Columbiana encouraged to consider enterprise zone

COLUMBIANA – A company located in the city’s Industrial Park since 1996 is looking to expand yet again and the founder encouraged City Council Tuesday night to move forward with a plan to implement an enterprise zone.

Council discussed the creation of a zone in May and, if approved, would offer incentives such as property tax abatements to non-retail businesses interested in locating to Columbiana or existing businesses looking to expand.

Columbiana County Port Authority Director Tracy Drake and county Development Director Tad Herold are guiding the city through the process, and City Manager Lance Willard has said the creation of a zone would be good for economic development.

Enterprise zones have already been established in Wellsville, St. Clair Township, Leetonia, East Liverpool, East Palestine and Center Township.

Bob Bertelson of A Plus Powder Coaters in Columbiana said he is looking to add about 20,000 square feet to the existing facility in the industrial park and plans to add more jobs over the coming years.

“I would like to see it expedited as soon as possible,” he said of an enterprise zone. “We are in negotiations for our building.”

He added that since 1997 the company has added six additions to the current building and employs 28 people full time.

According to the company website, the first building was 75 feet wide and 150 feet long, and has been expanded four times since its inception, covering 40,000 square feet of production and office space.

The company is located on four acres with room to expand and also has two acres across from the facility targeted for future growth. It offers powder coating, media blasting and packaging.

Mayor Bryan Blakeman said the local Ruritan Club, of which he is a member, toured the business about six weeks ago and believes it is eligible for the benefits of an enterprise zone.

“You are reinvesting into the city every year,” he said.

Should the city create an enterprise zone, tax incentives would be negotiated between Columbiana and eligible businesses only after an agreement is in place. The city is not obligated to award agreements to interested businesses.

A zone can be established anywhere within city limits, but additional zones cannot be set up later, and Herold had suggested last month that council establish the entire city as one zone to cover every area.

Whether that will be done was not discussed Tuesday, although Willard did say they cannot establish a zone that lies in both Columbiana and Mahoning counties, as the city falls under both. A zone would have to be established for each county individually, he said.

“I think it would be a good thing to attract new businesses and create reinvestment,” Blakeman said of creating a zone in general.

Willard said whether the city meets the second criteria for classification as a distressed enterprise zone is still being looked into.

According to the Ohio Development Services Agency (ODSA), zones are either considered distressed or non-distressed, with distressed falling under at least two of the following criteria:

– 125 percent of the state average unemployment during the most recent 12 months.

– At least 10 percent population loss between 1980 and 2000.

– Prevalence (minimum of 5 percent) of vacant or demolished commercial or industrial facilities.

– 51 percent of the population is below 80 percent of the area’s median income.

– Specific vacant industrial facilities, and income weighted tax capacity of the school district below 70 percent of the state average.

Willard said the city already meets one requirement since it is located within the Appalachian region.

Council could have a vote on the matter around July 15, he added.

Once council votes, the legislation will be forwarded to the county commissioners for their approval and then certified by the ODSA, a process that typically takes 60 days.

A Plus Powder Coaters is not the only business to go on the record encouraging a zone. In May, Duane Reichard of Reichard Industries said they are looking to add a new facility to their South Main Street location and a zone would be beneficial.