Monday, October 1st, 2012
By Shelley Grieshop
Distribution center in works
County seeking grant to install utility lines to area
  CELINA - Mercer County is seeking a $500,000 infrastructure grant for upgrades along state Route 29 to help snag a new business that would employ 70 full-time workers.
County economic development director Jared Ebbing would not release the name of the business, only saying it would be a distribution and logistics center. The company hasn't finalized the deal, but Ebbing is optimistic.
Tentative plans are for a 400,000-square-foot building along the four-lane highway east of Celina.
"The company will blend well into the environment there," Ebbing said.
The business - with the help of a private site selection company - chose Mercer County from among 50 other Ohio venues, he said.
"In my three years as economic development director, we've only had one other opportunity like this," Ebbing said.
The proposed site is at the southwest corner of state Route 29 and Harris Road, near the Auglaize County line. The land is owned by Mercer Energy, which several years ago sought to build an ethanol plant on the property. After a controversial battle with neighbors led to a court case, company officials nixed the project.
Ebbing said the prospective company will not manufacture anything at the plant and will be a "low-profile" business with minimal truck traffic. Other distribution centers operated by the company are very well maintained, he added.
Land along the four-lane highway from Celina's corporation limit to the Auglaize County line is referred to as the county's Industrial Corridor, however, most of it is undeveloped farmland. The $500,000 Community Development Block Grant would help extend water and sewer service from the city of Celina to the proposed site - a move that likely would seal the deal with the proposed company and make the area more enticing to others, Ebbing said.
"We want to make this a real industrial corridor and extend the opportunity for more businesses down the road," he said.
The infrastructure project, costing $1.15 million, would extend utilities from the RJ Corman distribution center on Albers Road to the new site and include road improvement work, Ebbing said.
Paying for the work would be the $500,000 grant, a $150,000 Ohio Department of Transportation grant, a $200,000 state roadwork grant, $300,000 from the county's economic development agency and possibly a revolving loan. Ebbing said the majority of the county's share or cash match likely would be funded through smaller grants he is seeking.
A public hearing on the CDBG application is 3 p.m. Oct. 16 at the county commissioner's office. The county will receive notification in 30 to 45 days.
Ebbing said his office has worked since May to bring the proposed company to the area. He's excited about the employment prospect and the positive ripple effect it could have on area businesses and residents.
"This adds another dynamic to the types of jobs we already have here," he said.
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