Montego Designs Unlimited is OPEN for business at 114 Scioto in Urbana. Welcome to Champaign County!
And Ohio’s economy is growing quickly, adding jobs faster than the rest of the nation, said Bret Crow, spokesperson for Ohio Job and Family Services. Average weekly earnings are also growing faster than other states across the country.
“This milestone is a big deal for Ohio, but even further, it’s a positive indicator that Ohio’s economy is continuing its strong trajectory upward,” Crow said.
Experts say the data underline the continued recovery after the Great Recession. Even as the economy improved, consumers worried about spending their savings.
“Finally consumer confidence has increased and they feel more confident spending money on new cars, housing and other consumer products,” said John Bowblis, an economics professor at Miami University’s Farmer School of Business. “And this has made business confidence increase as well, leading them to invest in their businesses and to hire workers to meet the demands of consumers.”
The manufacturing sector added 3,400 jobs last month. Staub Manufacturing Solutions in Harrison Twp., for example, has increased from 23 employees to 40 in the past year and a half, said owner Steve Staub.
“It started moving up a year and a half ago, but once the tax cuts went into effect, it really gave optimism to manufacturers,” he said, adding that the tax cuts are like “jet fuel” for manufacturers.
More than one in 10 Ohioans work a manufacturing job, totaling more than 700,000, according to the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association. The sector boasts an Ohio GDP of $106 billion, ranking third of the 50 states. It’s also the largest of 20 economic sectors in the state.
The “other services” sector, which includes repair shops, hair and nail salons, and weight-reduction services, added 3,400 jobs in September as well, a sector that Crow said does better when people have more disposable income to spend.
“I think what we need to be careful of is what happens to the Federal Reserve policy with interest rates. When you raise interest rates, it makes borrowing more expensive,” Bowblis said. “If the fed over-tightens that could lead to a slowdown in growth and potentially recession. It’s a delicate balancing act.”
As more people lose the option to borrow, their consumer confidence could drop, adding on to the growing concern consumers have as the trade war with China escalates.
And labor force participation has dropped, said Miami University economics professor Michael Lipsitz. Participation takes into account all Ohioans older than 16 who are working or want to work. Before the recession, it was about 67 percent, but now it is closer to 62 percent.
“Another month of falling labor force participation means Ohioans are leaving the labor market — either to move to another state or they are unable to find a job that fits their skills,” said Andrew Kidd an economist with The Buckeye Institute’s Economic Research Center.
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.
The new joint is the latest venture for the Winners, who already own Winner’s One Stop and Zoom Zoom Drive Thru in the village.
“Mechanicsburg is a very supportive community and we are very proud to be a part of the village,” Winner said. “(We) have forged longlasting relationships with staff members and individuals within the community.”
Winner hopes the patrons will like the atmosphere and the food.
“The decor is a blend of rustic and industrial styles with accent pieces that pay homage to the history of the building, which was formerly the Village Inn Tavern,” he said.
The family hand-picks most of the menu.
“Sourcing the meat internally allows (us) to inspect the meat on multiple occasions, which leads to a fresh, never frozen, high quality product. The customers can tell the difference. Fresh food simply tastes better,” Winner said. “MIXX165 also offers a full bar and focuses on Ohio craft beer selections. We believe in supporting our fellow Ohioans.”
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1775) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.
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
Starting or expanding a business requires hard work, attention to detail and numerous points of contact, to turn plans into reality.
The Champaign Economic Partnership (CEP) simplifies the process as the starting point for anyone wanting to establish or expand business in Champaign County. And the CEP recently added to its website a helpful guide – the CEP Business Playbook.
The Playbook outlines key elements involved in starting or growing a business and the appropriate agencies to call on for help. The Playbook covers details such as writing a business plan, registering a business, finding available property with the appropriate zoning, acquiring necessary licenses and permits, business loans, marketing, utilities, and finding and retaining employees.
“The Playbook is a good resource to review before contacting us at the CEP to discuss your plans and develop a strategy for achieving your goals,” Marcia Bailey, director of the CEP, said.
“As Champaign County’s designated economic development agency, the CEP serves as the place for business developers to start. We can connect you with all the resources needed to start or grow a business, through our partnerships with local governments, state and regional economic development agencies, real estate agencies, utilities, lenders, workforce development and others,” Bailey said.
The Business Playbook can be accessed from the “CEP Business Playbook” tab on the top navigation bar of the CEP website.
The Playbook was developed with the help of the Small Business Development Center in Springfield, which serves Champaign County, Wittenberg University business students and Hannah Tukesbrey Kilbride, CEP administrative assistant.
For information on starting or expanding a business in Champaign County, contact the CEP at (937) 653-7200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.