The forecast for business is bright in Gahanna this year, according to city Development Director Anthony Jones.

The forecast for business is bright in Gahanna this year, according to city Development Director Anthony Jones.

Jones discussed his development expectations for 2014, during the 17th annual Groundhog Day Economic Forecast Breakfast at the Creekside Conference and Event Center on Jan. 31.

The annual economic forecast is the capstone event of the year for economic development in the city of Gahanna.

"We will see some big capital investment in parts of our community," Jones said. "Lew Griffin (of Lew Griffin Insurance) and Scott Chappelle (of Creekside's Strathmore Development Co.) have invested in our downtown. I expect more to come."

Jones said the development department is making great efforts to review and update the zoning code for the city's downtown with the hope of encouraging a dense mixed-use district that's vibrant with new residents and businesses.

He anticipates the completion of the residential units at Creekside under Strathmore's leadership as well as additional new construction and redevelopment in the downtown.

"We will work to ensure that all new investments in our downtown follow the principles of the Olde Gahanna Vision Plan that the city enacted in 2008," Jones said.

He said a 220-room hotel will be completed during the first half of the year in Central Park, leading to further development in Gahanna's Office/Commerce/Technology District.

Jones anticipates new infrastructure investment at Hamilton Road and Tech Center Drive will open up additional commercial land for development.

He said the city has already received interest from medical surgery centers and corporate headquarters that view the frontage along Interstate 270 to be some of the most attractive real estate in the central Ohio region.

Jones said the development department also intends to modify multiple incentive districts in order to open alternative revenue streams to allow the city to make strategic infrastructure investments.

The Groundhog Day event was hosted this year by the Gahanna Community Improvement Corp. due to the city's budget constraints.

"This is no longer a city event for businesses in Gahanna," Jones said. "It is a business event for the Gahanna community."

Ron Wolfinger, CIC board member, served as the master of ceremonies at the breakfast.

He and Jones honored three local businesses with Excellence in Development Awards.

Winners were Lew Griffin Insurance, 73-77 Mill St.; United Dairy Farmers, 180 W. Johnstown Road, and Manor Homes, Clark State and Reynoldsburg-New Albany roads.

Griffin was honored for the renovation of the building located at 73-77 Mill St. in the Creekside district.

The project exemplifies traditional design elements, promotes community participation, evokes positive and responsible growth, and continues to encourage economic success in the Gahanna community, Jones said.

United Dairy Farmers redeveloped the site at 180 W. Johnstown Road, making a $750,000 investment on the west side of Gahanna.

The business purchased an underutilized automotive repair site at the corner of Olde Ridenour and Route 62. After cleaning up any environmental hazards on the site, they constructed a 4,000-square-foot store with accompanying fuel station.

Jones said the redevelopment project has had a tremendous impact on the west side of the Gahanna community, and the property owner graciously added a "Welcome to Gahanna, Ohio" sign for all city visitors to see.

Manor Homes was recognized for the completion of Phase One of the Village at Hannah Farms.

The Village at Hannah Farms is a 2008 Parade of Homes subdivision located on the east side of Gahanna near the intersection of Clark State and Reynoldsburg-New Albany roads.

Jones said the residential project was established with a Tax Incentive District in order to help fund the creation of community assets such as Hannah Park.

He said it's a great example of how the city works to find innovative ways to generate revenue to provide high quality services to citizens.

Manor Homes has constructed 36 out of 42 homes, with an additional three homes currently being built.

Jones said the project continues to add high level housing stock to the community, with an average sale price of approximately $467,000.

Guest speaker Stephen A. Buser, professor emeritus of the Ohio State University, kept the audience entertained with his sense of humor in discussing the economic forecast for employment, consumer spending, new home construction and the trade-weighted value of the United States dollar.

"I feel like I'm in a movie and I'm Bill Murray," Buser said, referencing the movie Groundhog Day. "I'll keep doing this until I get it right."

Jones said 2014 is going to be a great year in Gahanna.

"I look forward to sharing it with all of you," he said.