Location, Location, Location

The Chamber of Greater Springfield
Written by Robert Hoshowsky

The southwestern Ohio city of Springfield in Clark County meets the needs of businesses of all sizes with its ideal location, an eager workforce and many services and attractions. The 140-year-old Chamber of Greater Springfield – a not-for-profit membership-based organization with a partnership of over eight hundred businesses representing about 12,000 employees –works to improve and retain existing businesses while welcoming new companies in many sectors, including automotive, food and technology.
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“Our sweet spot continues to be and probably will always be manufacturing,” says Horton Hobbs IV, vice president of economic development for the past six years. “Within manufacturing, we have a strong cluster of auto and aerospace and now advanced manufacturing as it supports the high-tech semiconductor industry.”

Springfield is just twenty-five miles northeast of Dayton and forty-five miles from Columbus and serves as the county seat of Clark County. This growing area has convenient access to two main rail lines and Interstates 70, 71 and 75, and its location means that, along with manufacturing, Springfield attracts numerous other industries.

Approximately sixty thousand vehicles pass daily, making Springfield popular with the logistics sector, professional services such as insurance and mortgage-related companies, automotive, agribusiness and other food-related industries that must get products to market quickly.

For almost fifty years, economic development entity the Community Improvement Corporation of Springfield and Clark County (CIC) has worked to create or retain over 17,000 jobs in the Clark County area. The award-winning CIC is entrusted with responding to regional and state inquiries and coordinates local retention and expansion efforts and manages an industrial and office database for prospects.

The CIC was created in 1970 in partnership between the city of Springfield, Clark County and the business community. The CIC has been behind the construction of two industrial parks as well as assisting with others. It has fixed asset investment exceeding $1.4 billion in new facilities, infrastructure and equipment.

The CIC’s mission – to “attract and support capital investment resulting in the creation of new jobs and the retention of existing jobs to maximize the job skills within our community’s labor force” – is paying off.

The CIC has strategies for business retention, expansion and attraction as it focuses on its workforce, real estate development and regional and national marketing efforts. The area has seen the creation of 2,119 jobs and the retention of another 2,454 positions resulting from $290.2 million in investment that assisted 288 companies from 2016 to 2017.

Recent projects include the headquarters expansion to Nextedge of Speedway, America’s second-largest corporate-owned chain of convenience stores and the expansion of landing gear company Héroux-Devtek to meet the requirements of its new landing gear contract with aviation giant Boeing. Others, such as Navistar, Topre America and automotive parts manufacturer Yamada North America, are also expanding their facilities.

American multinational agricultural company Dole recently expanded its tender leaf product line to its Springfield facility, while silicon component maker Silfex, Inc. acquired a 350,000-square-foot building to accommodate its $223 million expansion, which will result in the creation of a second site and about four hundred new jobs.

“This is an exciting time for Silfex and for the semiconductor industry as a whole,” said the company in a release. “To support the continued demand for silicon consumable parts that are made by Silfex and are an integral part of semiconductor supply chain, we are increasing our production capacity at our Eaton (OH) facility, as well as expanding our footprint through the creation of a second location in Springfield.”

The Greater Springfield Moving Forward initiative was created by the Chamber, with participation and input from the City of Springfield, Clark County and others in the community and unveiled in 2010.

The program used a series of public outreach sessions and surveys to ask the community to prioritize areas for investment. As a result, task forces were formed to concentrate on areas of growth and redevelopment. These include gateways and corridors and the downtown. Springfield’s downtown contains stunning historical architecture, and this older manufacturing city is on the rebound.

“Our downtown is a key asset, and it’s like the heart of your body; the more you take care of your heart, the stronger your body,” says Hobbs, who believes “reinvesting in the downtown core will strengthen the entire community.”

Springfield has had public investment for a long time and is now seeing considerable private investment with a renewed emphasis on the downtown for the past eighteen years.

A catalytic fund called SpringForward was created to push forward specific projects within the downtown to provide some gap capital to see some market-sensitive projects happen. This momentum has resulted in two hospitals, a new brewery, a number of small infill shops and a downtown park. The county has a robust parks system, including one park which runs the length of the city.

There is also an ongoing downtown investment in areas like market-rate housing. “We think we are right on the trajectory moving upwards that we need to be, and SpringForward and the concentrated efforts around our downtown are critical to that.”

Other crucial areas of the Initiative include parks and green space, gateways and corridors, and jobs and job readiness – an important aspect that has resulted in many new programs and internships centered on job growth and workforce development.

“It is all along a grand strategy to make our community an incredible place to live, to work and to do business,” comments Hobbs. “As there are about thirty-five Springfields in the United States, our efforts are concentrated on what makes us unique and different and puts us on the radar for job growth. It’s these kinds of initiatives that we think, over time, will pay dividends.”

Quality of life is a strong factor when considering Greater Springfield as a place to work and live. The community’s 136,000-strong population enjoys amenities found in much larger cities while retaining small-town charm.

From its park system to bike trails, hiking and rock climbing, white-water rafting, thriving downtown, music festivals, theaters, quality schools and affordability – it was ranked the eighth-best place to live cheaply in the United States by Forbes magazine – Springfield, Ohio, has something for everyone. For businesses, Springfield’s location on Interstate 70 and proximity to Interstate 75, its own municipal airport and a variety of business parks for technology, industrial and corporate clients, place it among the most desirable locations in the United States.

Springfield creates incentive packages that cater to specific company needs. These can range from traditional incentives to expedited permitting, with the CIC helping procure incentives from its partners. On the local level, these are often property tax abatement and income tax relief; on the state side, they can be tax credits centered on job creation and training. And since the city and county are seamlessly integrated through the Expand Greater Springfield CIC partnership, development processes are accelerated, which saves businesses time and money.

The community’s Chamber of Greater Springfield is a three-time finalist for the American Chamber of Commerce Executives’ National Chamber of the Year award, most recently in 2016, and its Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau has received over sixty national and statewide awards for marketing excellence. As a further testament to business confidence, the city has seen about $500 million in public-private investment over the past decade in its downtown.

“We are making great gains here,” says Hobbs. “We are doing that with great partners and have a lot of great momentum. This is an incredible place to raise a family and have a tremendous business presence. If you haven’t been to Springfield, Ohio, you need to make a trip,” he enthuses.

“If you are looking to relocate your business, there are very few reasons you shouldn’t be here. I can’t think of any, frankly. If you’re looking to have a great, affordable quality of life with great access to major markets like Columbus and Indianapolis and Cincinnati, we are perfectly situated right in the middle. Springfield is a great place not only to work, but more importantly, a great place to live and raise your family without the traffic and headaches of more dense urban areas.”

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