Industrial park receives $2.9M investment from JobsOhio

May 7, 2020

By Heather Willard

The Bill Theisen Industrial Park will be reaching a new phase of development thanks to a $2.9 million investment grant from JobsOhio, the Athens County Port Authority announced Wednesday morning.

JobsOhio, Ohio Southeast Economic Development (OhioSE) and the Athens County Port Authority together announced site development at the Bill Theisen Industrial Park, located near The Plains on Poston Station Road, will be supported through the state-provided grant.

Specifically, the grant will go to preparing the site for two new buildings. Work will include site grading; upgrades to gas, water and sewer lines; environmental and surface water mitigation; and geotechnical construction to address soil conditions. The site has some environmental challenges that the Port Authority has been addressing, assisted by grant funds, that stem from when a coal-fired power plant was located on the site.

Sara Marrs-Maxfield, the executive director of the Athens County Economic Development Council and the Athens County Port Authority, noted that the Port Authority has plans to develop two speculative buildings on the site to attract and house local expanding companies and new employers to the county.

Several factors were considered while developing this plan, including what businesses the community can support and what would provide a boost to the economy. Marrs-Maxfield said the ideal businesses would be smaller, high-tech and advanced manufacturing companies. Another ideal business would be biology or lab-based companies. Building one will be built for a technical, small manufacturer, and building two will be structured for office space and potential lab space.

Marrs-Maxfield pointed to the Ohio University Innovation Center, where several biological research companies that have “graduated” from the business incubator and will require specialized space — space that until these buildings are erected, does not exist in Athens County.

“Our region needs ready sites and buildings to be competitive in economic development,” said OhioSE President Mike Jacoby. “Our team was very pleased to assist the Athens County Port Authority access these funds from JobsOhio. This grant should help the port foster additional job creation in Athens County. I applaud JobsOhio for recognizing the special challenges in our region and allocating funds to help us.”

Funding to improve these sites was made available through the JobsOhio/OhioSE Site Initiative, a program that started in 2018 with a goal to assist distressed southern Ohio counties by creating competitive sites capable of winning new business investments. The sites in the program were selected with the assistance of a group of southern Ohio CEOs who advised JobsOhio and OhioSE, according to the partners’ press release.

“The Athens County Port Authority and Athens County Economic Development Council have been working to redevelop this brownfield property for more than 10 years,” said Marrs-Maxfield. “There have been many great partners in this effort including US EPA, Ohio DSA, and local authorities. OhioSE and JobsOhio have recognized our commitment to redeveloping this site for the advancement of our goals of quality jobs and economic progress through diversification of our regional economy.”

The industrial park is owned by the Port Authority and is the former location of a Columbus & Southern Ohio Electric coal fired power plant. The power plant was closed and removed and the property sold to the Port Authority in 1993 for use in economic development.

The industrial park is currently occupied by Global Cooling, QuickLoadz, Le-Ax Water and the Athens-Hocking Recycling Center, with QuickLoadz and Global Cooling both owning their respective buildings. With the planned site preparation and the completed due diligence studies the site will be totally ready for the development of buildings in 2021, the press release noted.

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