Progress: Alliance plans 350-acre industrial park

By LOU WILIN
STAFF WRITER
It has no name yet, so it lacks some style as industrial parks go.
But there is business substance to the 350 acres south of Hancock County 212, west of Hancock County 18, east of the CSX Railroad and north of Bigelow Avenue.
It’s near Interstate 75. The route to I-75, Hancock County 212, was rebuilt for $7.5 million by county government in the 1990s specifically for industrial traffic.
Water and sewer service, electricity, and natural gas are available. The Findlay Land Use Plan already calls for the land to eventually be converted to industrial use.
“Our main initiative going into 2014 is the industrial park, creating a new industrial park,” said Tony Iriti, Findlay-Hancock County Alliance Economic Development director.
Much in changing the fields to industrial park status depends on the Alliance website. An economic development program’s website has become the way to reach companies looking for new places to set up shop, Iriti said.
“So we need to make sure that our website is giving them all of the information that they need so that we don’t get thrown out because they can’t find what they are looking for,” Iriti said.
“We liken it to those Sunday car buyers that don’t want the salesmen out there beating them up the whole time. So if you’re a smart sales operation … you’ll have all of the information on that car that you need for them to say, ‘I need to call them back.'”
Of course, the website must have something worth spotlighting. That’s why an industrial-friendly area with utilities and proximity to I-75 is critical.
“When we go to India or when we go to Japan or Germany, or wherever it is, it’s nice to be able to have something that you can say, ‘Look, here it is.’ In our tag line, we say, ‘We’re ready for you,'” Iriti said.
The more details are taken care of in advance, the better.
“(Companies) just want to pick a site that works for them, lay it out in their area and go with it,” said Tim Mayle, assistant director of economic development.
Tax cuts are another way to lure companies and to keep existing ones here.
The Findlay-Hancock County Alliance is working on promoting awareness of an import tax break available in Hancock and some neighboring counties.
Manufacturers in Hancock, Hardin, Seneca, Putnam, Allen and Van Wert counties can get reductions on import taxes through the Foreign Trade Zones program. Iriti said he believes some eligible manufacturers are failing to take advantage of the tax break.
It benefits manufacturers which import raw materials or parts for goods they manufacture in the United States. Normally, companies pay a tariff on the import of raw materials or parts used in manfacturing, Iriti said. Companies getting the Foreign Trade Zone status defer import taxes until the product is assembled, finished and shipped to distributors. The tax on the finished good frequently is less than the tax would be on the sum of the component parts, Iriti said.
Capital investments
Businesses made more than $76 million in capital investments last year in Hancock County, and 544 jobs were created via 21 projects, the Alliance reported.
Eighteen of the 21 projects involved expansion of existing companies, the Alliance said.
But 2013 was even better than that. When one counts job additions the Alliance is not claiming credit for, the number of employed Hancock County residents grew by 1,000 last year to 38,300.
Convention & Visitors Bureau
With a Hilton Garden Inn opening Oct. 1 and additional sports tournaments, Hancock County could have a fourth straight record year of cash flowing in from out-of-towners. Business travel and sports tournaments in particular bring in people and money to hotels, restaurants and other businesses.
Revenue from the county’s 3 percent hotel bed tax rose nearly 3 percent last year to $502,156. Hancock County’s 1,174 hotel-motel rooms are sometimes completely booked on weekdays for business travel and on weekends for sports tournaments, said Rachael Rahrig, director of the Hancock County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“We routinely don’t have enough space … We’re full,” she said. “So, we’re pushing people to Bowling Green. We’re pushing people to Lima. Obviously we want to keep them in Hancock County because they are supporting more of our local businesses and having more of a local economic development impact. Sometimes you can’t find a room and that’s a problem.”
Help, on a grand scale, is on the way. The 101-room Hilton Garden Inn will open in October at the northwest corner of Interstate Drive West and Northridge Road, south of Liberty Township 94. It will be owned and operated by developer George Whitson and his son, John.
“It’s an exciting addition,” Rahrig said. “A Hilton property here is a big deal.”
But even with the Hilton addition, Rahrig expects Hancock County’s guest lodging to continue to be filled to near-capacity.
The top-notch reputation of the Marathon Diamonds helped fetch the United States women’s national softball team. The former Olympic team on June 17 will take on a college all-star team in a doubleheader at the Marathon Diamonds. Rahrig said the doubleheader is expected to draw more than 3,000 spectators.
Separately, more than 40 teams, their families and fans will be in town this summer when the Marathon Diamonds host the American Softball Association Eastern National Tournament, 16U division.
A variety of other baseball, soccer, equestrian and running events also bring out-of-towners to Hancock County. Special events like the Riverside Wine Festival, Flag City Balloon Fest and the On Common Ground Easter sand sculpture also draw visitors.
The Convention and Visitors Bureau helps sponsor many of the events through competitive grants to the organizing groups. Last year, the bureau provided $53,000 in grants to support events.
When Elizabeth Sweet was hired last November as events coordinator, it gave the bureau two full-time employees for the first time. The bureau has been given an additional responsibility by the Alliance: helping market downtown Findlay.
Online:
Findlay-Hancock County Alliance:
http://findlayhancockalliance.com
Economic development:
http://findlayhancocked.com
Convention & Visitors Bureau:
http://visitfindlay.com
Chamber of commerce:
http://www.findlayhancockalliance.com/chamberofcommerce.aspx
Wilin: 419-427-8413 Send an E-mail to Lou Wilin

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