Rocky Fork Enterprise

2013: a year in review

Gahanna saw new business, failed tax issues, staff changes

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It was a prosperous year for business in Gahanna in 2013, with the opening of Niagara Bottling and the Central Ohio Urology Group Inc.

Niagara, headquartered in Ontario, Calif., is the largest privately held, family-owned manufacturer of bottled water in the country.

The company invested about $50 million in purchasing and upgrading a 308,000-square-foot building at 1600 Eastgate Parkway to establish a two-line production facility to bottle and distribute water.

Niagara committed to creating 73 new jobs and already has surpassed that goal.

A grand opening was held in early July.

The Central Ohio Urology Group Inc., the largest urology practice in central Ohio, moved into its new building in late March but didn't have an open house until June, when the ambulatory surgery center was completed.

The 26-doctor group vacated leased spaces in Columbus to consolidate staff, outpatient surgery operations and other services at an $8.5 million, 40,000-square-foot building, taking up three of the first 12 acres Gahanna plans to open for development at the technology park.

At the Commons at Clark Hall, the city welcomed the first Smashburger in central Ohio on Feb. 20 at 109 N. Hamilton Road.

Smashburger features handcrafted, fresh Angus beef that's smashed on a 400-degree flat grill to sear in the juices.

In addition to being the first for a Smashburger, the city had the distinction of being the last to close Hoggy's, 1370 E. Johnstown Road, on Jan. 12.

The restaurant closed most of its other locations a year earlier.

The public had an opportunity to own a piece of the restaurant's history through an online auction.

Five months after Hoggy's closed, Cameron Mitchell announced plans to open a new upscale, casual steak house in its place. Opening in spring 2014, the Barn at Rocky Fork Creek will feature a covered entrance, additional outdoor seating and an enclosed patio bar.

Strathmore Development Co., owner of the private portions of Creekside, also celebrated its one-year anniversary in June.

Businesses that have opened at Creekside since Strathmore acquired the property include Honey Grove Botanicals, a bath and candle boutique; the Chocolate Tree, featuring homemade fudge and chocolates; Chocolate Kitchen, a seasonal shop for holiday baking needs; Three Creeks Coffee & Cafe; Ciao Vino Italian Kitchen; Local Cantina Mexican Restaurant & Bar; UBREAKIFIX, a professional smartphone repair shop; and Yudu Salon & Spa, featuring 22 luxury salon and spa suites.

Restaurants and business environment were just two of several criteria that led Gahanna to being named one of Ohio's Best Hometowns for 2013-14 by the editors of Ohio Magazine in August.

Other factors that were considered for the honor include community spirit, education, entertainment, health and safety, and culture and heritage.

As a result of being named a best hometown, Gahanna was featured in the November issue of Ohio Magazine.

While the city enjoyed success in various areas, a proposed city income-tax increase failed at the ballot in May and November.

As a result of budget woes, Gahanna's Freedom Festival and fireworks were canceled, to many residents' dismay.

City administrators said community events must find sponsors to continue. The beloved Creepside and Holiday Lights season went on, thanks to business and private contributors.

The city's financial issues have the swimming pools, senior center and Ohio Herb Education Center on the chopping block for 2015.

As the year comes to a close, Gahanna City Council continues to wrestle with 2014 appropriations as it tries to find acceptable core services while maintaining capital assets.

Within City Hall, several veteran staff members have left to pursue other job opportunities.

Gahanna public-information manager Brian Hoyt resigned in early January to become public/media-relations manager at Central Ohio Transit Authority. He since has taken a position as director of communication at the Ohio Department of Commerce

The city hired Niel Jurist on July 22 as his replacement. She has more than 10 years of combined experience in strategic marketing communications and social media.

Deputy director of economic development Leah Evans took a position as director of homeownership at Homeport in September.

Ten-year Gahanna employee Mike Andrako resigned as deputy service director Oct. 11 to become service director for the city of Marysville.

Assistant city administrator Brandi Braun, who also worked for the city for 10 years, resigned to take a position with the Ohio Department of Commerce effective Wednesday, Nov. 13.

Stinchcomb said Gahanna has long been a springboard for many professionals who leave the city for career advancements.

Gahanna also said goodbye to veteran planning commission member David Thom, who died Sept. 24.

He served on various city commissions and boards for more than 27 years.

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