March 13, 2018
The Honorable John R. Kasich
77 S. High Street, 31st Floor
Columbus, OH 43215
Dear Governor Kasich:
The Columbus Region takes pride in public-private partnerships and strategic collaboration. The business community works hand in hand with our allies in government to advance a thriving Central Ohio community.
We applied this approach in working with the City of Columbus and Franklin County to prioritize and submit Opportunity Zones within the region, which will allow investors in those low-income census tracts to be eligible for tax incentives created under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. As you work to identify qualified zones for final designation by the U.S. Treasury, we urge your consideration of our strategically selected recommendations.
As the fastest growing region in Ohio, Columbus has seen tremendous economic development, job growth, increased per capita income and business expansion. Unfortunately, however, some low-income neighborhoods of the City have not equally shared in that progress. The Opportunity Zone initiative offers a unique tool that will spur economic activity, and attract and drive concentrated private sector investment in qualifying low income communities.
The 49 tracts submitted by our public sector partners (45 by City of Columbus; 5 by Franklin County) represent areas that we have collectively targeted for development, redevelopment, neighborhood revitalization, commercial activity and job creation. Designation of these tracts will be a catalyst for equitable growth throughout the county.
Central Ohio is expected to grow by more than a million people by 2050. Creative incentive programs like Opportunity Zones will aid in accommodating that expansion by creating and increasing access to jobs, opportunity, and quality healthcare in historically high-poverty areas. For example, the City’s recommended zones align with areas targeted by the region’s four major hospital networks, which are focused on expanding care and resources to underserved patients.
Two regions are of particular interest to the Columbus Region Logistics Council, an initiative of the Chamber dedicated to advancing the logistics industry:
On the west side, the City’s recommended zones (including tracts 82.10 and 82.30) offer ideal proximity and truck access to Interstates 70 and 270, as well as rare access to rail spurs. Not only does this this area provide large vacant warehousing and distribution sites, but it would also serve a growing need for space under 300,000 square feet for e-commerce and last-mile delivery needs. This is an urban location in a population center that will allow businesses great access to labor, further facilitated by regular Central Ohio Transit Authority service.
On the south side, the City’s recommended zone to the immediate northwest of Rickenbacker International Airport (tract 95.90), one of the Columbus Region’s most valued logistics assets, offers incredible development opportunities on land that is largely designated as Greenfield. While highway access and proximity to this logistics hub ensure the area will eventually develop, incentives will significantly speed up that progress.
The Chamber would like to bring your attention to one additional zone that was not prioritized by the City, but that the Chamber believes is an incredibly worthwhile tract worthy of designating (tract 88.2). This zone includes an impressive redevelopment plan initiated by Chamber member, Fortner Upholstering Inc., which has recently invested $750,000 to restore historic property that is now their HQ location. Fortner has purchased and is planning the redevelopment of adjacent property with the intention of investing an extra $250,000 to create a new business campus encompassing 8 acres of manufacturing space. Additional private investment of $1.2-1.5 million over the next three years include a winery and events venue, a brewery, and arts, theatre, and fashion creative spaces, as well as other small businesses. The goal is to attract and spur even greater public and private sector economic development and jobs to the south side of Columbus that was formerly known as an “industrial powerhouse,” and is adjacent to the former Columbus Castings plant.
Finally, the Columbus Chamber represents businesses in an expansive 11-county region. Tract 505 in Union County is of great interest to us because of an exciting project underway by Chamber member Origin Malts, a business that plans to make a substantial $45 million investment that will certainly activate additional opportunities for small businesses and farmers across the entire state.
On behalf of the more than 1,500 members of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, we urge favorable designation of tracts 88.2 and 505, as well as the 49 tracts proposed by the City of Columbus and Franklin County as Ohio Opportunity Zones.
Thank you for your consideration.
Vice President, Government Relations
cc: Director David Goodman, Ohio Development Services Agency
Franklin County Legislative Delegation