CINCINNATI – If we build it, will they come?
The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority has a plan to bolster Hamilton County's inventory of manufacturer-ready land and wants to redevelop 500 acres in seven years. The initiative would create 8,000 new jobs, $580 million in annual payroll and $550 million in capital investment – but would cost $200 million to bring to fruition.
Big picture: The port says it can ready 2,000 acres over the next 20 years for re-industrialization, which would create 32,000 new manufacturing jobs and an estimated $2.3 billion in direct earnings. Those findings were released this week by the port, TechSolve and The University of Cincinnati's Economics Center after a five-month study, called "Made in Hamilton County, OH."
The port's board of directors approved issuing up to $20 million in notes Wednesday to formally kick off part of the funding piece of its plan.
The first series of notes is expected to close around June 1. In February, Laura Brunner, port president, outlined several other strategies to finance their manufacturing mission, including public monies, philanthropic efforts and more. But the port plans to raise 30 percent of its overall capital needs via private investors, a strategy similar to what 3CDC, the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp., has used to revitalize Downtown and Over-the-Rhine.
The port will use private capital to purchase vacant or blighted land, largely along key transportation corridors, like Interstate 75, to repurpose and redevelop.
"Many public agencies like ours start with public funding," Brunner said. "We recognize, in our case, that would be a part of our (strategy), but we couldn't rely on it to be our entire piece. We really felt strongly to start with private capital for the acquisition of land, because it's our feeling that it's going to be much easier to secure public funds to help us improve property we already own."
In recent years, officials have stressed a growing need for industrial space. That's one of the biggest challenges, they say, in recruiting and retaining businesses. The port is just one organization looking to tackle the lack of large, development-ready land.
While manufacturing has been on the decline – locally and nationally – the "Made in Hamilton County" study says the industry has stabilized in Hamilton County since 2010 and continues to play a "significant" economic role. The proposed redevelopment effort will position Hamilton County "as a national leader in manufacturing redevelopment" and would create good-paying jobs for generations, the study said. In 2015, the average manufacturing position paid nearly $75,000.
"Part of the motivation for this strategy is the creation of jobs," Brunner said. "But these particular jobs have more value than other jobs. Fifty percent are obtainable without a college education. They pay better, and every manufacturing job creates 1.6 other jobs, so there's a multiplier factor that comes from manufacturing as well.
"We feel very confident about the 'if we build it, they will come' philosophy."
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