Roads in, rails in, studies done, ... Ready!
Under the tagline “Roads, Rail, Ready,” the Wapakoneta Area Economic Development Council has spent the last several years preparing a 476-acre parcel of land to become an Ohio Certified Job Ready Site that will allow companies to build factories on the property known as the West Central Ohio Industrial Center (WCOIC).
To do this, the council needed to perform all the necessary analytics and create an infrastructure that was conducive to industrial capacity.
One requirement that most companies have before they agree to build on a property is that the location is within 10 miles of an interstate highway. In the case of the WCOIC, County Road 25A borders the property, allowing for non-stop access to Interstate 75.
“The site is essentially on an interstate highway,” Wapakoneta Area Economic Development Council Director Greg Myers said. “You can get to I-75 virtually within a half mile of the site, which is a very positive thing.”
Myers said Wapakoneta’s number one asset is its location.
“Where we are, there’s easy access to I-75,” he said. “This provides us with the ability to easily reach our markets in the Midwest and the South.”
Wapakoneta is positioned so that a one-day drive allows companies to reach 50 percent of the U.S. and Canadian populations, as well as 60 percent of manufacturing companies, Myers said.
From an automotive perspective, the fact that most auto plants are in the Midwest allows for business owners in Wapakoneta to easily reach these factories via I-75.
“I-75 is referred to as the ‘auto corridor of the U.S.,’” Myers said. “The Midwest is saturated with auto plants, and our location in West Central Ohio puts us at the heart of that.”
Another requirement for job ready sites is that it must have a mainline railroad that is connected to the property.
This required Myers to work with CSX Transportation, a railroad company that serves 23 states in the U.S.
In order to connect to the mainline, CSK needed to create a rail line turnout, or spur, that would stop about 150 feet inside the property line. This allows for railcar storage on that parcel of land so that sites can easily be rail serviced.
Myers said that some refer to the turnout as a “railroad to nowhere,” since there currently aren’t any factories that reside on the job ready site. Myers hopes that soon it will become a “railroad to somewhere.”
It took a full year from the time Myers first contacted CSX until the rail turnout was finished. He said it was important to complete this railroad project before any company decides to build on the property.
“If you’re a company, you want to get your building under construction as soon as possible,” Myers said. “You don’t want to waste a year getting a rail line to the site, so companies are going to choose a site that already has rail in place.”
Myers said he doesn’t know exactly where the rail will go because there is no end user, or company, that needs it yet. He said if there is a factory built on site that will require rail service, it would only take a few months to lay track on the property.
“The time consuming part is getting the connection to the mainline rail, which is already done,” Myers said.
Beyond the roads and rails, a job ready site certification requires that all analytics be done on the property.
A phase one environmental study was completed first, which determined if there were any environmental hazards or waste conditions that could delay the project or cause it to relocate.
Next, an endangered species review was conducted. Myers said this can potentially ruin a project. He gave an example of a project in Allen County, where the endangered Indiana Bat was found to be residing on the property, causing the project to relocate.
An archeological review was also conducted, which was meant to determine if there were any significant Native American artifacts that were buried on the site.
“They literally dug little 18-inch pits every 100 yards or so to make sure we weren’t disrupting any ancient archeological treasure,” Myers said.
There was also a wetlands delineation study, where the United States Army Corps of Engineers came and determined that there are no wetlands on site that would be adversely affected. This process took seven months to complete.
Last, a geotechnical report was conducted. This determined the type of soil that is on site, and how far you’d have to go down to get load-bearing foundations in place. Myers said for the engineers who have to construct a new factory, this information is important.
After all this was completed, the West Central Ohio Industrial Center was deemed an Ohio Certified Job Ready Site.
“It wasn’t an easy task,” Myers said. “What we’ve accomplished in those years of preparing the site was a pretty major undertaking, and it has positioned us well.”