County, state and local officials learned last week that Pataskala has a great site for an industrial park -- if only a road were running through it.

County, state and local officials learned last week that Pataskala has a great site for an industrial park -- if only a road were running through it.

It's taken a few years and a few agreements to get the road project under way, but county officials expressed confidence during Pataskala's economic-development breakfast June 26 that the project is ready to begin.

"We've accepted bids and are about to award a contract," said Jerry Brems, director of the Licking County Planning Commission. "Construction should begin in August or September."

The first phase of the two-lane road will connect Broad Street to Refugee Road through 513 acres identified as the Pataskala Corporate Park. The land is south of Broad and east of Mink Street. The road is expected to be completed in spring 2010.

Brems said he hopes the second phase, which involves extending the road farther south to U.S. Route 40 and the Etna Corporate Park, could begin in spring 2010.

Funding for phase 1 is coming from a $3.4-million Ohio Job Ready Sites (JRS) grant, with the other $2.6-million to be paid by the county and a corporation formed by the majority property owners, Howard and Rosemary Emswiler. The county is expected to be paid back for its investment in the project through several funding sources to be generated from the property.

Pataskala city administrator Timothy Boland said the park could attract businesses that could create 1,000 to 2,000 permanent jobs in the next seven to 10 years.

"Our tax burden is not balanced," Boland said. "It's heavy on the residents. This will help balance that out."

Though the current economy does not bode well for developers, a Japanese firm is interested in the site, according to Rob Klinger, the county's economic-development manager. Klinger said he couldn't name the company but said it works within the automobile industry and company officials have visited the site. They always ask where the road is, though, Klinger said.

Local officials spoke positively about the project last week. Licking County Commissioner Tim Bubb said the county has put a lot of work into the road project, as administrator of the grant and a funding partner.

"We've started to make the connection from Refugee to Broad, and a year from now, I think, we'll be dedicating a highway," Bubb said.

Cheri Hottinger, president of the Licking County Chamber of Commerce, said the county already has several programs in place to help spur economic development, and the chamber is glad to help market the site. "This is a big deal, not only for Licking County, but for Ohio," she said.

The Pataskala Corporate Park has incentives available to be negotiated and is included in a joint economic-development district, which allows Newark to collect an income tax from employees who work on site and redistribute tax revenues to the city, Harrison Township, Pataskala and other partners.

The land also has been placed within a tax-increment-financing district, which allows some property taxes to be diverted to a separate fund to repay infrastructure debt.