Galion turns focus on economic development

By Brandon Klein - [email protected]

When it comes to economic development projects such as the HTI building and the hotel, it’s been a busy month for the city of Galion.

JobsOhio officials toured the HTI and PECO buildings last week to determine if both were eligible for a site revitalization program, Mayor Tom O’Leary said.

The session turned out to be more informational about the program that proves more promising for the vacant PECO building, now owned by General Electric, he said.

The location of the PECO building was more attractive to JobsOhio officials than the HTI building, he added.

And the city has reached out to GE about partially or fully donating the building to the city.

HTI, which specialized in custom-welded hydraulic cylinders, announced its closure in April it will close its doors by the end of year. The move was made by Ligon Industries LLC, HTI’s parent company. The company employed about 70 positions.

The owners were interested in donating the 300,000 square-foot facility to the city, which has until the end of the year to accept the gift or not.

Additionally, consultants from InSite Consulting Group, based in Greer, S.C., arrived on Monday to determine the marketability of the South Street location.

The mayor is in talks with up to about five local businesses interested in expanding operations at the building. But he said consultants will determine if the building would be put to better use to attract a new company.

The mayor would not reveal the names of interested business for confidentiality reasons.

Hotel project

Engineers from the city and the site developer of the hotel project are collaborating together on the facility’s design, which includes the layout of the infrastructure for the utilities.

The engineers will also determine the costs for installing the infrastructure, which O’Leary anticipates will cost anywhere from $300-400,000.

The city has passed a resolution to approve a Tax Increment Financing district for the construction of the hotel, located near Brandt Road and state Route 598.

The hotel is expected to bring $100,000 of new taxable income, which would be divided among the school district, Jefferson Township and payments for infrastructure – O’Leary said it would take the city five to seven years to pay off the debt incurred from the costs.

The hotel is expected to be a Sleep Inn & MainStay Suites, an upper mid-scale hotel brand that offers both nightly and extended stay. The brand is part of the Choice Hotels International chain, based in Rockville, Md., and is a new dual and prototype brand that the company launched a couple years ago. There are currently more than 30 under construction in the nation.

Economic development initiatives

In the upcoming months, the city of Galion will develop new legislation with the focus on economic development.

Local officials look to transition the city from an enterprise zone into a Community Reinvestment Area. Both offer tax incentives to encourage investment and job creation among businesses but the criteria for abatement qualification differ between the two.

An enterprise zone targets the industrial sector, while a CRA also expands to commercial and residential investments, O’Leary said.

The CRA would also help the city craft standard job incentives that can be used repeatedly for individual economic development projects, he added.

In other business, Council has already approved the 2016 budget, which includes $50,000 in the Mayor’s budget for such purposes. O’Leary said the money will specifically go to the Crawford County Education and Economic Development Partnership.

“I think Council recognizes we’ve been inactive in economic development,” O’Leary said.

He said the funds will not serve as a grant but a contract for site identification and inventory, which are needed to market the area to new companies.

Traditionally, the Crawford County commissioners represent the largest contributors to the CCEEDP in the public sector with $125,000 for 2016.

O’Leary said the county’s cities needed to contribute.

Bucyrus city Mayor Jeff Reser agreed. The Bucyrus City Council is expected to approve the budget Tuesday night, which will also provide the CCEEDP $50,000.

“We believe in the partnership,” he said. “We let economic development slide for too long in the county.”

Gary Frankhouse, executive director of the CCEEDP, said it’s a sign that the cities are aligning with the county.

“We have to create that culture of collaboration,” he said.

Since its inception, the CCEEDP has focused on community development including issues such as quality of life, Frankhouse said, and has shifted to economic development and attracting new businesses in 2015.

Frankhouse highlighted retention and expansion efforts such as the Workforce Awareness for Graduates and Educators program, which had Galion and Bucyrus educators tour manufacturing facilities.

“The cities are recognizing those efforts,” he said, adding that he would like to see all government establishes in the county to contribute to the CCEEDP and make up 40 percent of its funding.

“We got to get it (economic development) on our radar,” he said.

By Brandon Klein

[email protected]

Reach Klein at 419-468-1117, ext. 2048 or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.

Reach Klein at 419-468-1117, ext. 2048 or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.