COLUMBUS, Ohio (COLUMBUS BUSINESS FIRST) — The city of Columbus has approved a series of tax abatements for industrial projects leaders say will benefit the Hilltop.

The work is planned for the area between Trabue and Roberts roads, the city said. In total, eight projects received the incentives in exchange for 400 jobs and 5 million square feet in development.

Mike Stevens, director of development for the city, said projects such as these will raise the median income and create work. According to city data, 600 to 700 Hilltop residents already commute to that area for work.

“The Hilltop was a thriving neighborhood, a middle class community that had a lot of manufacturing jobs historically around it. And a lot of those jobs have left over time because of the globalization of the economy,” Stevens said. “That’s had a really hard impact.”

The Delphi plant at one time employed 5,500 workers and the White Westinghouse plant employed 4,000 workers.

“We’re trying to shift that back and make sure those individuals that are actually pursuing jobs will see that there’s opportunities,” Stevens said. “That’s why we’re using these abatement tools as an investment.

“At the end of the day, it’s about those residents who feel there haven’t been opportunities for them and they haven’t benefited from the growth that the rest of the community has had.”

Growth in the industrial sector

Before the pandemic, demand for industrial space already was rising in Central Ohio.

The surge in online shopping during Covid-19 drove the need for more warehouses. From 2020 to 2021, demand for space grew locally by 60.8%, according to JLL.

Matt McCollister, senior vice president of economic development at One Columbus, previously told Columbus Business First that new warehouse space is an important key to the area’s economic health.

Columbus has a pipeline of up to 12.2 million square feet of potential industrial space that could close over the next six months, Stevens said. By comparison, from 2006 to 2020, demand averaged 1.7 million square feet per year.

As of November, the Central Ohio submarket contained 95.5 million square feet of industrial space with 8.6 million square feet under construction, said Dan Wendorf, senior managing director at JLL.

The Hilltop

Stevens said although the Hilltop-adjacent site is attractive because there is a talent pipeline close by, people who live in the area might not have the skillset that a company needs.

That’s why the city is working to bring in developers that have job training programs.

“It’s in the best interest of these businesses to do that because they need to get that talent as well, especially right now because it is hard hiring people,” Stevens said. “If you want the city to use tools like this to invest in the project, (companies) need to align with our public policy priorities.

“And that’s making sure that all our residents have the opportunity to access good paying jobs.”

The recent portfolio of industrial jobs coming to the city has an average pay of $26.57 per hour, Stevens said. Many offer health care, retirement savings and, in some cases, childcare for employees.

Research Alloys, which received a 10-year, 50% tax abatement in 2019 when it moved from Grandview to the Hilltop, has a starting salary of $16 to $20 an hour, said John Cusato, the firm’s vice president.

Research Alloys buys and sells hundreds of types of metals across the globe.

When Research Alloys was looking to move, they had goals of finding a bigger space, being more environmentally-friendly and staying in Columbus.

The incentive allowed them to do that, Cusato said, adding that the extra space also allows Research Alloys to process more metal, more efficiently.

Moving to the Hilltop allowed them to process metals inside, which is better for the environment because it is cleaner and there is less water runoff, Cusato said.

The incentive also requires that Research Alloys add new employees.

“The incentive for investing is a good thing for a business owner or a real estate investor, it is a win-win,” Cusato said. “It helps the city with job creation and helps a user or an investor with the property.”

Projects that are awarded development incentives will be reviewed annually by the Tax Incentive Review Council to ensure that job creation, payroll generation and capital investment expectations are met.

The city’s current portfolio of industrial abatements is presently over-performing job creation and payroll expectations.

The city projected that the 49 industrial projects currently receiving incentives would create 5,364 new jobs and $41.4 million in payroll. But those projects are have delivered 6,791 new jobs valued at $94.6 million in payroll, according to the city.

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