With existing businesses providing foundation, Mason plans 250-acre biohealth hub

Officials: OakPark will play to city's strengths
Posted at 7:00 AM, Oct 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-25 07:00:05-04

MASON, Ohio -- City officials hope a district built around bioscience will attract more businesses around the Western Row Road and Interstate 71 interchange.

Mason leaders plan to develop OakPark District, a 250-acre site near the interchange, into a biohealth hub in coming years. Existing regional, national and international headquarters for companies like Assurex Health, AtriCure, Luxottica and Procter & Gamble already provide a foundation for the district.

"It's about a 250-acre area that is focused on having strength in attracting more of what's already been successful in locating there," Michele Blair, director of economic development for Mason, said.

Plans for the district include multistory buildings, collaborative spaces and a walkable environment with on-street activities that could include amenities such as bike and walking paths, Blair said.

The development is part of a bioscience ecosystem that's been growing in the city for about eight years. As companies specializing in personalized medicine, medical devices and fluid sciences began operating and expanding in the area, city leaders took note.

"We have to understand what our strengths are," Blair said.

Columbus-based BioOhio helped with that. The organization connects and supports the bioscience community around the state through networking and education events and career fairs. It also compiles statewide data highlighting new companies, expansions and financing from startup companies, among other information.

"It's all about connecting the ecosystem," John Lewis, president and CEO of BioOhio, said.

Mason city leaders are taking a similar approach to connectedness with the plans for OakPark.

"The city of Mason is truly unique in that they are fully engaged in the bioscience industry," Lewis said. "Michele is very visible. She is very participatory."

That engagement is evident in officials' plans for the hub.

"I think areas like that (OakPark) really show they're going way beyond what other regions around the world are doing," Lewis said.

Although the plans for the district involve development, don't expect to see construction equipment in the near future. City leaders' focus for now is on fostering public-private partnerships with existing anchor companies.

"You're not going to see renderings of buildings going up at this point," Blair said.

Connecting schools with local biohealth industries is another focal point. Those connections can help keep potential employees in the area, creating a "self-feeding ecosystem."

"We like to feed those industries because they are knowledge economy jobs," Blair said.

Due to the city's emphasis on fostering partnerships rather than construction, there's no set timeline for developing OakPark District. However, city leaders are "particular and aggressive" in recruiting companies, Blair said.

"It's less about a development timeline and speed to market as much as being ready to bring in the right partners," she said.