leaders consider how to bring commerce park to town
If Yellow Springs has an antibusiness bias, that bias was not apparent
Monday morning when more than 40 community leaders met to discuss ideas
about creating a commerce park in Yellow Springs.
Well never get everyone to agree but theres a huge consensus
right here that this is the direction we want to go, said Dan Young,
the CEO of Youngs Jersey Dairy, at the end of the meeting. The meeting,
held at the Golden Jersey Inn, was sponsored by Community Resources, of
which Young is a member. Representatives of local businesses, government,
schools and community groups were invited to attend.
A volunteer community development group, Community Resources has, since
its inception in 1999, worked toward enhancing business development in
Yellow Springs, including sponsoring research that laid the groundwork
toward developing a commerce park. While the Village Planning Commission
tried to craft a new zoning district for a park, disagreements among plan
board members about sustainability requirements brought the zoning issue
to a standstill a few months ago.
This week, Community Resources representatives urged Village Council to
move ahead with developing a commerce park. Council president Tony Arnett
presented a proposal in which the Village would work with a developer
to build a park in what he called an enterprise zone.
A commerce park needs to be developed in Yellow Springs to provide space
for new businesses to move into the village and space for existing businesses
to expand, Community Resources said in a presentation at the meeting.
With Vernay Laboratories decision last year to close its Yellow
Springs plants, the villages tax base is declining, and with a declining
tax base, the cost of living in Yellow Springs will rise and quality of
life will suffer, the group said.
A sense of urgency was also apparent among those who attended the Jan.
13 gathering, especially in light of the Vernay decision.
If people dont see the advantage of more businesses, they
need to know that if we dont have them, the cost of living in Yellow
Springs will skyrocket, said Chuck Colbert, a retired businessman.
But those who attended Mondays meeting didnt seem to need
to be convinced about the need for a commerce park. Rather, they wanted
to know how to go about getting one.
To create a successful commerce park, organizers need first to envision
the sort of park they want, said one of the meetings presenters.
The first step toward getting where you want to go is knowing where
you want to go, said J. C. Wallace, the president of the Springfield-Clark
County Chamber of Commerce and former business development executive with
the State of Ohio. The other speaker was Phil Houston, director of the
Greene County Department of Development.
Commerce park organizers need to target the kind of businesses they want,
then actively recruit those businesses, said Wallace. Doing so will go
a long way toward overcoming the antibusiness reputation that
many associate with Yellow Springs, he said.
But even more important than recruiting new businesses is taking care
of the businesses already in the community, said both Wallace and Houston.
The bulk of growth comes from companies that are already here,
said Houston, who encouraged commerce park organizers to discuss with
local companies their needs and their plans for growth, and to try to
meet those needs. According to Wallace, about 80 percent of jobs in most
commerce parks come from expansion of existing businesses.
Existing businesses, such as YSI Incorporated, The Antioch Company, Morris
Bean & Company and Vernay are strengths the village already possesses,
said Houston, who encouraged developers to identify your strengths
and work from there. Antioch is also a strength, said Houston, who
suggested that Antioch alumni might be targeted as potential business
Initially, commerce park organizers need to get control of
the land on which the park will be built, whether through purchasing the
land or entering into binding agreements with the lands owners.
Without such control over the land, said both Wallace and Houston, commerce
park organizers cannot offer potential park businesses the stability they
need to sign on, since future costs might suddenly change. More than anything,
said both men, new businesses seek stability in a commerce park location.
Discussion about a commerce park location centered on two local land parcels
located on East Enon Road on the west edge of the village. One 40-acre
parcel is currently owned by Vernay and the other parcel is owned by the
Pitstick family. The parcels are identified as areas for commercial development
in a cooperative economic development agreement, or CEDA, which Council
and the Miami Township trustees approved last year.
Commerce park developers need to offer some covenants, or
guidelines for businesses locating there, said Houston, who said that
local parks with no covenants did not succeed until they established some.
Its important not to be too restrictive but to have some guidelines,
he said. In response to a question from Planning Commission member Cy
Tebbetts, both Houston and Wallace said they thought that legislating
environmental sustainability into commerce park guidelines could be too
To mandate sustainability would be a deterrent, said Houston.
If this is something the community really desires, it would be better
to use incentives to encourage companies to use sustainable practices.
Park developers also need to offer adequate water and sewer access, said
Wallace. In addition, high-tech companies are especially interested in
fiber optics access, he said. Developers also need to put in roads and
landscaping, or to know clearly what landscaping expenses incoming businesses
would have, he said. While developers dont need to build all
of the infrastructure to start with, they need to be able to provide
businesses infrastructure needs when they need them, said Wallace.
Antioch University also has some space available for use, said Vice Chancellor
Glenn Watts, explaining that the top two floors of the Kettering Building
could be available for a low rent.
The university is very interested in promoting local businesses,
Another aspect of creating a commerce park is offering a desirable location,
and Yellow Springs has an advantage in being situated near the corridor
of I-70 and I-75, offering easy access to Dayton, Cincinnati and Columbus,
said Wallace. Were not in the middle of Kansas, he said.
Ohio is also developing a good reputation for foreign business
investment, said Wallace. Ohio is currently the No. 1 state in terms of
Japanese investment and the No. 2 in European investment, he said.
Along with stability and location, potential businesses also seek a strong
work force, said Wallace, and in this category, Yellow Springs excels.
One of the first things people are looking for is, can you
get me the employees who will make the business successful?
he said. The proximity to Antioch is an asset.
While Yellow Springs can offer a unique quality of life, quality
of life is not generally a main criterion for businesses seeking
a new location, said Wallace. However, he said, some small high-tech companies,
currently located in cities, often consider relocating to smaller communities
and the uniqueness of Yellow Springs might be a selling point for those
Working against Yellow Springs as a commerce park site is the current
economic recession and the villages tax rates, which cause local
businesses to pay the third highest taxes in the Miami Valley, behind
only Sugarcreek Township and Oakwood, said Houston.
More difficult for the community to overcome, he said, is its reputation,
the image that were not interested in businesses coming to
Several in the audience sought suggestions as to how to overcome Yellow
Springs antibusiness image. The village needs to market
itself aggressively, said Houston. There are possibilities that
can be explored, including tours for area realtors to familiarize
them with the village and promoting Yellow Springs on regional, state
and national databases, he said.
Rather than trying to fix the antibusiness image, community
leaders could feature it, said Mike Gardner, who suggested
confronting the image directly in ads such as one asking, Who would
want to move to an antibusiness town? Maybe you would, and then
enumerating the villages advantages.
But the notion that Yellow Springs is antibusiness isnt accurate,
said Julia Cady.
Its a rumor and we cant be concerned with rumors,
she said. We can counteract that with education and facts. One of
our key tasks is education.
The meetings large turnout indicates that villagers have a keen
interest in developing a commerce park, said Wallace.
Its exciting to see so many people come together around
the issue, he said.