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The Port's Industrial Strategy Join us on a virtual tour along the Reading Road corridor

As with any place-based work, The Port’s mission is rooted in physical space and is truly best understood in context. Realizing this, we launched mobile tours in 2018 focused on various areas of our work, both geographically and strategically. Since our first tour, we have held over a dozen more visiting projects throughout our focus neighborhoods and joined by over a hundred stakeholders. Now, we invite you to join us, virtually, on one of our tours focused on The Port’s Industrial Strategy.

More than 60% of Hamilton County’s industrial land is located within four corridors, one of which we are visiting today. Our route takes us through multiple City neighborhoods and Hamilton County jurisdictions.

Our Manufacturing Heritage and Muscle Memory

As we make our way to our first stop, let’s begin by looking back at the historical importance of manufacturing to our region. In 2016, The Port commissioned the UC Economics Center to study manufacturing land-use and historic and current employment. The study found that:

  • In 1969, nearly 50% of everyone employed in Hamilton County worked in manufacturing
  • From the region’s manufacturing peak in 1969 until 2015, the number of people employed in manufacturing decreased by 67 percent, from 145,987 to 48,748.

Why Manufacturing and What is The Port's Role?

Manufacturing has a far-reaching impact on the prosperity of our region. Every manufacturing job creates 1.5 jobs because of the effect of the supply chain. Manufacturing employs a disproportionate share of workers without a college degree, pays an annual average salary of $65,000, and inspires long-term improvement in standard of living.

In 2017, REDI Cincinnati, TechSolve, Cushman Wakefield and The Port partnered to hire Darin Beulow from Deloitte Consulting to study our manufacturing attractiveness as a region. Buelow found there is an increasing demand for urban manufacturing, and our region is well-positioned to attract new companies.

"A certain kind of company would be attracted to Cincinnati’s brownfield sites if they were ready to go. Urban manufacturing is a growing trend in the sector, and Cincinnati can land those companies"

Cincinnati is a metro area that makes stuff. 14 percent of the Cincinnati labor force is engaged in manufacturing. The US average is 10 percent and declining. Cincinnati has a strong manufacturing ecosystem as well as a wealth of industrial engineers and industrial engineering technicians. Our region's location quotient is 68 percent higher than the national average.

What is the Cincinnati region’s unique weakness? Cincinnati lacks large, developable, ready to go, industrial manufacturing sites in the City.

The region's lack of large, shovel-ready industrial sites results in prospects looking elsewhere for sites over 20 acres. (SOURCE: REDI Cincinnati)

Which is where The Port's tools and expertise come into play. Investment in blighted urban industrial properties is not financially feasible for private sector developers and lenders, but The Port has a proven track record in this arena. From 2001 to 2010, we cleaned up over a dozen sites, yielding 155 acres of land cleared of contamination and prepared for new investment. In 2015, The Port board adopted Industrial Revitalization as part of our strategic plan. Our industrial strategy encompasses a comprehensive process of site readiness – acquiring the sites, demolishing structures, preparing the site for a new industrial operation, and marketing the sites to qualified end-users. The Port formed a new business operations team to create the investment profile and site ROI metrics based on our goal of maximizing good-paying jobs and tax return to the municipality from sites it acquires and redevelops.

Stop #1: Seymour Industrial Sites

In 2016, we purchased the 19-acre Cincinnati Gardens site as part of our strategy to reposition industrial land for job creation. Site development cost over $3 million, with funding primarily from City of Cincinnati district tax increment financing and a State of Ohio redevelopment grant. We anticipate more than $20MM in capital investment in this site creating 275 jobs.

We were able to preserve many artifacts from the Gardens. Through a grant from the Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation, the “CINCINNATI GARDENS” letters were preserved and installed at the American Sign Museum in Camp Washington, the bas reliefs were saved and donated to the artist’s family and the seats were auctioned off.

In April 2019, Messer Construction in acquired a 5-acre parcel and is currently constructing a 75,000 SF industrial spec building developed by Terrex. The development team broke ground in early August of this year.

Stop #2: 2100 Section Road

2100 Section Road was the former headquarters of Gibson Greeting Cards, at one time the nation’s third-largest greeting card company. At its peak, Gibson employed 1,000 and contributed $1 million in annual income tax to Amberley Village. By the time The Port acquired the property in 2016, employment had dwindled to just over two dozen, mostly in the warehousing and distribution sector.

Preparing the 56-acre site involved demolition of the 60,000 square foot obsolete manufacturing facility, FEMA floodplain correction, and rerouting the stormwater infrastructure – accommodating storm runoff for future development and also to protect adjacent neighborhoods. The site is now the largest shovel-ready industrial site in Hamilton County within the I-275 loop. National site selectors and prospects have visited this site, and we continue to work with REDI Cincinnati, Amberley Village, and Colliers to attract the right end-user. Once restored to productive use, it could support up to 700 jobs and generate up to $61.9 million in new tax revenue.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for new development. The Village’s largest employer that contributed a great deal of financial support as the industrial anchor to our community lived here for decades. The Village now looks forward to this rare opportunity of a grounds-up redevelopment project that will eliminate an abandoned building, produce a highly attractive site, and ultimately attract a new manufacturer that will benefit our community for decades to come.” - Tom Muething, Mayor - Amberley Village

We recently worked with BHDP Architecture to create the following video showing what a fully redeveloped 2100 Section Road could look like.

Stop #3: Former Dow Chemical

This property has operated as a manufacturing site since 1940 when it was founded as Carlisle Chemical Company. The 25-acre site most recently was operated by Dow Chemical as a specialty chemical plant employing about 130 and contributing roughly $420,000 in local taxes.

The Port identified this site as a key parcel for manufacturing job creation and was encouraged by the City of Reading to consider acquisition. The site, fully redeveloped, could create 399 jobs and a capital investment of $37.7 million.

Stop #4: The Reading Road Corridor

Reading Road is a key North/South transportation corridor that runs through the state as U.S. 42, and it has suffered from extreme disinvestment, blight, and under-utilization of land. Covering approximately 120-acres across multiple jurisdictions and zoning classifications, redevelopment of the Reading Road Corridor is a collective focus of the City of Cincinnati, Hamilton County, City of Reading, Sycamore Township and The Port. Targeted redevelopment includes end-uses of commercial/retail along Reading Road and industrial/job creation for interior parcels.

How does The Port's other work in the Reading Road corridor fit into the picture?

In addition to preparing sites for advanced manufacturing along the Reading Road corridor, The Port is also focused on the revitalization of commercial properties. This corridor is a great representation of how the three pillars of our organization intersect, and we want to touch on a few projects that are in progress.

MidPointe Crossing

The site of the former Swifton Shopping Center, Cincinnati's first mall, The Port acquired this 25-acre site in 2013. Located at the intersection of Reading Road and Seymour Avenue, a historically important crossroads of community commerce and social activity, MidPointe Crossing is redevelopment-ready.

Roselawn Senior Apartments

On March 28, 2018, a groundbreaking was held for the Roselawn Senior Apartments on the site of a formerly blighted commercial property and abandoned building at 1811 Losantiville. The new $11,000,000, 50-unit project incorporates community space on the ground level and is expected to open later this year. The Port led the site development on this parcel, remediating and demolishing a vacant commercial structure.

Roselawn Business District

In 2018, The Port purchased this key property at the corner of Section and Reading Roads, identified for redevelopment by the Roselawn Community Council. Initial environmental remediation work is complete and additional work is ongoing. This site is an important gateway to the community of Roselawn and is half a mile from 2100 Section Road, in Amberley Village.

TechSolve II

The former Seymour Plaza site where we began our tour is a complex assemblage of five parcels that totals just under 20 acres. The Port used Hamilton County Landbank tools to acquire and demolish several blighted residential properties located along Seymour Avenue that consistently attracted unlawful activity. Also on the site was a vacant nightclub – Club Ritz – which had become a dangerous dumping ground that also attracted unlawful activity. The Port was able to purchase these properties and demolish all but one of the blighted structures to create a job-ready light industrial business park. 1682 Seymour, where we began our tour, became our first renovation using PACE bond financing, Property Assessed Clean Energy bonds, in Cincinnati.

We recently sold 1682 Seymour to the Cincinnati Community Toolbank, a non-profit organization a nonprofit organization that lends tools and special event equipment to other Cincinnati not-for-profit organizations for use in volunteer projects, special events, facility repairs, grounds maintenance and much more. In 2018, Jet Machine opened its new industrial operation at TechSolve II on 8 acres. The new 105,000 SF light manufacturing facilities retained Jet Machine in Cincinnati and enabled the company to retain 100 jobs and create 40 additional jobs.

Bond Hill Business District

Redeveloping the neighborhood’s blighted business district is the number one priority identified by the community in the BH+R Plan. As we look at this project today, the renovation of 5,500 square feet of neighborhood-serving retail space is substantially complete, a project we partnered on with Community Economic Advancement Initiatives (CEAI). DREAM Loan Funds, provided by the Kresge Foundation, will be used to customize the spaces for small, neighborhood-serving businesses that will create new jobs in the community and to retain an existing business that has been serving the community for over five years. Fitout work for the first new tenant, Davis Cookie Collection, will be starting soon.

Partnerships, Funding & The Future

As we conclude our tour, I would like to thank you once again for joining us. The availability of large, investment-ready sites is critical to expanding and attracting businesses and good-paying jobs. A principal advantage of The Port’s prowess in urban industrial redevelopment is its strength in crafting successful public-private partnerships designed to leverage private capital and experience.

This work of revitalizing our region’s industrial sites is, as you have seen, intensive and costly. In 2016, The Port created a Patient Capital Fund which called upon the philanthropic ethos of companies recognizing the need for private funding to advance economic development. To date, we have raised nearly $11 million in social impact investment funds enabling us to secure the redevelopment of 75-acres in Hamilton County. By the end of 2018, The Port was in negotiation to acquire and had funding in place for the next 150 acres under this strategy.

We can win again in manufacturing. We have the muscle memory from our manufacturing legacy. This region’s workforce is skilled in exactly the kinds of areas needed by modern manufacturing, and now, when companies search for a new facility location, we want them to be able to find a site in Hamilton County.