MOUNT VERNON — A new start-up company, The Ohio Mint, begins operations this month in Cooper Progress Park.
The company is a private mint that produces gold and silver rounds and bars. Rounds are coin-shaped pieces of precious metal, but they do not have a date stamp or face value and cannot be used as currency.
Private mints are allowed to use images on their rounds that are in the public domain, such as the Liberty Bell or Statute of Liberty. They can also create their own design. Rounds frequently have the mint's name or logo stamped on them, or a notation that it is privately minted.
Ron Parr, chief operations manager of The Ohio Mint, said the company will run minimal start-up steps for 30 to 60 days to get the bugs and equipment worked out. He was shooting for a Sept. 1 start date but said it will be closer to mid September.
“We'll have eight to 10 employees for the first six months. We'll probably grow to about 30 employees,” he said. “We hope to grow into the business and utilize other facilities at Cooper Progress Park.”
Born and raised in Mansfield, Parr said, “I've been wanting to get back to the area for 30 years. I'm happy to be home.”
Initially, the plan was to locate the company in Utah. Parr, who relocated from Utah to start The Ohio Mint, said he discovered Cooper Progress Park by accident.
“I was here buying equipment, and I thought I'd look around and see what kind of facilities are available,” he said.
He thought he had a building in Mansfield, but that did not work out. He checked Fredericktown, and then decided to go a little farther south to Mount Vernon.
“By chance we ended up at the Siemens plant. By chance we were immediately seated with Jeff Gottke,” he said. “I was flying out of town that day. We had a deal pretty much done that same day.”
"The Ohio Mint beginning operations is a big win for Knox County and an ideal use for Cooper Progress Park,” said Jeff Gottke, president of the Area Development Foundation and Knox County Land Bank. “Not only does it represent new manufacturing jobs, but it is a start-up that is well suited for the building's features. This kind of company is exactly who the land bank is looking for as a tenant."
Parr said that it took a little while to get things going.
“The environmental tests the buildings were going through, we had to allow those to be completed,” he said. “Everything worked out well.”
The Ohio Mint will lease the 17,260-square-foot former three-bay testing facility in the industrial park.
“It's a tremendous facility,” Parr said. “The Midwest has tremendous infrastructure and power. I didn't dare dream this big. Walking into this kind of facility with the runs and utilities already intact is a huge advantage.
“It's better than Christmas.”
Parr said that out west, there is very little light commercial space available and land is extremely expensive. Additionally, western facilities typically do not have the heavy-duty power capability The Ohio Mint requires. The 3,000 amps in the three-bay facility provides all of the power the new company needs.
“I think that with inflation you will see a return of companies to the Midwest to take advantage of this infrastructure,” he said. “More important, you have the people here who ran these facilities — control programmers and millwrights — resources locally that we can partner with as we get the facility going.
“This is a resource that the rest of the country has not discovered,” he added. “I think they need to discover it. I hope we can play a role in that.”
The Ohio Mint is a single plant right now, but Parr said that expansion plans have been put in place once the company gets capital from the Mount Vernon site.
Investor and Chief Executive Officer Ryan Best of Utah will handle the administrative end of operations. After visiting the Mount Vernon site, he, too, was impressed.
“The reason for Mount Vernon is because the facility is so nice for what we are looking for,” he said, adding that the power capability was a significant factor. “The building was better than anything we'd seen.
“It's been quite the adventure learning about moving heavy equipment from Point A to Point B, moving them on big riggers and semis,” he said. “But it's really fun seeing rounds being minted and being able to melt down gold and silver.”
Parr, who has been in the metals business for 12 years, said the impetus behind the start-up is the inflation scenario and rapidly rising prices.
“People tend to go to assets that appreciate as the dollar depreciates,” he explained. “Private-minted products are less-expensive solutions for the typical buyer.”
Because of an Ohio sales tax on bullion instituted in October 2019, the company will sell to wholesale businesses only, not to customers on a retail basis.
Noting that a number of companies moved out of Ohio when the tax became effective, Parr said, “We believe those problems are offset by the infrastructure and employee skill set available here.”
Gov. Mike DeWine has since signed a bill that allows a sales tax exemption for investment bullion and coins. The bill goes into effect Oct. 1 of this year.
Parr said he read about the bill but has not yet read the bill itself.
“From the article, it appears this is going to open the gate for Ohioans to not have to pay sales tax,” he said, adding that the bill levels the playing field between Ohio and states that have no sales tax.
Parr recognizes the significance and history of Cooper Progress Park.
“I am extremely grateful and aware of all the work they put into establishing these industrial bases,” he said. “We have to revitalize things. We can't be a nation of wealth if we don't produce.”