Chillicothe Gazette – Chris Balusik, July 25, 2018
Development means jobs, and local development officials hope a new grant will jump-start fresh interest in the Gateway Interchange Industrial Park to begin attracting jobs. “Gateway is our largest opportunity for future industrial development, and we’ve kind of stalled in the development of that park, so that seemed like a great opportunity for us,” said Tammy Eallonardo, economic development director for Greater Chillicothe & Ross County Development.
Gateway is located along Ohio 104 just to the south of Chillicothe Correctional Institution. Eallonardo said it presently could be called more of a distribution park than an industrial park, with businesses operating out of it including FedEx, Carr Supply and the regional hub of State Electric. Tykma Electrox is a more traditional industrial tenant, creating laser-marking systems, and Pickaway-Ross has established a satellite campus in the park featuring an industrial robotics lab.
The grant issued by the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth (APEG) will allow Hull & Associates out of Newark to examine current site conditions at the industrial park and create a site development plan. Of the $7,500 cost of the project, APEG will pick up $5,000, while an application is pending for the other $2,500 from an opportunity fund managed by Fluor-BWXT to make up the local match required.
The APEG grants were created in response to the realization that there is a lack of shovel-ready sites in the state — particularly in the Appalachian regions of the state — something that was noted prominently during May’s annual State of the Region development conference at Ohio University in May. A shovel-ready site is one that has all necessary utilities and infrastructure in place and is prepared for a company to come in and start building quickly. “I am constantly being made aware of projects for us to bid on, but these projects want shovel-ready sites and usually a little more acreage than what we have,” Eallonardo said. “So this study is going to help us determine the best use of that park, so we’re not sectioning off smaller tracts for various uses.
The grant issued by the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth (APEG) will allow Hull & Associates out of Newark to examine current site conditions at the industrial park and create a site development plan. Of the “There’s one tract that’s 30.4 acres, it’s the largest tract that’s left, and everything else is in smaller sections,” Eallonardo said. “So if we could find a large industry to take that 30 acre (parcel), that would be our best use for bringing those jobs to our area.”
The park currently has other smaller parcels of land available, some of which could conceivably be combined should the right company comes along, and road infrastructure in the park is a work in progress. The presence of Pickaway-Ross’ satellite campus may be a draw for companies who see it as a nearby opportunity to provide continuing education opportunities to employees.
While work to further develop the industrial park continues, Eallonardo said attention is also being turned to determining whether another infrastructure issue often cited as hampering Ross County’s ability to attract industry and the accompanying jobs is as large of an issue as is being portrayed.
“From the time I started (in this job), I’ve been told that we lack (adequate) natural gas (infrastructure) for future development in the county,” she said. “I’ve never seen a report that shows me that’s true, so part of my job is finding out what the truth of the matter is and how we can address any shortcoming that we have.”
Because Greater Chillicothe & Ross County Development is a member organization of the Joint Economic Development Initiative of Southern Ohio (JEDISO), it can access that same pool of opportunity funding from Fluor-BWXT to make any needed strides in economic development. Toward that end, Hammond Consulting Group out of Vermillion has been contracted to conduct a natural gas assessment of the county from a site selection perspective.
“Once we find out that there is a shortcoming, then we know where to go,” Eallonardo said. “But unless we know what the problem is and where the issues lie, we really can’t address it.”
Two other initiatives also are underway to address area development potential. One is a branding project that is exploring a change in how the area is marketed to those outside Ross County and the other is learning more about how best to take advantage of the new Opportunity Zones created by the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, of which three are presently located in the county.
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