Whitehall News

Deal may bring Priority Designs to Whitehall

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Whitehall has reached a tentative agreement with a Gahanna company to purchase property in Whitehall and relocate the business to the city next year.

"It's another example of the city of Whitehall moving in the right direction," development director Zach Woodruff said.

Priority Designs, currently at 501 Morrison Road in Gahanna, expects to purchase a 5.5-acre site at 100 S. Hamilton Road in Whitehall and move there next year, Woodruff said.

Priority Designs, a product design firm, is expected to invest about $3 million to remodel a former automotive site into a corporate campus.

Whitehall is offering a six-year, 50-percent payroll incentive to Priority Designs.

Priority Designs must achieve specific markers to qualify, including maintaining a minimum total payroll and adding a required number of new jobs, with those details yet to be determine, Woodruff said.

"But we wanted to get it started," Woodruff said.

A resolution authorizing the economic incentive agreement, as well as companion legislation transferring ownership of the 5.5-acre parcel to the Whitehall Improvement Corp. in advance of its sale to Priority Designs, was introduced at the Sept. 24 council committee meeting.

The legislation was scheduled for a first reading at the Oct. 1 meeting of Whitehall City Council, after ThisWeek's press time.

Priority Designs would move into the former Bill Swad Chevrolet dealership that has been vacant about five years. The city purchased the site about two years ago for $1 million, payable in 10 annual installments of $100,000.

The city has paid $300,000 thus far.

"If you own the land, it's easier to control revitalization and development," Woodruff said. "We didn't want it becoming another used-car lot ever again."

Priority Designs would leave an approximately 25,000-square-foot facility in Gahanna to move into a 49,000-square-foot facility.

"This is a great get for us," Woodruff said of the company's relocation. "It will have a significant impact on continuing revitalization."

He said Priority Designs' move is considered the first significant private investment by a private company in the recent past.

Franklin County Children Services opened a new central office in Whitehall earlier this year, and Columbus Metropolitan Library is opening a new Whitehall branch next year.

Priority Designs has about 55 employees and a total payroll of $4 million, Woodruff said.

Priority Designs is to acquire the land from Whitehall for $475,000, Woodruff said.

Considering the land sale alone, the city would lose $525,000.

In its agreement with the previous owner, the city agreed to pay $100,000 annually over a 10-year period and will continue to do so after the parcel is sold to Priority Designs for $475,000, Woodruff said.

The city, however, is expected to recoup the loss via increased property-tax revenue and new income-tax revenue, he said.

"Our conservative estimate" is that the parcel, after improvements are made, will generate $300,000 in property-tax revenue, he said.

Coupled with the purchase price of $475,000, the city will have netted $775,000, "and that figure does not yet take into account revenue from income tax," Woodruff said.

"This deal will more than pay for itself and will benefit both the city of Whitehall and Priority Designs," he said.

Although it is not yet clear how many additional jobs the company would bring to Whitehall, Woodruff said, moving into a new facility twice the size of its existing office is a good indication of significant growth.

The city and its residents would benefit from the additional tax base Priority Designs is expected to provide, and it is expected to bolster restaurant and retail business, Woodruff said.

Lois Kolada, chief financial officer for Priority Designs, said increasing demand for prototype production has propelled the company to move and expand.

"They reached out to us," Woodruff said. "It was a great marriage of timing and availability."

Electrolux, Lowe's and Nike Golf are among the corporate clients of Priority Designs, which was founded by Kolada's husband, Paul Kolada, in 1990, when the company first opened in Bexley.

Excluding the recent economic recession, Kolada said, the company has grown about 5 to 7 percent each year.

Kolada said the move is expected to be completed by the end of the second quarter next year.

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