Incentives, Training Aid Columbiana County Businesses

SALEM, Ohio – The structural steel erected at the site of Hickey Metal Fabrication’s newest building in Salem represents one of the most recent projects for C. Tucker Cope & Associates. It’s hardly the only one in Columbiana County keeping the Columbiana-based design-build construction firm busy. 

The 25,000-square-foot building under construction is Hickey’s seventh. Its vice president, Adam Hickey, at a Sept. 19 groundbreaking, noted plans are in the works for an eighth.

“We’re actually glad to be involved in this project and hope to build a long-term relationship with them,” said C. Tucker Cope, president of the company.

“We’re staying busy. The industrial market is staying very busy right now with manufacturing, aluminum extrusions, stuff like that – because companies like Hickey actually make products for some of the aluminum companies we deal with, too. The manufacturing outlook is strong right now,” Cope says. 

Current work in the county includes a 100,000-square-foot addition at Envelope 1 in Columbiana that is half complete and a 24,000-square-foot project at R.L. Craig Inc. in Lisbon that is nearly finished, Cope says. His  company is also preparing to begin work on a foundry at Zarbana Extrusions in Columbiana. 

“We’re geographically blessed to be smack dab between the Shell cracker plant in Monaca, Pa., and if the proposed cracker plant in Belmont County comes through,” says Penny Traina, executive director of the Columbiana County Port Authority.

The county already is host to an array of industries that include steel extrusion and agriculture, as well as “one big additive manufacturer,” Traina says.

To meet the need for in-demand space, the port authority owns World Trade Park in Leetonia, where Traina reports the authority is in the early stages of building a 60,000-square-foot spec building.

The port authority has also issued a request to municipalities, townships, villages and cities in the county for land of 50 acres or more to develop a new industrial park. 

One tenant of World Trade Park is Humtown Products, which Traina says has grown from one 3D printer to 12.

Humtown Products occupies more than 110,000 square feet at Leetonia and is looking for more space, says its president, Mark Lamoncha.

“The building is getting pretty full,” Lamoncha says.

Another 60,000 to 80,000 square feet would accommodate another two to four years of growth for his business.

Humtown is seeing a shift from 3D sand printing for prototypes to commercialization to “people buying huge quantities of repeat orders rather than just one-offs,” Lamoncha says.

The port authority is part of the Columbiana County Economic Development Consortium, which includes the county economic development department, land revitalization corporation and auditor’s offices.

“We work with all the manufacturers in the county,” Traina says.

The team primarily goes on retention/expansion visits to learn business needs and discuss local incentives that are available, she says. The top request from companies is funding for machines, including robots.

“We get a lot of calls from businesses looking for between 60,000- and 100,000-square-foot manufacturing space,” she adds. 

“It’s important that we’re building a spec building because there is definitely a need. A lot of people are interested in properties that are ready to move into,” says Tad Herold, county economic development director.

While Traina works directly with businesses, Herold says he works to ensure government is providing a “hospitable environment for businesses” by working on issues such as tax abatements and utility requirements.  

The county offers real property tax abatements through its enterprise zone program that has provided incentives for development in Leetonia, Columbiana and Yellow Creek Township, according to Herold.

“The enterprise zone program was an important facet of the South Field Energy [power plant] in Yellow Creek Township two or three years ago,” he says. “It also has been a major part of each of the developments at the World Trade Park in Leetonia.”

In addition, Pennex Aluminum has used the enterprise zone program to execute three projects over the past 10 years and Haltec Corp. in Leetonia used it when it bought the port authority headquarters building.

Herold says he has helped communities with Community Reinvestment Area programs, which can be used in both residential and commercial development. He describes the city of Columbiana as the “most aggressive.”

He has also helped Leetonia, Lisbon and, more recently, Perry Township with its rollout of a CRA program.

Another project the county is working on is a potential expansion by Global-Pak in Columbiana, which manufactures bags and pails.

Herold could offer few details at this stage.

“We are looking at options to improve utilities to the Global-Pak site,” he says. “That’s about all I would be comfortable in saying. I don’t want to overpromise and underdeliver.”

The city of Salem provides help in several ways to support development, including a Community Reinvestment Area that offers a 50% tax credit for commercial development, says Mayor Cyndi Dickey. It provided a 50%, 15-year property tax abatement for Hickey, she notes.

The city also helps with annexation deals as well as providing infrastructure and safety services, Dickey says. 

Salem’s Sustainable Opportunity Development Center – known as the SOD Center – partners with businesses to help them secure grants and other help, including state and federal resources.

“There’s a lot of training opportunity funding as well as grant funding for supporting some of these projects,” says the SOD Center executive director, Julie Needs.

Manufacturers, including of metals and original equipment, represent most of the companies coming to the SOD Center for help, according to Needs.

“We’re also seeing some small manufacturing that falls into the supply chain with what we already have here,” she adds.

One of SOD Center’s main tools is its workforce development training center, which offers short-term training.

“It’s here to assist when [companies] bring an entry level person on board. We help with upskilling them to where they need to be an effective, efficient employee and for them to retain these employees and help them grow,” she says.

The center offers considerable technical skilled training, particularly in industrial maintenance, and conducts robotics classes in conjunction with Youngstown State University.  

That work could take the form of connecting companies to financial help, connecting them to state resources or supporting workforce development, Needs says.  

Pictured at top: Leo Hickey, Salem Mayor Cyndi Dickey and general contractor C. Tucker Cope stand in front of Hickey’s expansion.