By Matt Sanctis, Springfield News-Sun Staff Writer
Zoning officials in Union Twp. unanimously approved a zoning change this week that could allow a local growing business to expand into Champaign County.
Zoning board members approved a conditional use permit at the former DuPont Pioneer research facility to allow light manufacturing, provided Sutphen Corp. is the new tenant. Champaign County economic development officials have been pushing for the change because DuPont left the facility about a year ago, and it has been vacant since.
But Sutphen has expressed interest in the site, and is in negotiations with Pioneer to lease the 25,000-square-foot facility, said Terry Howell. The change was needed in order to get the property back in use, he said. The deal still hinges on whether Sutphen can reach an agreement with Pioneer.
“The facility is there,” Howell said. “We’re not going to go back and make it prairie grass.”
The $1.8 million facility was built specifically for Pioneer and was zoned for a conditional use that would only allow companies that conduct research on corn and soybeans could operate at the facility, he said. Under the new permit, only Sutphen will be allowed to use the property. Officials from Sutphen could not be reached for comment.
If the agreement between Sutphen and Pioneer falls through, any new user would have to request a new zoning change.
Sutphen, which makes fire trucks and other firefighting equipment, has outgrown its Springfield facility and could move as many as 25 workers to the Union Twp. site, said Marcia Bailey, economic development coordinator for the Champaign Economic Partnership.
No specific numbers have been discussed, but Howell said the company would likely create some new jobs in Springfield if a deal is finalized.
“Sutphen wants to expand and they have more business, and they’re out of space where they are,” Howell said.
Howell had sought a zoning change in December last year, but that was turned down because zoning officials in the township wanted to know who would be using the property before approving the request. At the time, that was not possible, Bailey said. DuPont continues to lease the site in the meantime.
“It’s a big deal for an end user to come forward when they’re just looking because they run the risk that the community or another community knows they are looking,” Bailey said. “It was taking a lot of risk for Sutphen to come out and be a part of that, but that also shows they need to make a decision and they need to move on. It made us more aware we needed to do something to help them so that we didn’t lose them.”
The deal could also benefit the Triad Local School District, which could potentially receive additional income tax dollars from the new jobs in the district, Bailey said.
Howell is also seeking a long-term zoning change that would allow light manufacturing at the site for a more broad variety of companies, to prevent a similar problem in the future.
Staying with the story
The Springfield News-Sun has tracked the former DuPont Pioneer research site since the beginning, covering the facility’s construction and the eventual decision to leave. The newspaper will continue to provide the best coverage of jobs and the economy in the region.
Local manufacturers took center stage on Tuesday at the county Community Center during a “Manufacturers Thank You Breakfast” hosted by the Champaign Economic Partnership (CEP).
The event, attended by state and local officials and representatives from some of the county’s 18 manufacturing companies, was organized by the CEP to “honor and thank the employers for their dedication to Champaign County.”
“Almost everybody that is represented in this room on the manufacturing side has either had growth this past year – whether it be employees, expansion or new investment in equipment – or is getting ready to,” said CEP Economic Development Director Marcia Bailey.
The list of manufacturing companies in the county includes Bundy Baking Solutions, WEIDMANN, KTH, Ultra-met, The Hall Company, Rosewood Machine and Tool Company (RMT), Advanced Technology Products (ATP), Sarica Manufacturing, ORBIS Corporation, Desmond-Stephan Manufacturing, Hughey & Phillips, Parker Trutec, Rittal, Johnson Welded Products (JWP), Robert Rothschild Farm, Colepak, International Fiber Corporation and Honeywell Aerospace.
Bailey remarked that even with an ever-growing list of manufacturers in the county, no one is in stiff competition with the other and, in some cases, local companies are helping one another.
“The uniqueness is still there in that none of you make the same product and some of you are each other’s customer, so we want to continue that,” she said. “We want to continue the diversity that we have and bring more people here.”
Three local manufacturers were highlighted during the event for reaching anniversary milestones in 2015.
Urbana Mayor Bill Bean and Champaign County Commissioners Steve Hess, Bob Corbett and Dave Faulkner jointly presented Ultra-met (50 years in business), JWP (45 years in business) and KTH (30 years in business) with “Keeping Champaign County Strong” proclamations in recognition of their “long-standing dedication and service to the community.”
“We thought it was unique that three companies are celebrating anniversaries all in the same year,” Bailey said.
Representatives from the three companies were also presented with pumpkins from the CEP painted by local artist Vicki Deere-Bunnell. Each pumpkin was decorated with the company’s logo and fall scenes.
Also in attendance was Sandra Brasington, the western Ohio regional liaison for Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s office, who presented each manufacturer with a proclamation signed by Kasich and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor.
“On behalf of the governor’s office, we want to thank you for your investment in Ohio as businesses in manufacturing,” Brasington said. “You guys are the ones making it happen, so we really want to thank each of you.”
Brasington also thanked the county’s manufacturers for “changing lives” for the thousands of workers they employ.
“You are making a difference,” she said. “You guys are doing a great job here in Champaign County, and we want to recognize that.”
Bailey presented data showing job creation is on the rise. In 2013, Champaign County manufacturers employed 2,928 people, and by 2014, the number rose to 3,487. As of September of this year, Bailey said, the number of employees working in the county’s manufacturing sector stands at 3,832.
“We’ve had over 900 jobs created in a three-year time period just here in Champaign County in manufacturing,” she said.
(Pictured above: Champaign County Commissioner Steve Hess presents Lilli Ann Johnson, president of Johnson Welded Products (JWP), with a “Keeping Champaign County Strong” proclamation during Tuesday’s “Manufacturers Thank You Breakfast” hosted by the Champaign Economic Partnership (CEP) at the county Community Center in Urbana. From left are Urbana Mayor Bill Bean, Hess, Johnson and Rachel Lewis, CEP administrative assistant. )
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.