Springfield decides against going after Amazon HQ project

Clark County economic development leaders decided against going after a proposed $5 billion Amazon headquarters because they said it could disrupt the local economy and it would have been futile.

It might have been tempting to throw Clark County’s hat in the ring for the online retailer’s second U.S. headquarters, said Horton Hobbs, vice president of economic development for the Community Improvement Corp.of Springfield and Clark County, economic development arm of the Chamber of Greater Springfield.

But the project is so big it would have created numerous problems and local employees would still have opportunities to work for Amazon if the project landed in Southwest Ohio, he told members of the CIC late last week.

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Amazon’s proposed headquarters could provide as many as 50,000 jobs but competition is fierce nationwide. Dayton and Cincinnati have submitted bids for the site, pitching the combined region as a possibility.

But even if Springfield somehow succeeded at landing it, Clark County might not have the resources needed to sustain a project of that scale.

“This, obviously, has been highly publicized and therefore inherently political,” Hobbs said in an email to CIC members. “While there may be some temptation to submit a site like Nextedge (technology park) for this project, I feel strongly that it would be a futile effort of both time and energy.”

Among the problems, he said the area might not have the workforce needed for a project that big and the project could cause disruption to the local economy.

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At the same time, local economic development officials are moving forward after announcements this year that Topre America Corp. and Silfex will both open facilities in Springfield. Topre, an auto parts manufacturing firm, has pledged to invest $55 million and create 85 jobs in a 146,000-square-foot facility at the Champion City Business Park.

Silfex, which manufactures silicon products for a variety of markets, will invest about $223 million and create about 400 jobs here in the next several years at the former O-Cedar plant on Titus Road.

And local economic development officials will host a grand opening for Topre on Tuesday, Nov. 7, Hobbs said.

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Both projects are signals that Clark County has a capable workforce, said Mike McDorman, president of the Chamber of Greater Springfield. Firms developing big projects like Silfex often look for reasons to disqualify a city from their search, he said.

At a Springfield Rotary Club meeting last week, Silfex executives said Clark County’s workforce was one of the reasons it decided to locate in Springfield.

“They’re looking to discount you,” McDorman said of companies conducting similar searches. “Their biggest issue with Springfield was, could we get them the workforce. There were 40 communities out there that couldn’t answer that question.”

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City officials will likely discuss an incentive package for Silfex later this month, said Tom Franzen, assistant city manager and director of economic development for Springfield.

The project was especially important locally because Silfex is a high-tech manufacturing firm that will diversify the local economy, he said, which now relies heavily on the auto industry.

“This is one where we pulled out all the stops,” Franzen said of local efforts to secure the agreement with Silfex.

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