County hitches wagon to NASA star

PERKINS TWP. A new high-technology industrial park is going up near U.S. 250 to use NASA's reach for
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010



A new high-technology industrial park is going up near U.S. 250 to use NASA's reach for the stars to pull jobs into Erie County.

The Erie County Commissioners announced Thursday they are building the 24-acre industrial park on Huron Avery Road.

As NASA ramps up work at Plum Brook Research Station, testing spaceships and other equipment for the agency's planned return to the Moon and trips to Mars, commissioners hope high-tech companies associated with Plum Brook will move to the park, said Commissioners' Chairman Tom Ferrell.

"We already have interested parties," Ferrell said, but added the companies that have made inquiries can't be named yet.

Commissioners are seeking a $900,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Development to fund infrastructure, such as roads, for the new industrial park. Local officials have been working with Gov. Ted Strickland, state Rep. Chris Redfern, D-Catawba Island Twp., and state Sen. Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, and they are optimistic about obtaining the money, Ferrell said.

"The governor loved the project. I talked to him personally about it," Ferrell said.

The new industrial park will be on the south side of Huron Avery Road about 2,000 feet east of U.S. 250.

County officials hope the park provides easy access to Plum Brook Station, particularly after NASA carries out plans to move the installation's entrance to U.S. 250.

Milan Township trustees approved rezoning the land earlier this week to allow commercial development.

The property already had been chosen as the site of the county's new county municipal court, which becomes a full-time operation Jan. 1 and is moving from a site it has outgrown at 150 W. Mason Road.

The county initially paid $140,000, or $28,000 an acre, for a five-acre property for the new court building.

Commissioners, who are allowed to discuss real estate transactions in executive session, then quietly negotiated the acquisition of an additional 18.8 acres for $291,400, bringing the total cost of about 24 acres to $431,400. The land was purchased from Richard Schlessman.

No name has been chosen for the new industrial park, although suggestions including the words "Erie County High Tech" have been tossed around, Ferrell said.

The site has good access to the Ohio Turnpike and is also about a mile away from the county landfill. The county hopes methane gas produced by decomposing garbage at the county landfill can be used to produce gas or electricity or hot water for the industrial site, although it remains to be seen if that's financially feasible, said Jack Meyers, the county's sanitary engineer.

Meyers is negotiating with a Norwalk company, Bio-Gas Technologies Ltd., over a possible contract to generate electricity from landfill gas. Meyers said he is trying to reach an agreement by the end of the year.

The new park is being run by the Erie Community Improvement Corporation, the county's public corporation for economic development.

The commissioners appointed a three-member subcommittee consisting of Assistant Prosecutor Gary Lickfelt, Erie County Auditor Tom Paul and Erie Regional Planning Commission director Alex MacNicol to study possible changes to the Community Improvement Corporation.

For months commissioners have said job creation is one of their top priorities. Their list of goals for 2007, announced at the beginning of the year included "Develop a job-ready site within Erie County."

The new industrial park meets that goal, Ferrell said.

He said the commissioners plan to announce a new list of goals for 2008.