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Springfield leaders say site will attract new jobs

Navistar helps make former plant site a marketable business park.

It took a decade to open the Champion City Business Park for development, and the 300 jobs the site could attract won’t arrive overnight.

But city and economic development leaders said the roughly 30-acre site will provide the city with an additional tool to attract new companies to the area, while providing an attractive space for local companies that are looking to grow and expand.

The business park, which opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday, was the result of collaboration between several local governments, economic development organizations and help from Navistar, said Jim Bodenmiller, Springfield City manager.

“We pulled together funds from a lot of different sources,” said Warren Copeland, Springfield’s mayor. “We’re grateful to all the people who participated in that process.”

The new business park is just one part of a larger effort to make space available for a variety of different types of companies to move to the area or expand, said Tom Franzen, Springfield’s economic development administrator. The park could attract several light industrial companies, providing space to create hundreds of new jobs.

Earlier this month, local officials also hosted a ribbon-cutting for Prime Ohio II, an $8.5 million project to attract companies to a 200-acre industrial park along I-70. The goal, Franzen said, is to have a portfolio of properties available, providing flexibility for companies interested in moving to Springfield.

Both Prime Ohio II and Champion City took years to develop. But both sites show the city and county are making a significant investment that will pay off in the future with new jobs and revenue for the region, said Horton Hobbs, vice president of economic development for the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s going to come alive again, and that’s extremely exciting,” Hobbs said of the Champion City site.

The site, near the intersection of Lagonda and Belmont avenues, has a history dating as far back as 1882. International Harvester shifted its operations to the Lagonda Assembly Plant in the 1920s to manufacture and assemble trucks, and the site was the longest-running manufacturing facility in the state when it closed in 2002.

But instead of abandoning the property, Navistar helped the city acquire the site and eventually redevelop it into a business park that will be used to attract and retain jobs for area residents.

“Frankly, at a time when a lot of companies walk away, Navistar stepped up and did the right thing,” Bodenmiller said.

The ceremony Friday also included a road dedication in honor of the late Jim McGregor, a business leader who spent much of his life promoting workforce development in Clark County. A road leading into the Champion City cite was named McGregor’s Way.

The McGregor family has a long history in manufacturing at the site, said Rep. Ross McGregor, R-Springfield, and Jim McGregor’s nephew. Ross McGregor said the city has done a lot for his family, and they are committed to staying engaged to promote Clark County.

“We’re deeply touched and moved to be recognized in such a meaningful way,” Ross McGregor said.

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