EDITOR'S NOTE: This is Part Two of a two-part series. Part I was published on Dec. 29.
ONTARIO ─ Industrial Commercial Properties, the company redeveloping the former GM plant in Ontario, is experienced in revitalizing former automotive sites.
The developer is based in Solon and has worked on former Ford and GM plants in Lorain, Moraine and Batavia, Ohio. On the other hand, the Adler Group of Miami, the former developer and owner of the Ontario site, focuses on constructing apartment towers and office buildings.
Barrett Thomas, economic development director for Richland Area Chamber and Economic Development, said ICP has many connections with companies looking for space. Its expertise will benefit the redevelopment at the Ontario site.
Besides, the company is only 90 minutes away from Ontario. Thomas said that accessibility is helpful to establish a relationship.
ICP and its partner, Industrial Realty Group (IRG), purchased the former Ford Transmission Plant in Batavia Township in 2010. Several businesses are now operating in the 1.8 million-square-foot building, including Huhtamaki, GE Aviation and Dedienne Aerospace.
Although those companies employ far fewer people than what Ford did, Batavia Township Administrator Adele Evans said it's wonderful to see cars in the parking lot rather than an empty “concrete jungle.”
When Ford closed the plant in 2008, it still had 1,700 employees. At its peak, it employed 2,500 people. The site’s closure hit hard at the area’s economy. Evans said it affected the township, the local school districts and numerous entities that received tax dollars from the plant.
Taking a different strategy from that of Ontario, Evans said Batavia Township Trustees and Clermont County Commissioners were determined to keep and redevelop the building rather than raze it.
That strategy saved time going through a process with the Ohio Environment Protection Agency to ensure the site was ready for redevelopment.
By the time ICP and IRG tried to acquire the former Ford plant, private lending sources were frozen because of the Great Recession in 2008.
While the developers ultimately received a loan from the Ohio Department of Development, Evans said Clermont County had to put $2 million into an escrow account with the state in case the companies would miss a payment, which they never did.
Ten years after the start of the redevelopment, Huhtamaki, a food packaging supplies manufacturer from Finland, now owns most of the building. Evans said the company turned a heavy industrial use facility into a food-grade factory. The transition was a victory of the redevelopment.
Just like Ontario residents were excited to learn Charter Next Generation is going to operate on the former GM site, Huhtamaki’s presence was a big deal for Batavia. Evans said then Ohio Gov. John Kasich came to town to announce the news.
“It was a huge win for the State of Ohio, Batavia Township and Clermont County,” she said.
The revitalization is not over.
Chris Salata, chief operating officer for ICP, said the company is in the design stages for a 200,000-square-foot speculative industrial building, the same facility it will build on the Ontario site.