Perseverance Pays Off
Photography provided by West Chester-Liberty Chamber Alliance
If there is one word to describe Joe Hinson’s 20 years at the helm of the West Chester-Liberty Chamber Alliance, it’s perseverance.
“Envision a new (Union Centre Boulevard) I-75 interchange with just basically dirt, no buildings and a road going to nowhere. The plans showed it being a connector, but after less than a mile going west, it just stopped,” Hinson recalls. “There was no Marriott Hotel, no office buildings. We looked out our window and all we could say was, ‘This is what it looks like now, and this is what it’s going to be in the future.’”
Inspired by Peter Drucker, Austrian-born American management consultant, educator and author, Hinson, president & CEO of The Chamber Alliance who hails from West Chester, faithfully adhered to the writer’s adage, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” And so, Hinson – brought in to lead The Chamber Alliance – and a new chamber of commerce office team of four, stayed committed to and kept repeating their vision of what West Chester and, eventually, Liberty Township and the I-75 Growth Corridor would one day be. Two decades later, commerce abounds with Union Centre Boulevard now a road to, well, just about everywhere.
The growth of West Chester, followed by Liberty Township and the I-75 Growth Corridor, dramatically increased with the completion of Union Centre Boulevard (UCB) in November 1997. It was the first new interchange in Southwestern Ohio in more than 25 years. Total cost of the project was $29 million. Since UCB’s opening more than 20 years ago, West Chester has realized almost $4 billion in new investment, more than 34 million square feet in new construction and about 40,000 new jobs.
Additional interchange projects opening along I-75N to Dayton – Liberty Way, Butler County Regional Highway and Austin Boulevard – have resulted in a positive residual effect in Liberty Township while bringing Cincinnati and Dayton closer together. The development of UCB and West Chester’s Central Business District is ongoing yet today.
It All Started With A Map
“One of the resources that used to be popular with chambers of commerce that helped us sell the future was area and regional maps,” Hinson recalls. “So, I took one of our maps, laid it out on the conference table at our office, then went into the kitchenette and got the largest pots and pans we had and used them to trace three circles on the map to showcase what was going to happen here locally and the impact Union Centre Boulevard would have on the rest of our region.”
The first circle encompassed West Chester and Liberty Townships, focusing on where they straddle I-75 – the business epicenter; the second circle surrounded the area between I-275 at the Hamilton/Butler County line north to I-675 south of Dayton – the I-75 Growth Corridor; and the third circle included I-275 in Northern Kentucky to I-70 north of Dayton – our region. Hinson’s continuous message: “This is the growth area, and this is how we see our region.” And that’s when perseverance came into play.
“We had a plan, we stuck to the plan, we continued on, without any real visuals other than our map with the three circles, just saying the same thing over and over, showing what the three circles represented,” Hinson explains. “Once people saw it, they said, ‘Yeah, I get it,” and once the buildings started going up, and the businesses came, it all became a reality. The early days when we were getting people to believe in what the future looked like was paramount to what we have here today. I never had any doubt that the shared vision would become what we have experienced the past 20 years.”
Some Key Regional Developments in West Chester and Liberty Townships since the opening of Union Centre Boulevard
• Opening of Procter & Gamble R&D Facilities in 1998 and 1999
• Opening of Butler County Regional Highway in 1999
• Opening of Cinmar & Cornerstone Consolidated – Frontgate Outlet Center in 2000
• Opening of Cincinnati Marriott North in 2000
• Opening of Voice of America (VOA) Centre in 2001
• Opening of Streets of West Chester in 2003
• Opening of VOA Park in 2003 • Opening of IKEA in 2007
• Opening of Amylin Pharmaceuticals (now AstraZeneca) in 2007
• Relocation of Fortune 500, AK Steel’s Corporate Office to West Chester in 2007
• Opening of West Chester Medical Center (now West Chester Hospital) in 2008
• Opening of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Liberty Campus in 2008
• Opening of Liberty Way in 2009
• Opening of The Commons of Liberty Falls – Mercy Health in 2009
• Opening of North Pointe – GE Aviation 2009
• Opening of Miami University VOA Learning Center in 2009
• Opening of Liberty Center in 2015
• Opening of Cincinnati Children’s Proton Therapy Center in 2016
• Opening of Topgolf in 2016
• Opening of The Christ Hospital Medical Center-Liberty Township in January 2018
Currently, West Chester and Liberty Townships are deemed a regional destination for Frontgate Outlet Center, IKEA, VOA Park and Museum, Cincinnati Children’s Liberty Campus Proton Therapy Center, Liberty Center and Topgolf to name a few. Additional new construction of note will include a Premier Health - Atrium Medical Center facility, iFLY Indoor Skydiving and Phase II of Liberty Center in Liberty Township and a TriHealth Medical Center facility in West Chester.
Liberty is looking to expand its business footprint with a vision for a Milliken Road interchange at I-75, and Cox Road extending north to State Route 63. Also, a walkability study was conducted recently for pedestrian bridges in a three mile radius which includes pillars, Liberty Center and Voice of America Park.
“There continue to be tremendous development opportunities in Liberty and West Chester, and it’s important that we continue to capitalize on them for sustainability,” Hinson adds. “That’s why the West ChesterLiberty Chamber Alliance is so passionate about what we do. We’re not even close to the tip of the opportunity iceberg. We’re excited about it, so for us, it’s The Chamber Alliance 24/7 in support of our communities.”
No two hours, no two days, are ever alike, he observes. “New residents and businesses are moving here every day. People from other cities, other parts of the world. This is becoming the business epicenter of our region, everyone wants to be here, or least be connected here. I-75 is priceless. This is where the action is – the connector between Cincinnati and Dayton, and the catalyst in the developing I-75 Growth Corridor. It’s ever-changing, and that’s what makes it fun and exciting.”
"There continue to be tremendous opportunities here, and it’s important that we continue to capitalize on them. That’s why the West Chester-Liberty Chamber Alliance is so passionate about what we do. We’re not even close to the tip of the opportunity iceberg. We’re excited about it, so for us, it’s The Chamber Alliance 24/7."
Value-Added Chamber Initiatives that have been produced over the past 20 years
• Leadership 21 – Developing Leaders for the 21st Century
• Welcome Center – provides information on Chamber activities and community events for members, guests and visitors to our area
• Women 4 Women – Monthly meetings focusing on women’s challenges and issues at home and in business
• Regional Business Expo – Region’s Largest Business Exposition Event along the I-75 Growth Corridor between Cincinnati and Dayton
• Women of Excellence – Honoring Women in the region who do extraordinary things for the past 17 years
• SEBC Workforce Academy – Customized Workforce Training with Butler Tech, Miami Regionals and The Chamber Alliance
• Business After Hours – Let us be your last meeting of the day, social event held at a Chamber member location once a month for Chamber members
• 60 Second Connect – Business card exchange and networking introduction to fellow Chamber members in a fast paced setting. Speed Networking, presented twice a year, is open to future members.
• The Everest Award – Honoring Leaders and Legends along the I-75 Growth Corridor
• NEXT YP – connecting emerging Chamber leaders, young professionals 21 – 40 focusing on social, education and the community
• Jingle Mingle – Region’s largest suburban business/social networking event
• The HUB Business Center – Helping Unleash Business with partners Access Business Finance, Cincinnati State, SCORE and The Chamber Alliance • Chamber U Leadership Academy (3rd Quarter, 2018) – Leadership for K-12 teachers and administrators
Obviously, Hinson points out, the Union Centre Boulevard interchange had already been built when he arrived on the chamber of commerce scene, so he did not play a part in that aspect of the area’s development. But the West Chester-Liberty Chamber Alliance quickly became part of the area’s business growth team.
“We’re like the company BASF and their commercial from several years ago that said, ‘We don’t make the products you buy, we make the products you buy better,’” he explains. “We came in, recognized what was in front of us, established our vision, and said, ‘We want to help enhance and grow our area, and help provide opportunities for sustainability any way we can.’ We just wanted to be part of the team. We didn’t create the interchange, we just played a role in maximizing the opportunities around it. A lot of people have come together to make all this happen, and we are very proud and appreciative of what’s developed here, and very proud of the roles we’ve all played in making a difference.”
Tom Farrell, a member of the Liberty Township Board of Trustees and a former long-time West Chester business owner, believes one of The Chamber Alliance’s tag lines, “Connecting People and Possibilities,” sums up the key to the organization’s overwhelming success in helping to grow not only the business sector but the West ChesterLiberty Township residential community as a whole.''
“I have been involved with the chamber since coming to the area in 1995,” says Farrell. “A lot of chambers talk about how different they are and what impact they make on an area and the community, but they don’t really follow up. What Joe and the West Chester-Liberty Chamber Alliance have done over the years is always connect us to businesses, residents and leaders to help us accomplish what we’ve needed to accomplish. I think their passion and dedication to the community shows in everything they do. And as a member of the chamber, I believe that passion and dedication rub off on all the members, making the community so much better because together we are so much stronger.”
The West Chester-Liberty Chamber Alliance is located at 8922 Beckett Road, West Chester Township, OH 45069. For more information, call 513.777.3600 or visit www.thechamberalliance.com.