‘The home run we’ve been looking for’

Plans months in development were unveiled Friday to bring a massive industrial operation with up to 800 employees to the former General Motors assembly plant in Moraine.

The city of Moraine filed an application for a $700,000 grant from Montgomery County to help fund a $250 million project at the 4.2 million-square-foot plant off Ohio 741 and Stroop Road.

A tenant would use 1.4 million square feet of that space and employ between 630 and 800 people, according to the application for a county Economic Development/Government Equity, or ED/GE, grant that Moraine city officials filed with the county Friday. The tenant was not identified.

The project, codenamed “Project Southbound”, will require funding by ED/GE, the city of Moraine and JobsOhio, the state’s private development arm, Moraine’s application said.

The work would involve advanced materials and manufacturing, as well as logistics and distribution. Jobs to be created would yield a $25 million annual payroll at an average annual salary of $32,000 to $35,000, the application said.

The project would involve 75 to 100 acres and require more than 500 parking spaces. The project will have rail accessibility, according to the application.

Roughly three million items per year would be produced at the site, with daily logistics and distribution activities. “Product material will be delivered from ports and shipped throughout the United States,” the application said.

Moraine’s application also includes a letter from a county senior engineer that said the county has water mains sufficient to support a large tenant’s domestic, production and fire water needs, along with sanitary sewer needs.

Moraine City Manager David Hicks said the operation will not be auto vehicle assembly, but he declined to give more details about the identity of the company considering the site.

“They’re pretty solid on this site,” Hicks said. “We think they’re committed to this site.

“In my opinion, this is the home run we have been looking for at the plant,” he added.

Initially, the Dayton area was in competition with other sites for the project, but Hicks said Friday he believes “that we are the selected site.”

The city’s application said that Ohio is in direct competition with Michigan for the project.

Joe Tuss, Montgomery County administrator, said Ohio government has been shepherding the project, and he cautioned that these kinds of projects “are never done until they’re done.”

“Certainly, a project of this magnitude is something that everyone is pleased with,” Tuss said.

Moraine put the expected income tax boost from the company’s presence at the plant at $450,000 to $500,000 a year.

“It’s really a driver that would really reinvigorate that entire quadrant along Springboro Pike (Ohio 741),” said Mike Davis, Moraine development director.

The project has been in the works since May and has involved Moraine, Montgomery County, the Dayton Development Coalition and JobsOhio, according to a letter included in the city’s grant application.

“As you are well aware, with 630-800 manufacturing jobs, this project could be a ‘game changer’ for our property, the city of Moraine and the region,” Dean Miller, Industrial Realty Group vice president, director of leasing, wrote in a letter dated Oct. 31 to Moraine’s Davis. “Happily, we have all recognized that and worked well together to provide competitive options to bring this project home for the region.”

Industrial Realty Group (IRG), based in the Los Angeles area, bought the plant in spring 2011 and renamed it “Progress Park.” Since then, IRG has sought tenants to fill the plant’s 4.2 million square feet.

Stu Lichter, IRG founder and principal, acknowledged the ED/GE application, but declined to comment beyond that.

A spokesman for Ohio Gov. John Kasich declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the Dayton Development Coalition did not return a message seeking comment.

GM ceased assembling vehicles at the plant in December 2008 and let go 1,000 workers. The closure and job cuts coincided with the start of the Great Recession. The plant has employs 4,000 or more workers at various points over the decades.

The plant was GM’s last vehicle assembly operation in the Dayton area, although GM has an ownership stake in the DMAX truck engine plant, also in Moraine.

While plant buildings have been left mostly intact, IRG oversaw the removal of tons of tooling and machinery. That removal work was largely completed last year.

WCR Inc., a company which makes and refurbishes plate heat exchangers, signed an agreement in the summer of 2012 to lease 60,000 square feet and bring 25 jobs to the plant.

Other companies that have made use of the space include robotics designer and manufacturer Yaskawa Motoman; New Age Logistics, a freight shipping firm; QCSA Auto Auction, an online auction service ; and Syncreon, a GM parts distributor that has its main operations in Trotwood.

There have been reports that foreign automakers have looked at the plant, but none have moved work there.

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