Paul Kurtz, who founded Hemisphere in 2002 with his wife, Grace, said he plans to make the Coffee Fest an annual event. The fact that they moved into their new building in mid-summer this year has added to the festivities, but Kurtz acknowledges that the festival involving food trucks, kids activities, vendors, coffee cupping and music is not solely about promoting his own business.
"What we are trying to do with our Staurday event here, the once-a-year Coffee Fest, is really to educate people to what is coffee, how to taste cofee, and what to look for," he said. "It doesn't mean that they're all going to come buy their coffee here, because we hear some people are coming from Dayton. But if they're educated, it will help all roasters that are direct importing."
According to Kurtz, the last several years have seen a resurgence in local coffee roasting. One hundred years ago, every cluster of blocks in a large city would have had their own roaster, but since the advent of large, international brands, it has been more common for people to buy their coffee from the supermarket until recently.
Hemisphere imports beans direct from farmers in Thailand, Kenya, Guatemala and Nicaragua, then ships to locations all over the United States including about 200 churches, 25 coffee shops like The Spotted Cow in Urbana, and some markets including Whole Foods. But while this this direct trade model has been good for local businesses, Kurtz says it is even better for the farmers who produce the coffee.
Read more in the October 12th edition of the Urbana Daily Citizen.
Learn more about Hemisphere Coffee Roasters at their website, www.hemispherecoffeeroasters.com/.
“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.
“Basically, we wanted to put something together that was of value to multiple layers of our community,” said committee member and property owner Jamon Sellman in a welcome statement. “What we call ourselves is Moving Downtown Forward. And if you look at the committee members, we have a real mixed bag, which we believe is a very positive thing. We have property owners, we have building officials, we have zoning officials, we have the CEP represented, so we have multiple sectors … We’re trying to bring more living, more playing downtown so that we have walking traffic that is wanting to spend their money downtown and therefore we all thrive.”
Sellman said the committee’s goals include attracting new residents to downtown Urbana, assisting public and private development projects, providing information and resources to assist all types of downtown stakeholders and partnering with the city of Urbana.
Other committee members include city Zoning Officer Adam Moore, city Community Development Manager Doug Crabill, county Building Regulations Director Dana Booghier, architect Sarah Mackert and multiple property owners.
“In terms of strategy, you want to start early, and you want to go into things without any surprises so that you can avoid as much stress as possible,” said Mackert.
“I will say that developers are high risk, high reward for a reason, but if you have vision and passion I think you can really accomplish a lot.”
Developer Jason Duff presented examples of business owners who invested in the city of Bellefontaine and explained how similar investors may lead to a vibrant downtown Urbana. He also suggested putting up street signs that would direct pedestrians to less prominent businesses within the downtown area.
Communities partnering together
“In my mind, if we could make it uniform through the villages and the city of Urbana and partner with what Bellefontaine has already done … I attended the St. Paris Village Council meeting on Monday and they are putting signs up exactly like Bellefontaine,” said Bailey.
“They went up today, so they’ll have them for the (Champaign County Preservation Alliance) Home and Garden Tour … why not do that in Champaign County and Logan County so that we all have that same pattern so when a visitor comes in they know automatically these are way-finding signs and this is how I’m going to find businesses, restaurants and whatever I’m looking for. It may sound like a minor thing but it’s not, not when you don’t know where you’re going.”
“Sometimes, even if things have been done the same way for 20 years in this town, I hope that there’s some innovators in this room who will say ‘you know what, we’re going to take our town back,’” Duff said.
“‘No longer will we play by these rules. We’re going to take our town back because it’s the right thing to do.’” The meeting closed with a panel taking questions from attendees.
The next meeting of the Moving Downtown Forward committee is scheduled for July 19.
Christopher Selmek can be reached at 937-508-2304
Melanie Ziegler, a spokeswoman for the company, said the project is on schedule and no delays are anticipated.
The medical group will also host a groundbreaking open house event and ceremony at Memorial Hospital in Marysville as part of a separate project. The company is undergoing a $50 million expansion and renovation of Memorial Hospital.
That project involves construction of two buildings, both an inpatient pavilion and an outpatient pavilion on the main campus at 500 London Ave. in Marysville.
by Christopher Selmek, Urbana Daily Citizen
The Urbana City Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting the residential rental development proposed by Flaherty and Collins Properties to redevelop South Elementary School, North Elementary School and the Douglas Inn for senior apartments at a regular council meeting on Tuesday. A copy of this resolution will accompany Flaherty and Collins' tax credit application to the Ohio Housing Finance Authority by the Feb. 15 deadline.
"I think this is a fantastic opportunity, and I think Urbana would be very welcoming to this," said council member Doug Hoffman. "We've got three distinct structures that I think really need this for the revitalization of the properties. These properties don't get fixed up any other way, at least not in the near future, and it also helps some of the other entities in town like the school and the downtown. I think this is just fantastic."
"I'm really excited about this," added council member Pat Thackery. "We have a housing issue in the community anyway, and if we get some senior housing, that's going to open up some housing that seniors are moving out of so others can move in there, and that's going to help the housing overall. I'm excited. And we need exciting things like this to happen in town and they're happening."
As part of the proposed development, the council unanimously passed another resolution authorizing the acquisition of certain properties, an agency agreement with the Community Improvement Corporation of Champaign County to negotiate with a buyer to purchase and develop said properties, declaring said properties to be no longer needed for public purposes and to authorize the sale of said propertes.
CIC Economic Director Marcia Bailey explained that the Urbana school board passed a resolution last week approving the sale of North and South elementaries to the city for a dollar a building. The school board set the purchase price of both buildings at $354,000, to which Flaherty and Collins has agreed.
"I see a trend where all the good things that seem to keep happening are coming through collaboration, through another party and party deals," Hoffman said. "Everything's happening with two and three and four, even five people involved, and I think that's not anything that we've had for a long time that I can remember. The group that we have up here now is working some pretty nice deals for the city, and I think our citizens recognize that."
The Douglas Inn is privately owned and further action will not be required fromt he council to authorize its sale.
· Sandra Brasington, Gov. John Kasich’s regional liaison, addressed the governor’s initiatives to address the opioid crisis. About $1 billion has been directed to the problem, including prevention, education, treatment and recovery, and law enforcement.
· Lauren Bowen, public affairs liaison for Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, spoke about OhioCheckbook.com, a website created by the Ohio Treasurer’s office to provide taxpayers online access to state government spending data – to hold public officials accountable. Local government spending also is being added to the website. So far in Champaign County, spending records for Mad River Township, Goshen Township, St. Paris and Mechanicsburg have been published on the website. North Lewisburg, Christiansburg and Urbana City Schools will be added soon.
· Than Johnson, CEO of Champaign Residential Services, Inc., spoke on behalf of Ohio Sen. Matt Huffman. He said Huffman is working on a redistricting amendment that will be on the ballot this fall. He also is working with local school districts on legislation to improve current state regulations to assist in local school funding.
· Champaign County Commissioner Steve Hess said, “I can’t remember when there’s been so much new development in our county.” He gave as examples new Urbana school buildings, the Memorial Health medical center, the new Navistar/Damewood Enterprises warehouse, the new Crop Production Services facility and expansion of WEIDMANN Electrical Technology.
He said that the CEP’s mission is to “create the path of least resistance to help business develop in our county. If we can find a process to make development easier, that’s what we want to do.” He added that the CEP is partnering with manufacturers and educational institutions to prepare the next generation for the workforce.
To help guide economic and community development in the future, he said, Champaign County commissioners are working with the Logan-Union-Champaign Regional Planning Commission to create a new comprehensive plan that will cover the entire county.
· Urbana Mayor Bill Bean spoke about redevelopment of the former Q3/JMC, Inc. manufacturing site in Urbana – about 20 acres that are being prepared for new industrial development and job creation. He also mentioned a collaborative effort of the city, Urbana City Schools, the CEP and a developer that could create 50 senior citizen apartments in the Douglas Hotel in downtown Urbana and Urbana North and South elementary schools, which will close with the opening of Urbana’s new elementary and middle school. Also, he reported, the second phase of the city’s replacement of water lines will begin in the next year.
· Mechanicsburg Mayor Greg Kimball mentioned two projects that the CEP has assisted the village with – foreclosed downtown property that the village wants to return to productive commercial use and annexing the Advanced Technology Products manufacturing facility into the village.
A plan to redevelop a long-vacant hotel in downtown Urbana could also provide new life to two elementary schools that would otherwise be slated for demolition.
The Urbana City School District, the city of Urbana and the owners of the former Douglas Hotel are working on a proposal that could turn the vacant inn, as well as North and South Elementary Schools in Urbana, into affordable senior housing, Mayor Bill Bean said. Those entities are working with the Champaign Economic Partnership and Flaherty and Collins Properties, a developer based in Indianapolis.
The deal initially focused on finding a suitable use for the Douglas, which has been vacant for more than a decade, Bean said. But that site didn’t have enough rooms available to make the project viable so the developer also looked at the two elementary schools.
The school district is building a new high school on the same site as the current high school, as well as a preschool-eighth grade school and between Vintage Drive-Thru and Campground Road on the south side of town. With the new primary school under construction, the district’s three elementary schools were likely to be demolished, district Superintendent Charles Thiel said.
If the new project moves forward, 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, Bean said.
The owners of the Douglas and staff from Flaherty and Collins couldn’t be reached for comment.
Several attempts have been made to redevelop the downtown hotel since it closed more than a decade ago. But renovations would be costly, Bean said, and finding a viable project has been difficult. The hotel was a local landmark and a popular business for years but most recently it’s been an eyesore, he said.
The city would only need to take over the two school buildings since the hotel is currently owned by a private entity.
“As far as I’m concerned, that hotel is a cancer in downtown Urbana,” Bean said.
Converting the hotel into senior housing would draw more foot traffic downtown, create jobs and benefit local businesses and restaurants, he said. Urbana’s Board of Zoning and Appeals recently approved a zoning change, approving two conditional use permits for the city school buildings that would allow them to be used for senior housing, said Marty Hess, a city council and BZA member.
“It’s going to be a boon for downtown Urbana if we can get this done,” Bean said.
Under the proposal, the school district would transfer the two properties to the city, and the CEP would transfer the properties to the developer, said Marcia Bailey, economic development director for the CEP.
The developer is seeking a grant from the Ohio Fair Housing agency in mid-February, Bailey said. The developer also is applying for historic tax credits later in the year to make the plan more affordable, she said, so all sides are working on a tight timeline.
Even if the developer doesn’t receive the credits this year, it would still be interested in applying next year, Bailey said. But the organizations are also discussing an agreement to make sure the city isn’t stuck with two school buildings if the deal falls through, she said.
“If we can get that historic building redeveloped, it just changes the whole landscape of downtown Urbana,” Bailey said.
The school district has funding available as part of its construction project to tear down unused buildings, Thiel said. Most of the money set aside for demolition would be returned to the state if the buildings are saved, he said. If this proposal falls through, there aren’t viable reasons for the district to maintain those properties.
The district has heard some interest from parties interested in East Elementary School, which isn’t included in this proposal, Thiel said. But there are no specific deals moving forward for that property at this point.
“There’s a large faction of the community that would like to keep and maintain those buildings for their history,” he said of North and South elementaries. “If it can be reused and repurposed that would be ideal, and the total project would be a win for the community.”
The Springfield News-Sun provides unmatched coverage of jobs and the economy in Clark and Champaign counties, including recent stories tracking unemployment rates and digging into expansion plans at Topre.
By the numbers
$35 million: Estimated cost to build a new elementary school in Urbana.
2: Of the three Urbana elementary schools that might be reused for senior housing
3: Total properties involved in senior housing plan — 2 elementary schools and the Douglas Hotel
10-15: Years that the Douglas Hotel has been vacant