Whitehall to market tech center near Port Columbus

Steve Wartenberg, The Columbus Dispatch

February 18, 2014

Whitehall officials hope to attract businesses and jobs to their city with the creation of the Airport South Commerce & Tech Center.

The 350-acre business park consists of a variety of properties, including vacant buildings, along Poth Road between Hamilton and Yearling roads.

Officials are touting its location - half a mile from Port Columbus - existing infrastructure and available space for manufacturing and warehouses. The city, which has lost hundreds of jobs during the past several years, plans to erect signs identifying the park and will market it locally and regionally to a range of companies.

"We've been working to reposition the Poth Road corridor and create an identity for the area that highlights its strengths," said Zach Woodruff, Whitehall's director of development.

These strengths include the central location, said Mike Simpson of NAI Ohio Equities.

"It's close to the airport, there's great highway access and rail access, and this all lines up to make it an attractive location for manufacturing and warehouses," Simpson said.

FedEx has a large distribution center in the new business park.

No construction has been announced for the park. Instead, Woodruff said, the initial goal is to lease the existing empty space, which includes the former Oasis Corp. manufacturing site and Kroger warehouse.

"There are over a dozen owners of various pieces of property and land in the park," Woodruff said. "There's about 50 acres of undeveloped or easily redeveloped land and half a million square feet of empty space. ... And the beauty of these spaces (is), they're customizable for any business model."

The city also will seek tech companies and soon will start adding fiber optics and make that available to companies in the business park, Woodruff said.

The area has had activity in the recent past. The empty Kroger site, about 450,000 square feet, was bought by Robinson Investments of Bellefontaine for $2.9 million in June, Franklin County auditor's office records show.

Jerry Robinson, the company's manager, was not available for comment.

"They're working to get some leases," Woodruff said of Robinson.

The Oasis site includes three buildings. Building No. 1 is about 350,000 square feet and empty, Woodruff said. Glazer's of Ohio, a beer and wine distributor, occupies the majority of the space in the two other buildings.

The property was bought for $6 million by Los Angeles-based MA 265 North Hamilton in 2005, auditor's records show.

Officials of nearby Port Columbus were not aware of the creation of the business park.

"This is the first I'm hearing of it," said Robin Holderman, the Columbus Regional Airport Authority's chief asset and development officer. " ... We're glad to hear that people are interested in development around the airport."

The airport authority and the Daimler Group recently announced plans for a $21 million project just north of Port Columbus that could include two buildings that combine a warehouse with office space and two call centers.