Jerome Township Trustees presented their vision for an Innovation District, outlined and shaded in blue above. An economic impact study indicates the master planned business park could generate between $633 million and $760 million for the area. The Innovation District is intended to attract high-tech businesses and research and development facilities. (Graphic submitted)
Union County could soon be home to one more Innovation District.
Jerome Township Trustees called a special meeting Tuesday to share their vision for a 741-acre “pre-zoned, master planned business park.”
The Jerome Township Innovation District would encompass the area south of Warner Road and north of the Union County/Franklin County line, between the CSX railroad tracks and Industrial Parkway.
Prior to the meeting, Trustee Joe Craft said the Innovation District would allow officials to be proactive, rather than simply reacting to developers.
“I want Jerome Township to be able to control its own destiny,” he said.
While located in the township, officials expect the benefits of the Innovation District to extend beyond its boundaries.
Director of Departments Douglas Stewart said the development of the area is contingent on partnerships with the City of Marysville, the township’s water and sanitary sewer provider, and Union County, which maintains infrastructure like roadways.
At full build-out, over 20 years, the Innovation District is expected to create between $633 million and $760 million in tax revenue for the area, according to an economic impact study authored by Schottenstein Real Estate Group.
The revenue would be generated between water and sanitary sewer costs paid directly to the City of Marysville; the Jerome Township Tax Incremental Finance (TIF) District, which encompasses the proposed Innovation District; and earnings tax within the Joint Economic Development District (JEDD) between the township and Marysville.
Along with the financial benefits, Craft said the vision for the Innovation District is a response to requests from residents for a clearer plan for growth.
“We’ve heard you and we have a plan,” he said during the formal meeting.
Craft said the trustees used feedback from residents and the zoning commission to formulate a “seven-point plan” that will guide the development of the business park.
The township goals include protecting life and safety; protecting existing single-family homes, farms and businesses; preserving the rural character of the township; increasing the level and quality of township services; protecting the township from future annexations; increasing school system revenue; and forming public/private partnerships.
Craft said the Innovation District would check all of those boxes.
He noted that residents often share that they do not want development to undermine the rural character of their community.
Don Hunter, an author of the study with Schottenstein Real Estate Group, said officials are aiming to “keep business development where it is” and concentrate commercial areas near roadways.
He said the Innovation District essentially “refines existing zoning,” as the “area is already slated for commercial” development.
Craft also emphasized that attracting businesses will increase the tax base while adding a minimal number of students to the school district.
“They are (land) uses that pay more than they use in services,” he said.
Stewart noted that the Innovation District would require commercial developments to “carry the load of taxes” in the township, shifting the burden from residents.
He said the increased tax revenue would allow the township to “give back to the public” through improved services and infrastructure.
Marysville City Manager Terry Emery echoed his sentiments.
“We’re taking that money and going right back into infrastructure,” he said during the formal meeting.
Ultimately, township officials said the Innovation District will allow them to facilitate controlled, smart growth.
“I know the growing pains are tough,” said Trustee C.J. Lovejoy. “We are trying to set the township up for success.”
Hunter said the master planned business park will give the township power to be selective regarding which businesses operate in the community.
“We’re not going to just take anybody,” Stewart added.
The Innovation District is intended to attract “clean, high-tech uses, advanced manufacturing and research and development” facilities.
Hunter said this allows officials to capitalize on the investments already made along the U.S. 33 Smart Corridor. He said he could see autonomous vehicle research facilities operating in the district.
He said the businesses in the Innovation District will have “highly compensated workers.”
The necessary workforce is already in the region, Hunter said, as the Columbus area offers “highly educated” potential employees.
He noted that new businesses in the area do not necessarily result in new residents. He said much of the current workforce lives outside the jurisdiction they work.
Even so, Craft said officials are aware of the housing needs in the area.
He said future proposals for the Innovation District will likely include “student or workforce” housing.
The economic impact study indicates the vast majority of acreage is anticipated to be advanced manufacturing, research and development and office space, while 64 of 741 acres are designated as “multi-family.”
Hunter said it is a “certainty” that the area will be successful in attracting businesses.
“This is a proven location,” he said, adding that he felt only the lack of infrastructure has prevented previous development.
Hunter noted that the economic impact study is intended to be used “as a playbook” for officials to make decisions about infrastructure spending.
Moving forward, he said next steps include creating a development plan, an infrastructure plan that includes roadways and utilities and continuing to build public/private partnerships.
Trustee Chair Megan Sloat said she is particularly “excited” about the opportunity to work closely with Marysville and Union County to “make our future and the future of our county as a whole a real success.”