Sharonville Retains, Grows and Attracts



Photography provided by The City of Sharonville

On any given weekday, the population of Sharonville swells from about 13,500 to 39,000 due to an influx of people employed by a diverse array of businesses booming in this bustling burg.

We have a lot of people to keep happy,” says a smiling Chris Xeil Lyons, the city’s director of economic development.

It is the exemplary effort put forth by her department along with with city government officials and city service providers (think police, fire and streets) that helps maintain the growth and business-friendly conviviality earning Sharonville the moniker City of Progress.

And what a progressive path it has been, according to Lyons, who joined Sharonville’s team about four years ago, overseeing a swift rebound from the country’s economic recession. As liaison between city government and local businesses, Lyons has been instrumental in keeping a collective economic development eye focused on jobs and investments. 

Lyons’ three-fold goal: retain businesses, grow these businesses and attract new businesses.

“Sharonville is second to none in location,” says Lyons. “Our Interstate 75, 275 and 71 connectivity offers access to a diverse and educated workforce. It’s easy for employers to find the employees they need.”

That’s due in part to the fact that Sharonville is home to Great Oaks Technical Schools and Career Development Campus, the largest career and technical education district in the United States. In addition, the University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati State Technical College, Xavier University and many other colleges and vocational schools are a convenient 30-minute drive from Sharonville. Collaboration between Sharonville, Great Oaks and Cincinnati State ensures that any business can count on specialized training, certification, continuing education and customized services for its workforce.

 The city’s accessibility, skilled workforce and professional services have played a role in developing a strong manufacturing base, Lyons says. Sharonville has generated significant investments from the automotive, pharmaceutical and soap industries that has resulted in a diverse and sound manufacturing sector that continues to grow at a steady pace.

The Ford Motor Co., and the United Auto Workers union reached a new agreement in November that will lead to a $900 million investment in the Sharonville
Transmission Plant. Ford is the city’s largest employer, with nearly 1,700 hourly union employees. 

“This new agreement tempers any fears of a plant closure and solidifies Ford’s commitment to our city for many years to come,” Lyons says. 

In addition to manufacturing, Sharonville boasts excellent retail development possibilities and is also a renowned incubator of corporate office space. 

Make that world-class office space.

 “We have both Class A space leasing available at premium rates, as well as smaller office facilities,” Lyons says of the city’s more than 14 million square feet of commercial space. “The city’s business centers and office parks boast all the amenities and aesthetics of a big city – big windows, natural lighting, wood floors, Wi-Fi – without the hassles of having to navigate a huge downtown.” 

Sharonville’s economic development and revitalization accomplishments, as well as their business-friendly approach, recently resulted in the city being named one of the best places in Ohio to start a business by Nerdwallet.com.

While Sharonville has worked hard to earn recognition as a regional destination for new business and opportunity, retaining a number of successful, long-established companies has also been an important tenet of the city’s strategy.

“Sharonville wants to retain folks that are here, and have been here a long time, like Ford Motor Company and General Mills,” says Mayor Kevin Hardman. “We also know, however, that we have to have diversity in the business sector – not just old and new, but small and big, medical, industrial and commercial. That is how we remain successful despite the economic dips and curves that occur in all industries. They balance each other out.”

In addition to Sharonville’s excellent location and diverse business foundation, its tax structure also helps attract and keep businesses. 

Clearly a huge drawing card: Sharonville is one of the few cities in Ohio that does not levy property taxes.

 “As a city, we realize our success in providing services for our citizens is very dependent on the success of our business community,” says Hardman. “We have been very lucky over the last 30 some years, having survived on the earnings tax we produced as a city. We live within our means.

“Other cities may say, ‘We want XXX,’ so they figure out a way to get the money for XXX. We, on the other hand, have elected officials who say, ‘This is how much money we have, and this is how much we can do with it.’ ”

It is a philosophy that has paid off handsomely.

“Sharonville works diligently to provide strong police and fire departments,” Lyons says. “In fact, we have some of the most respected firefighters and police officers in the region. We know those are things businesses need.”

A fine-tuned Public Works Department is also critical to residents and business owners alike.  

“If the businesses can’t get their employees to work safely on a snow day, and the business fails, then there is no money for anyone,” Lyons says. “So we make it economically feasible to work in our city. We look at what incentives we can provide to companies to locate, or relocate here, and thrive.”

Lyons admits that Sharonville’s economic growth has faced its share of challenges. Those have not been insurmountable, however, and have been conquered with the city’s creative, can-do spirit.

One of these challenges is lack of land. “We have very little vacant land inventory and a significant amount of older buildings,” she says. “Our biggest challenge is to find creative, economical ways to redevelop these functionally obsolete properties and give them new life. We work closely with our prospects, identify their needs and find ways to help the projects come to fruition. 

Gorilla Glue is a perfect example. The family-owned company, which manufactures adhesives, moisturizers and tools, outgrew its headquarters in Madisonville. Their search expanded to several counties in Southwest Ohio and even Indiana. JobsOhio and the Ohio Tax Credit Authority awarded the company an incentive for staying in Ohio.

Sharonville worked tirelessly and creatively as possible, putting together a host of its own incentives. That diligence paid off when Gorilla Glue purchased the Gateway 75 building in city, a million-square-foot-plus facility. The project will create 320 new jobs and more than $23 million in capital investment.

 West Chester Protective Gear relocated to the Gateway 75 building in 2014 and occupies a quarter of the facility. They transformed the industrial building into a mix of corporate office and warehouse space. They have committed to creating 131 new jobs in the city.  

“Gateway 75 will soon boast more than 450 jobs and a $25.35 million payroll,” Lyons says. 

There are many more examples:

•  The 19,500-square-foot warehouse on about five acres at 2490 Commerce Boulevard that was purchased for $1.4 million by Cleanfuel Ohio Properties, LLC. The site will soon be the region’s first public compressed natural gas fueling station. 

•  McGohan Brabender, Inc., an employee benefits firm based in Dayton, relocated its Cincinnati headquarters. They recently moved into a 10,000-square-foot office at Summit Woods I. The company signed a seven-year lease for the Class A office space, citing its proximity to its existing office, available space to expand and its easy access from I-275 as reasons for selecting its new location.

•  John R. Jurgensen Co., founded in 1934, is building a three- story state-of-the-art facility on its current location at 11641 Mosteller Road. A third-generation family-owned business, the highway and commercial company is the 34th largest private company in Greater Cincinnati.  

•  ADSCO is building a 13,420-square-foot headquarters facility at 11400 Enterprise Drive. The company’s sales grew 22 percent in 2015. Owner Charles Folzenlogen says it was important to stay in Sharonville while relocating because of its convenience to the markets the company serves. ADSCO supplies automotive dealers and service shops with marketing and tools.

•  Semco Outdoor Natural Stone & Landscape
Supply, based in Perryville, Mo., with locations in Kansas City and Columbus, is an expanding family-owned company that will open its newest facility this year on 16 acres at the northwest corner of I-75 and I-275, creating 15 new jobs. Semco Outdoor Cincinnati, located at 11864 Chesterdale Road, offers the largest selection of outdoor living products in Greater Cincinnati. 

•  Cincinnati Sub Zero, which recently celebrated its 75th anniversary, is undergoing a major expansion. The company, a leading provider of temperature management equipment that serves the medical and industrial industries, has expanded its original Mosteller Road location six times.

•  Shoptech recently moved into Summit Woods Business Park. The larger space will help accommodate their growing operations. Shoptech develops and sells shop control system software to job shops, machine shops and other manufacturers. Shoptech has about 110 local employees and has plans to hire several more over the next few years. 

•  Park 42 Partners recently acquired Park 42. The property had been in bank-limbo for several years and was having a difficult time trying to market to new prospects. The new owners are making a significant investment to the 285,000 square-foot facility. 

An integral member of the economic growth team has been the Community Development Department, formerly known as the Planning Department. The renaming was purposeful, according to Hardman, because it symbolizes the combination of a multitude of activities and responsibilities. 

The department is charged with the task of facilitating and sustaining a coordinated and collaborative effort of public and private interests for the betterment of residents and businesses.

Community Development consists of the offices of Planning, Zoning, Residential and Non-Residential Construction, Code Enforcement, Property Maintenance, Flood Plain Management and Storm Water District Administration.

 “Mayor Hardman and the Sharonville City Council are certainly pro-business,” adds Lyons. “Our economic development efforts have the full support of our mayor, and we are fortunate to have a city administration that is responsive, accountable and approachable. Our top-notch Community Development Department facilitates economic growth through fast turnaround in issuing building permits, and gladly walks each new business through necessary zoning changes and variances.”

Hardman and Lyons praise the Sharonville Chamber of Commerce as a great partner. The chamber provides value to businesses through network, benefits, education and marketing opportunities. 

For information on business opportunities in Sharonville, you can reach Chris Xeil Lyons at 513.563.1144 or by email at clyons@cityofsharonville.com.

Sharonville’s Northern Lights District: Revitalization in Motion

Sharonville’s Northern Lights District (NLD) – the city’s bright star in its ongoing successful revitalization saga – is set to become the meeting, athletic, performance and entertainment center of the region.

It is home to the exquisite and recently expanded Sharonville Convention Center at 11355 Chester Road. In early 2017, it will be connected to the new $14 million
Hyatt Place Hotel. Just down the road, the Princeton Community School District’s new Viking Village at 100 Viking Way offers another exciting development draw.

“We are thrilled to welcome the Hyatt Place brand to the Northern Lights District,” says Mayor Kevin Hardman. “In addition to the approximately 75 jobs that the hotel will create once it is opened, the hotel will also bring many other economic benefits to our community.”

Sharonville development officials, elected officials and business leaders agree that the Convention Center/Hyatt Place Hotel connection will bring a new and dynamic product to the district. 

Customers are clamoring for the combination.

“The arrival of Hyatt Place @ The Sharonville Convention Center provides a superior enhancement to our world class convention center,” says Jim Downton, executive director of the convention center. “Our customers are thrilled to have an opportunity to contain their events and hotel needs all under one roof. This is a one-of-a-kind amenity that allows us to continue to build and grow economic impact for our community and Hamilton County. 

“Hyatt is a hotel brand people know. We broke ground in December 2015, and we can’t get the building up quick enough.”

Owned by the City of Sharonville, the convention cen-ter, which was built in 1994, completed a $25 million renovation in May 2012. That provided a contemporary yet comfortable location for conventions, banquets, trade shows and other public events. The multi-level facility, which is 15 miles north of downtown Cincinnati near Interstates 75 and 275, includes a 20,000-square-foot exhibit hall; 14,000-square-foot ballroom; 8,200-square-foot room that can be divided into three spaces; 7,400-square-foot room that can be divided into five spaces; 6,300-square-foot room that can be divided into four spaces; three additional break-out rooms; electronic signage and message boards; Wi-Fi; innovative projection wall at the entrance to welcome guests; and built-in registration areas and ticket counters. 

“The renovation nearly tripled the convention center’s event space, increasing our capacity to host larger events with more economic impact,” says Downton. “Since we reopened in 2012, we have been very, very successful.”

More than 200,000 visitors passed through the doors in 2014.

Of course, when one hears the term “convention center,” one often envisions a big, gray box of a building. But nothing could be further from the truth with the
Sharonville Conventional Center. 

“Glass, natural lighting, tile, wood – we’re more in alignment with a fine hotel  – and that is the reason 75 percent of our customers are regional corporations like P&G, Kroger’s, Pure Romance, Macy’s and General Electric,” Downton says. “The convention center has also been embraced by regional and state convention associations. That’s their expectation – they don’t want a big, gray box; they want a high-end facility with a great reputation for service and excellent food.”

And that is exactly what customers get. Contemporary meeting spaces. Unparalleled customer service. And delicious meals prepared on-site by a renowned chef and served by Ovations, an award-winning catering team.  

“When the convention center is successful, its economic impact is felt throughout the Sharonville community,” says Downton. “When the convention center is full of customers, so are the other many local restaurants and hotel rooms.”

The Sharonville Convention Center is not only a first-class event center, it is also Greater Cincinnati’s premier planet-friendly facility, earning the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). 

“The Hyatt Place will fully complement the Sharonville Convention Center, and improve the center’s competitiveness when courting events and conventions,” says Chris Xeil Lyons, Sharonville Economic Development Director. “The convention center and the hotel will be great partners, making Sharonville and the Northern Lights District an increasingly sought-out destination for meetings and events.”

Historically, the convention center is at the heart of the revitalization and economic development that has unfolded, through good and bad economic times, along the Chester Road Corridor. 

Locals who remember the late 1970s through the late 1980s remember well that Chester Road was booming with several hotels and fine restaurants – Marriott,
Howard Johnson’s, Windjammer, Cork & Cleaver, Victoria Station and the ever-popular Red Dog Saloon, to name a few. 

Then, in the late ’80s, the Emperor’s Wok location was acquired to build the Sharonville Convention Center. Other establishments began closing as new developments began to pop up. 

The NLD Master Plan was released in July 2007, its main goal to develop a distinctive and vibrant hospitality, entertainment and office district. Described in the vision statement as a year-round destination with “inclusive offerings,” the NLD would offer a unique, local flavor with hotels, retail and locally owned restaurants surrounding the Sharonville Convention Center. The synergy among these multi-land-use developments was expected to create a welcoming, vibrant gateway environment appealing to a wide range of visitors.

A secondary goal envisioned the creation of an aura celebrating visitors’ arrival to the district, displaying one-of-a-kind lighting, streetscaping and architecture. A third goal emphasized the creation of pedestrian connections while accommodating automobile access.

Sharonville’s NLD future looked bright.

And then came 2008, and the economy tanked.

Behold Viking Village

In January, 2010, voters in the Princeton Community School District passed a bond levy to replace the existing junior and senior high school buildings that were fraught with infrastructure problems and non-compliance with many federal standards.

The new middle school wing opened in 2013 and the high school wing opened in 2014. 

Viking Village, the centrally shared space between the two buildings, opened in 2015.

The $140 million construction project, school and business officials agree, shows the strength and faith of an intently focused, forward-thinking community willing to support a bond issue during a recession.

 

The new facility will serve as a revitalization magnet for Sharonville’s NLD by pulling in visitors and developers alike.  

Here is why:  Located at 100 Viking Way, the $500,000 facility offers world-class sports and performance venues such as:

• A 500-seat natatorium.

• A 2,500-seat arena-style gymnasium.

• A 1,200-seat performance theater with full orchestra pit and music studios for vocalists, band, orchestra, piano, jazz and theater.

• Physical education and athletic facilities that include weight rooms, wrestling rooms and auxiliary gymnasiums.

Site renovations are underway for new softball and baseball facilities, a middle school track, parking and football and soccer fields along the high school’s former site on Chester Road.

“The Princeton School District, home to the sixth-largest public school facility in the state, is scheduled to host several regional and national events, and as such, we envision Northern Lights to be the premier destination for corporate, performance and sports visitors,” says Lyons. “The state-of-the-art facility, with its top-notch performance and athletic platforms, is sure to bring throngs of visitors to the area. These visitors will be looking for great food, perhaps hotel accommodations or nearby shopping.  The possible economic benefits are endless.”

According to Lyons, Viking Village and its visitors, combined with the convention center’s more than 200,000 annual visitors – 70 percent of whom are corporate – and the 300 new jobs to be created by Tata Consulting Services (TSC), a global leader in IT services, makes the NLD attractive to restaurant developers. The NLD, which has received $175 million in recent investment, she says, is within 600 miles of 54 percent of the U.S. population, and 56 percent of its buying power

“Our next step in Northern Lights development is to secure additional full-service restaurants for the district,” says Lyons. “These restaurants are critical to satisfying the current and future demand of our hotels, convention center and Princeton’s Viking Village.” 

The NLD has many sites available for development, several with direct highway visibility. In 2010, the city received a Community Entertainment District (CED) designation. This allows the city up to 15 D-5j liquor licenses within the CED boundary. The CED is an additional incentive for restaurants and entertainment establishments to locate in the NLD.  

Corridor Improvements Have Been Approved

In an effort to continue the revitalization of the NLD, Sharonville City Council has approved the continuation of Chester Road corridor improvements extending from the convention center to Kemper Road. The stamped sidewalks will be widened and retention walls will be installed at three locations. Additionally, the city will eliminate poles and provide services underground where feasible. The $2.9 million project will complement the $6 million in corridor improvements from Sharon Road to the convention center.

One of the area’s most prominent commercial real estate developers, Neyer Properties, purchased the
Triangle Office Park in 2015. Located at the corner of I-75 and I-275, the site has a daily traffic count of almost 250,000 per day. Neyer is working to redevelop the highly visible location in 2016.

For information about the Northern Lights District visit their website at NorthernLightsDistrict.com. You can reach Economic Development Director Chris Xeil Lyons by phone at 513.563.1144 or email at clyons@cityofsharonville.