Fifteen years after Johnstown established its first industrial park on the east side of town, village officials are considering a prospective first step in a long process to add a second one on the opposite side of town.
Village Manager Jim Lenner presented a preliminary concept plan during council's Jan. 21 meeting, outlining a potential location and plan for an approximately 123-acre site to be developed off Duncan Plains Road, near U.S. Route 62.
Lenner said the park could give the village a huge tax-revenue boost, could stabilize finances for the future and could provide jobs closer to the community.
He said those would be important steps if Johnstown makes the transition to a city status after the 2020 census.
"If we attract businesses, it helps stabilize the tax base and isn't putting the tax burden solely on the residents of the town," Lenner said.
"Someone that works in the park can live here in town, have short commute times and better quality of life for our residents. If we can provide job opportunities here in the village and you don't have to drive to the immediate Columbus metro region, it's a much better situation for residents."
The property is owned by Duncan Plains Ltd. Lenner said the village would forge a partnership rather than purchasing the land.
Nobody representing the landowner was willing a comment so early in the process.
The village's first industrial park, on Commerce Boulevard, was established in 1999 on 300 acres, with another 150 acres still available for development. Tenants include Atrium, BUD Corp., CRC Metal Products, Mohawk Carpet, Star Pizza Box, Steel Ceilings, Tech International and Thirty-One Gifts.
Figures weren't available by ThisWeek's press time regarding how many jobs and how much revenue that park is generating. However, Lenner said, revenue from the park has been "substantial."
The second industrial park would house a variety of businesses and would cater to existing Johnstown businesses and new companies, Lenner said, adding that a chain has even shown interest in putting a hotel in the location.
In addition to the potential revenue boom, village officials also see the opportunity to improve traffic flow.
Lenner said that within the past year, village officials have wanted to complete the roadway in the existing industrial park. But when cost estimates reached nearly $4 million without alleviating any existing traffic concerns, the idea of a second industrial park was suggested.
"The idea was, let's search for something on the west side of town, where the traffic didn't have to flow through town, and possibly invest in that area over there," Lenner said.
Because the idea for a second industrial park is in its infancy, few solid figures are available, Lenner said.
He isn't sure how much the park would cost to build, what specific businesses might be interested, how much tax revenue the park could generate for the village or what kinds of funding assistance might be available.
"I don't know what's likely and what's not because we haven't put together applications for state funding, funding through the county or private donations," Lenner said. "It's a little premature because I didn't want to spend our staff time -- other than putting the concept plan together -- if council wasn't on board."
After presenting the idea to council, Lenner said, he has little reason to believe he shouldn't move forward.
"Our No. 1-agreed-upon thing that we needed to focus on was economic development," Councilwoman Carol Van Deest said. "(This idea) is a little scary to me ... but I think we need to bite the bullet and do it."
Councilman Bob Orsini said he had some concerns about pushing residential development away by adding more industrial development.
Still, council voted 6-0 to approve a budget of $12,000 for preliminary research into costs for water management, water and sewer extensions, roadways and traffic. Councilman Bill Van Gundy was absent.
The funds will come from a budget of about $85,000 that is set aside for general engineering contract allowances. Findings will be presented during the council's Feb. 4 meeting.
If the project were to move forward, Lenner said, costs could be high because the area does not yet have the proper infrastructure for its targeted demographic. A road to the park would have to be added, as well as natural gas and electricity services, which, Lenner said, are near the site, but not working within it.
Despite the potential cost, he said he believes it is another necessary step for Johnstown.
"The way economic development is going, businesses want to be able to have a building up in 12 or 18 months, and running infrastructure at the same time isn't what they're looking for," he said.
"They want to be able to come in when the building contractors have a building up and operational in as short of an amount of time as possible.
"For us to be viable in the central Ohio region, I think it's important that we have properties available to attract businesses right away," he said. "That infrastructure is vitally important to attract businesses, but it's not there yet."