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Economic development picking up steam in Wood County

Wood County is home to some of the most unique geography and infrastructure in the region, and developers are noticing.

Two of the longest highways in the country — I-80/​90 and I-75 — intersect in Rossford. CSX operates three lines in portions of the county, and Norfolk Southern runs another.

Toledo Executive Airport in Millbury is seeing more corporate flights than ever before, according to the manager.

“People are starting to realize Wood County has tremendous assets,” developer Brian McMahon said. “There’s a shift in where growth and economic development are going to be. It used to be all in Lucas County.”

Wood County has seen an abundance of development in recent years, and more is on the way.

Amazon.com Inc. announced in July it is building a 700,000-square-foot fulfillment center and bringing at least 1,000 jobs to Rossford at the Crossroads. Perrysburg Township-based First Solar is building a new plant in Lake Township before the end of the year, adding 500 jobs.

Across State Rt. 795 from First Solar’s main facility is a Walgreens distribution center, where a large expansion project will add 350 jobs. An additional 150 will be be created when NSG Pilkington North America opens a 500,000-square-foot facility in Troy Township.

In late July, the Wood County Port Authority and Ohio Department of Transportation agreed to set aside $150,000 each to study potential infrastructure improvements to the 795 corridor, bordered by Wales Road to the north, State Rt. 20 to the south, and between I-75 and I-280.

“It’s all that area with highway, rail, water, and sewer, and a lot of green space and brown field,” said Port Authority attorney Rex Huffman. “We’re trying to be ready when [developers] show up. We’re trying to get ahead of the planning and anticipate mainly roadway points that may need attention.”

Mr. Huffman said I-75 interchanges throughout Wood County, such as Wales Road and Lime City Road, are of high interest to developers because there is an abundance of land, unlike many of the highway’s Lucas County interchanges.

Experts and officials agree the various political entities in Wood County work well together and are committed to being proactive when seeking out potential development. One example is municipalities ensuring preferred zoning is in place prior to a developer looking at a parcel.

Proper zoning can save months, sometimes years of red tape.

“You’re almost not even considered if you don’t have the proper zoning in place,” said Rossford Mayor Neil MacKinnon. “It’s all speed to market now, so they’re not going to put the time and resources into changing zoning. They’d rather take the path of least resistance and get a site as close as possible to where they want to be with proper zoning.”

Rossford could be in position to benefit more than any city in the county. Prior to securing Amazon, the NAI Harmon Group announced plans in 2016 for a $70 million to $85 million entertainment district near Hollywood Casino and opened the $75 million Harmon Business Park in the Crossroads last year.

The Crossroads appears destined to experience major changes in the coming years, especially with the addition of Amazon. Developer Duane Ankney owns 205 acres contiguous to the Amazon site and said the online retail giant should attract many other forms of development.

“Right now, we have a number of potential buyers we’re talking to,” Mr. Ankney said. “There are certainly other portions of industry that need to be located near Amazon because they are in some way servicing Amazon or associated with them.”

Mr. Ankney said he envisions the Crossroads filling up with a mixture of retail, light industrial, and residential. He also owns 35 acres less than a mile from Amazon zoned for apartments.

Mr. McMahon believes Amazon could jump-start further development not just in Rossford, but the entire county.

“When you have a company as strong as an Amazon selecting your geographic location over every other location they looked at in northwest Ohio, that gives a comfort level to other companies about selecting that area for other development,” he said.

 

Posted By: The Toledo Blade on September 1, 2019.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

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