Bob Evans move is boon for village
Local officials are excited to welcome Bob Evans Farms to New Albany.
The company announced last week its intention of moving its headquarters to New Albany from the south side of Columbus sometime in the next two years.
"It's fantastic for the village and one of the best pieces of news we've had in years," said Mayor Nancy Ferguson. "It's such a great company in many ways and has a brand very similar to ours."
Ferguson mentioned the company's fiscal conservativeness and compared that to the village's fiscal operations.
Margaret Standing, director of corporate communications for Bob Evans Farms, said last week the company had outgrown its facility on South High Street and needed more room.
Standing said the company considered renovations at the South High Street facilities, relocating to Texas - where the company owns land - or relocating to another central Ohio community.
"The most cost-effective option was to build a new building," she said.
The company currently employs 400 people in its 130,000-square-foot space. Standing could not say how large the facility in New Albany would be. The company has not yet purchased the land, she said.
The company is looking at land in Franklin County, on the north side of state Route 161, south of Smith's Mill Road. If purchased, the new facility would be built west of Beech Road next to the Abercrombie & Fitch distribution center.
Bob Evans is expecting to receive several incentives for the move.
According to a letter from New Albany village administrator Joseph Stefanov and community development director Jennifer Chrysler, the incentives could total $9.8-million in savings for Bob Evans. The expected package includes:
• A 15-year, 100-percent tax abatement on real property taxes.
• A 20-percent income-tax credit for five years if the company implements environmentally friendly technology on site.
• A 5-percent income-tax credit for five years for health and wellness initiatives.
• A $250,000 income-tax credit, repayable over two years, to help with relocation expenses.
• A $1-million interest-free loan for 10 years from the village's economic development fund.
• A 25-percent credit on building inspections and fees if the company uses environmentally friendly technology on site.
Abatements must be authorized by New Albany Village Council, which has not yet voted on the incentives.
The incentives are based on an estimated 175,000-square-foot building with at least 360 employees that would grow to 510 employees in four years. Employees are estimated to retain an average salary of $65,000 annually.
"This will help pay the village dividends and the school district, as well," Stefanov said. "This project is in the (New Albany-) Plain Local Schools. It will also fill in that portion of the business park where we made an initial investment some 10 to 11 years ago now."
The village shares a percentage of income-tax revenues from its business parks with the New Albany-Plain Local School District, Chrysler said.
Bob Evans Farms also is expected to receive some state incentives, which have not yet been approved, said Bethany McCorkle, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Development. She said the job-creation tax credits and grants must be approved by two different boards.
"Incentives were just one part of the equation," Standing said. "There's the cost of buying the land, the cost to redevelop the land and the cost of infrastructure on site. In the final analysis, New Albany was the clear winner on all those fronts."
McCorkle said the state's job is to keep businesses within their borders, even if that means a business may move from one area to another.
"We try to attract and to retain businesses in Ohio," McCorkle said. "Since they were looking to go to Texas, our main focus was keeping them in Ohio. If a company has a particular interest, we work on where they need to be and what's the best interest for them."
Since the buildings on South High Street will be vacated, McCorkle said the state has a program in place to use a $4,125,000 state loan to renovate that space if a new user wants to locate there.
The original Bob Evans facility was built in 1968 and had been expanded over the years. The company currently occupies three buildings on South High Street, Standing said. To renovate the existing structures, employees would have to have been shifted from building to building during the work.
When the facility was constructed, it was intended to handle retail sausage sales, Standing said. It had grown to include food products for Bob Evans restaurants and products for Mimi's Caf. Bob Evans' new facility in New Albany would include "an innovation center for restaurant and food products teams as well as wellness, security and convenience features for employees," according to information from the company.
According to information from the company, Bob Evans Farms has 194 Bob Evans restaurants, three Mimi's Caf restaurants, two food-product production plants, a distribution center, fleet maintenance centers and the company's farm and homestead, all in Ohio, and generates an estimated "$36-million in tax revenue each year in the state."