Port Authority plans new buildings in industrial park

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By Fred Kight

Officials hope the new facilities will attract jobs

The proposed buildings at the Bill Thiesen Industrial Park in this diagram are in reddish brown. Provided image.


The Athens County Port Authority is taking steps to invest as much as $14 million into enticing new businesses to move to the Bill Thiesen Industrial Park near The Plains.

The development organization is planning to build two buildings at the industrial park. One would be for manufacturing and warehousing and the other one for offices, with the potential for lab space.

“The Port Authority is now in a much better cash position, after many years of struggling,” said Chairman Jack Bortle, “and we feel that we’re at a point that we could start building some buildings and attract light industry to our area.”

The Port Authority owns the industrial park, which is located on Poston Road. The Authority’s mission is to foster economic development in Athens County.

“Right now, if the state is approached by a company wanting to move into Ohio, look at sites, we have nothing to show them,” Bortle said. “It’s been shown to us (by state development officials) that unless you have a ready building, you’re not in the game at all.”

The industrial park “currently consists of 40.58 acres of industrial and commercial land,” said Sara Marrs-Maxfield, executive director of the Athens County Economic Development Council. “The original park consisted of 62.87 but 22 acres were recently sold to AEP for the purpose of a new substation.”

No one is lined up to occupy the proposed structures at this point. The idea is to have them ready and then lure businesses to move in.

The tenant or tenants could be an existing Athens County business looking to expand or someone new, according to Marrs-Maxfield. She stressed that they want “businesses that offer jobs at or above a living wage.”

The next step is for members of the Authority to authorize continued site-planning efforts to facilitate construction of the buildings. “And then we’re hoping that we will have everything in place so that we can get started on actually moving dirt,” Marrs-Maxfield said.

Bortle anticipates construction would take less than a year. And he’s confident the Authority will have no trouble putting together the money for the project.

“We’re hopeful that we can get some grant money and low-interest financing,” he said.

One of the new buildings would be 33,000 square feet and would be located on a 2.55 acre parcel on Poston Road, on the west side of Stirling Ultracold. The other would be 134,000 square feet, and would be located on an 8.18 acre parcel on the north side of the first building.

While the building project could cost as much as $14 million, “I don’t expect it will be quite that high,” said Marrs-Maxfield. “That (amount) includes some of the worst-case scenario site preparation.”