Good things are happening for economic development in Bowling Green.
Businesses are not only expanding but are choosing the city to call home.
Kati Thompson, executive director for Bowling Green Economic Development, spoke at Thursday’s BG Kiwanis Club meeting.
She said her office focuses on site and infrastructure development, fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, and quality of life.
“We’ve definitely broadened our scope of strategic initiatives. … It had always looked primarily of attraction and retention of industry,” she said.
She shared pending projects; the names were chosen at random and there is no correlation between it and the business.
Project Beethoven has started an expansion with 57 new jobs and an $18 million capital investment.
The city recently won Project Bulk, also known as New Produce Solutions, which is a subsidiary of Gordon Food Service. It purchased a facility on Napoleon Road.
This is Gordon Food’s first U.S. produce manufacturing facility, Thompson said.
“This is a really big deal for their organization,” she said. “It’s a big deal for our community.”
The company will create 200 jobs with a $40 million investment, she said.
Project Gym Shoe is a possible expansion of a local company.
Thompson explained that the way economic development works in the state is Jobs Ohio receives worldwide leads from companies looking to expand and sends them to all of the local economic development offices.
If we have a site, we respond, she said.
Currently, there are 16 projects pending.
“We will not win all of those and frankly I wouldn’t want to win all of those. That would be too much right now for us to handle,” she said.
“We’re seeing this huge amount of lead activity come through and we have a lot of great sites,” she said.
Abbott Industries chose Bowling Green over Findlay for its manufacturing facility that will create 450 jobs with a $550 million investment. Groundbreaking will occur in April.
Phoenix Technologies has built a third building, which will add two new lines and increase its recycling capabilities to 40 million pounds of resin per line.
The former Wall Street Journal site on Brim Road was sold last year to Vital and FHR North America LLC, which produce rare metals for the solar and medical industries.
Woodbridge Park has been expanded to include direct access onto East Wooster Street. That opened up 40 acres for development. The city built a 100,000-square-foot spec building with a $1 million grant and there is a potential user in the pipeline.
To promote sustained economic growth, her office conducts business retention and expansion visits to the city’s key employers every year.
“We love doing those visits, they’re always so inciteful,” Thompson said, adding there were on average 50 visits per year.
For the first two years on the job, she kept hearing desperation from businesses who could not find employees. This year, many were at full employment.
Thompson said 80% of growth comes from existing business expansion, which is why she regularly conducts those visits.
She gave a shout out to Rosenboom, which has had success in employing high school students. The company was recently named Tech Prep Business Partner of the Year award.
“I can’t say enough about the ways in which they have interacted with our high school students. …” Thompson said
Many of the local manufacturers are following in Rosenboom’s footsteps because they’ve had so such success working directly with schools, she said.
One of the best ways to diversify our local economy is to grow from within, Thompson said.
“We want to make that sure we are creating opportunities for those who start businesses to be successful right here in our community instead of having to leave to get the resources they need,” she said.
She has expanded the scope of economic development to other areas, including housing.
A development on Brim and Newton roads that will add 130 single-family homes should break ground in early 2024.
There are discussions with other developers, but no decisions have been made, Thompson said.
“There’s reason for great optimism for the future of Bowling Green,” said Mayor Mike Aspacher. “A lot of that is due to the efforts of Kati.”
Businesses are choosing to locate and expand in Bowling Green, he said.
Thompson, who has been with BGED since 2020, continues to own and operate Eden Fashion Boutique, a contemporary women’s clothing store in Downtown Bowling Green which opened in 2016. In addition, Thompson, along with three other female entrepreneurs, created Firefly Nights – a nonprofit that hosts a four-part festival series in the downtown.