are already paying off, Bailey said. Information provided by the Dayton Development Coalition shows the industry provided jobs for about 2,900 workers in 2013, and that has grown to about 3,800 jobs this year.
Several manufacturers have worked together to attract younger workers, Bailey said, including hosting displays and a booth at the Champaign County Fair. Drawing younger workers is important because much of the current workforce is aging and there are now too few people in the pipeline to replace them.
“It’s going to take a lot to turn it around,” Bailey said.
The council also recently hosted a manufacturing day, offering tours at Honeywell sites to area high school students. Bailey also pointed to a new program developed by Trial Local Schools and the Ohio Hi-Point Career Center that started this year to teach manufacturing skills to students in the district as early as middle school.
Making sure there are students interested in the field will be critical to fill vacant jobs as manufacturing becomes more advanced, she said.
The industry accounted for $319 million, or about 33 percent of Champaign County’s gross regional product in 2013. That figure represents the goods and services produced in the county. By last year, manufacturing’s impact had risen to $399 million, or 36 percent of the gross regional product.
In the past, the city of Urbana had provided much of the funding for economic development in the county. But several companies and government agencies recently formed the CEP, which includes funding from both private and government entities. That should benefit manufacturing firms because it will provide more resources and coordination for economic development, said Todd Michael, president of the Champaign Economic Partnership.
“It’s a whole different attitude than we’ve had in the past,” Michael said.
Bailey also recognized three local companies that have a long history of providing jobs in the county.
Ultra-Met, which makes parts for the aerospace, defense and biomedical industries, has its 50th anniversary this year. Johnson Welded Products in Urbana, which makes parts for the heavy truck industry, has been there for 35 years. KTH Parts Industries Inc., in St. Paris, will mark 30 years as a parts supplier for Honda.