Making Something Happen Part I

By Jason Kester - Executive Director, Southern Ohio Port Authority



In my last article, we discussed the need “To Make Something Happen” and the need for partnerships and creative thinking to develop an industrial park. One fantastic example is right here in Scioto County.

A little less than two years ago, under the leadership of Superintendent Stan Jennings and his staff, the board of the Scioto County Career Technical Center (SCCTC) purchased a portion of the former M&J Welding site in the Balzer Industrial Park in Lucasville. As Steve Moore, President of WAI, explained at Rep. Terry Johnson’s recent Economic Development Forum, sometimes you have to take an “educated risk” to grow your business, make a profit, or to “make something happen.”

The community’s current economic development strategic plan focuses on the riverfront from Portsmouth through New Boston and on the arc of the Southern Ohio Veterans Memorial Highway from Lucasville to Minford to Wheelersburg through the Scioto-Lawrence Corridor. The development of sites and buildings in these areas is a priority for our community. Previously, the most underutilized asset in the corridor was the former M&J site (Balzer Park). That was until the SCCTC took a chance and made a strategic and significant investment in our community.

During a strategic planning discussion in late 2014 with the SCCTC, the topic turned to the school’s need to expand its campus. At that time, the M&J buildings had been vacant for a number of years, and we suggested that the SCCTC to look into purchasing the buildings. After lengthy discussions involving the Port Authority, SCCTC, and then Commissioner-Elect Bryan Davis about costs, opportunities, and potential drawbacks, the SCCTC made the move and acquired both the 20,000 and 30,000 square foot buildings at the site. After that purchase, the results have been nothing short of stunning.

In Feburary 2016, the SCCTC received more than $700,000 in grant funds to create an advanced manufacturing center in a portion of the buildings. This center is critical to our future success as businesses move away from low-skilled jobs into advanced manufacturing and automation. Additionally, Wiseman Brothers Fabrication acquired the 90,000-plus square feet of buildings on the northern end of the campus to expand its distribution and logistics capabilities. Mako Finished Products, which has been “incubating” in our industrial incubator space in the Sole Choice building, is now ready to expand its operations and move into one of the SCCTC buildings.

Both the Wiseman and Mako projects have been supported by grants from the Southern Ohio Agricultural and Community Development Fund in Hillsboro. Don Branson and his staff have assisted both businesses and farmers in our region for years and are a tremendous asset to our community. In early 2017, we hope to announce the expansion of a foreign plastic manufacturer into another portion of the SCCTC’s buildings, and both AEP and the John R. Jurgensen Company are currently building facilities in the Balzer Industrial Park.

None of these successes would have been possible without proper planning, public-private partnerships and collaboration, and leadership in a number of areas. It’s an example of exactly what we need to do to make something happen.

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By Jason Kester

Executive Director, Southern Ohio Port Authority