Former M&J property experiencing industrial growth

By Frank Lewis -

As the work continues to progress on the Southern Ohio Veterans Memorial Highway (Ohio 823), interest in sites for progress and industrial growth has grown and no one has been closer to that situation than Jason Kester, executive director of the Southern Ohio Port Authority. The Daily Times slowed Kester down long enough to get an update.

One of the places that has sprung up in recent years is the industrial site on Fairground Road off the Lucasville-Minford Road.

“Stan Jennings bought that 20,000-30,000 square foot building at the old M & J (Welding) site and basically in one of the buildings Federal Supply Services Inc. (FSSI) is going in,” Kester said. “Without looking at it directly, they’re going to hire around 37 new employees. What they do is make giant plastic shipping containers for the armed forces and other folks.”

Jennings said his north campus area at that location now has 100 percent occupancy.

“We have FSSI and we start hiring the heavier people for them this week,” Jennings said. “They’re going to cap with three shifts, and we’re still hoping for 50-60 jobs total whenever that gets said and done. This week by itself, we’re going to be hiring 12 machine operators, two forklift operators and a receptionist to get their employment piece started.”

Jennings said the construction piece for the company is about 90 percent complete and the situation is perfect for bringing together the education and training component with the available workforce. Jennings is superintendent of the Scioto County Career Technical Center.

“The biggest thing for us is, we wanted to create a situation where our students from the Scioto County Career Technical Center have access to employment that is worthy and will keep them from running away from the area,” Jennings said. “These jobs are $15 an hour jobs and this will do it.”

Jennings said it is stated specifically in the contract that the purpose is to hire current, future and former SCCTC graduates.

“It has been a lot of work, but the work seems to have come to fruition with that,” Jennings said.

Jennings said there is a second development at that site.

“The MAACO group that is currently working at Sole Choice, Bryan Davis’ shop, is looking to expand and we’ve got that space up there and they’re C & T operators, and our big advanced manufacturing facility that we’re putting in for training purposes is again, another hand-in-gloves thing,” Jennings said. “We’ll be training specifically for the needs that they have. They’re sitting next door. They’ll be able to watch training. We’ll be using the exact equipment next door that they have.”

“AEP, up behind the two smaller buildings Stan’s got is building a new $7 million regional headquarters building,” Kester said.

He went on to explain that directly across the street from Jennings’ site is a 96,000 square foot building in which the Wiseman Brothers Fabrication out of Beaver, Ohio has expanded.

“We’ve had a significant increase in the interest in our area and region since the project was announced. Our RFI (requests for information) on the community have increased significantly, probably 20 percent or so,” Kester said. “We’ve had 10-12 $100 million plus dollar projects looking at the Haverhill area since the highway was announced, the largest of which was $6.5 Billion.”

Kester said the key there is the quicker access north. He said there have been commercial real estate brokers touring Minford and Lucasville from Columbus and Cincinnati.

“The really neat thing is we’ve had planning meetings where you have the county commissioners, the sanitary engineer, Water 1, Minford Telephone, the county (road) engineer, AEP, SOPA, the airport board, the fire department, all meeting together at different points to have discussions,” Kester said. “I’ve spoken with the township trustees in Harrison, Valley, and Madison townships and owe them another meeting and I just told Jeff Pica at Minford High School we need to get everyone together.”

Kester said there are changes coming to the area, and it is refreshing to see leaders from very different perspectives coming together to try and understand the positions, strengths, and concerns of the other groups. As an example, Kester said one meeting he and Bryan Davis attended with Water 1 that had fellow Minford Fire Department representatives to discuss water capacities, flows and related information. Kester serves on that fire department.

While he said development at Minford is at least a year away, some things are in the works. Near the airport there is an area where the Minford Little League used to play.

“From there over to the new sewer plant, it is still owned by the Commissioners,” Kester said. “What we’re trying to do is figure out a way to develop that. Water 1 has two or three supply lines there. We’ve got fiber optics. We’ve got a sewer plant, AEP just put in three-phase electric. We may have to upgrade it a little more but it’s generally what we need. The problem is – we don’t have natural gas.”

Kester said the natural gas line comes only as far as many of the former Minford School District properties.

“Otherwise, infrastructure wise, we’re really good up there,” Kester said.

The Scioto County Commissioners hired an independent firm to review the airport at Minford and the local workforce. The consultants determined the airport is an AreoReady community, and that they should be out attracting aviation to this region.

By Frank Lewis

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.