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Kenton Poised for Retail, Industrial Growth in 2016

Kenton is well positioned for growth in both the industrial and retail sectors heading into 2016.

Kenton is well positioned for growth in both the industrial and retail sectors heading into 2016.

That’s the opinion of Jon Cross, president and CEO of the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance. He presented a year-end report to members of Kenton City Council on Monday night. Cross is optimistic about future development along the U.S. 68 South industrial corridor. The reason for the optimism is the availability of a prime site – the former rail logistics center on the west side of U.S. 68, across from Golden Giant, he said.

A national site selector earlier this year identified the site with its rail access as a key area for future development.

After a recent meeting with the owners of the property, the Jim Jacobs family, Cross said they are changing their strategy. Originally planned to be a logistics center to serve the wind development field, they now are looking at it for industrial development, Cross said. “They have a major investment in the project and they are not going away,” he said. They would like to put additional capital into the site.”

Cross said there is room for up to a 500,000-square-foot industrial building on the property or several smaller manufacturers. Plus he noted the city’s goal of wanting to upgrade sanitary sewer service to the area will help make the site more marketable.

“It makes us excited that the city’s goals for infrastructure improvements are lining up with development,” Cross said.

The same can be said about the Ohio 67 East retail corridor. He said the city’s plan to add a traffic signal at the corner of East Columbus and Jacob Parrott Boulevard/Morningside Drive will benefit future development of the former Hardin Central property.

Equity Investment Group of Fort Wayne, Ind., has purchased the 12-acre site from the Kenton Board of Education.

Cross said not only is the city lucky to have sold the site intact, but Equity is a professional development group. “They have a very broad reach,” he said. “They are a major player” in the development business. “They’re very committed to working with us … They know they have a city excited about them” which is not always the case, he said. “We’ve made the right first impression,” Cross said.

He noted it already has been announced that Dollar Tree wants to locate on the far east side of the lot, but a plan is needed for the rest of the acreage. Cross said it could be a mix of housing, retail shops and restaurants. He said the key will be “strategically going after what’s not here.”

As for the other school site, the Espy property off U.S. 68 South, Cross said there have been some development leads but termed them “very distant.” He said people are interested in the location because of the development along U.S. 68.

Another area where the city is working with a developer is Ohio 31 at the corner of County Road 140. Leffel-Grimm Enterprises has a two-acre site that it wants the city to annex, with part of the site to be the new location of the Fastenal store. There would be room for another building on the property as well, Cross said.

Kenton is moving forward with the annexation as well as looking into extending sanitary sewer service to the site.

Cross announced that the Alliance will be launching a new website next year on which communities in the county can be highlighted."It will be an online resource guide for businesses to get the feel and flavor of communities,” he said.

The Alliance is planning a new tourism guide for the county next year as well, Cross said.

He also reminded everyone to stop in the Alliance office on Friday between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. for an open house and retirement party for Jon Hohn. He is stepping down after eight years as economic development director.