For years, Findlay has been encouraging investment in its downtown, and recently the effort has begun to pay off with new restaurants, art galleries and shops opening for business.
But on Monday, officials got a commitment few, if any, could have ever dreamed of: two new office buildings, two parking garages, and a possible hotel with retail opportunities, all within three years.
The $80 million investment is coming from a familiar friend, Marathon Petroleum Corp., which picked Findlay out of any other place in the country for the headquarters of its pipeline subsidiary, MPLX LP, which has outgrown the parent company’s home at the corner of Main and Hardin streets, where it’s been since 1902.
Now, it appears Marathon will be in the same neighborhood for much, much longer. That should provide a degree of stability to the entire community, the entire region, the entire state.
The investment stems from the rapid rise of MPLX. The company is now at the controls of 20 percent of the flow of petroleum products through the Midwest in its 8,000-plus miles of pipelines. Created in 2012, its growth has already brought 200 jobs here, and 150 more could be coming by 2017.
Many places courted Marathon for the MPLX headquarters, but in the end Marathon stayed closed to home, many believe, because of the quality of its workforce here. O.D. Donnell was said to value his workers. So does Marathon CEO Gary Heminger.
Even with the artist’s sketch on Tuesday’s front page, it’s hard to envision all the changes that will take place between Hardin and Lincoln streets over the next three years.
Yes, the Elks building will be gone, but rising out of what is now largely a sea of asphalt will be the MPLX headquarters, another office building, and two parking garages. Hopefully, other space in the same block will be used for a hotel and retail.
While Marathon keeps Findlay on the map, we’ve long been more than a one-horse town. The pieces are falling into place to make the city stand out even more than it already does.
In recent years, new schools have been built and expansions have taken place at the University of Findlay and Blanchard Valley Hospital. New businesses have arrived, and most old ones are staying.
Downtown is being revived. The renovation of the Central Auditorium and several other buildings, and now Marathon’s plans could spark a transformation that may rival the 1887 gas boom.
It’s a good thing plans are already in the works to add a third lane to Interstate 75, and update several interchanges.
There are still other gaps to be filled in downtown, but it may be easier to find investors now that Marathon has made its intentions known.
Despite its long history here, Marathon’s plans represents a leap of faith considering it sustained millions of dollars in losses in the August 2007 flood. Arguably, it might have made better business sense for the company to move, if not elsewhere, than at least to higher ground.
Heminger noted that Marathon remains committed to this area’s flood-relief efforts. It may have been no coincidence that the same day he announced the construction plans at a Rotary Club lunch, Mayor Lydia Mihalik and others traveled to Washington, D.C., to continue the push for more flood-study funding.
Heminger’s continuing concerns about flooding are understandable. Marathon operates a high-tech control center here that regulates the flow of nearly three million gallons of petroleum products each day. Those who run the controls must be able to get to work, even when it rains.
Marathon’s importance to this community can’t be overstated. Its almost 2,000 employees pay taxes, shop in our stores and support our schools, fine arts, and sports. Its role as a major community partner was seen yet again Monday, when it was announced that $1.1 million was being donated to Findlay City Schools for middle school math and science classes and a new bus garage.
Feb. 3, 2014, marks a defining moment in Findlay’s history, and further strengthens the strong relationship between the community and Marathon. Over the next three to five years, that connection will become even more evident than it is today.
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