$28 million deal helping major West Chester Trade Center expansion

NorthPoint Development is in the process of constructing buildings 8 and 9 in the highly successful West Chester Trade Center at Union Centre Boulevard and Ohio 747.
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NorthPoint Development is in the process of constructing buildings 8 and 9 in the highly successful West Chester Trade Center at Union Centre Boulevard and Ohio 747.

Credit: NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

The Butler County Port Authority this week cleared the way for a $36 million investment in NorthPoint Development’s West Chester Twp. Trade Center with a bond and sales tax deal.

The port board voted unanimously on Tuesday to facilitate selling $28 million in bonds to build two new buildings in the Trade Center that will total 500,829-square-feet and a sales tax break on building materials. NorthPoint estimates the total capital investment in the business center at Union Centre Boulevard and Ohio 747 will be $36 million.

Butler County Development Director David Fehr said the sales tax exemption is worth $859,897 to NorthPoint and the port will receive about $171,000 in fees for its services. Originally only seven buildings were imagined in the Trade Center, these will be numbers eight and nine.

“Based on the dollar amount these are huge investments,” Fehr said. “They obviously have pretty good confidence they are going to be filled because you’re not going to spend $28 million and have a building sit vacant. Yes, they are taking a bit of a risk but they are pretty confident they can fill the space.”

The once cash-poor Port Authority has built up a next egg of $1.847 million from project fees like this one and the board plans to invest in economic development projects countywide. Before former executive director Mike McNamara left a year ago he was developing a plan for investing the money.

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When Scott Timmer, the new assistant county administrator and the county’s lead for the port, starts next week, Fehr said he expects he will rekindle that project pretty quickly.

Under Ohio law, port authorities can own, finance, construct and lease real estate including land, buildings and equipment. A port authority that buys or owns property for an expanding business, construction materials and other construction costs are tax-exempt. Also, ports can issue taxable and tax-exempt bonds, offering borrowers longer-term, fixed-rate financing than the terms of a commercial loan.

Fehr said NorthPoint doesn’t have any committed tenants yet but are talking to some people. With no definite tenants signed, the company didn’t qualify for any tax abatements because those are tied to job creation. He said the company estimates it has created more than 1,000 jobs at the Trade Center and a total capital investment of $116 million.

West Chester Twp. also provided $500,000 in TIF allocations for roadway improvement last September for the project. Barb Wilson, West Chester’s director of public information and engagement, said all tolled NorthPoint received $5.1 million in TIF funds for roads within the development in 2018, and another $1 million in 2019 to help cover the cost of a bridge along Ohio 747.

Township Trustee Mark Welch said the company didn’t expect to fully be paying property taxes until 2023, but the whole project that was approved in 2018 has propelled forward at an incredible pace. To-date the company has paid $1.3 million in property taxes, according to the county auditor’s website.

“They are way, way, way ahead of schedule on the buildings because it’s been such a great project and they’ve rented the space so quickly,” Welch said. “They’re going to be contributing to the West Chester property taxes years before they had planned to. West Chester agreed to that, well it’s going to take this long to get it up and running, well we were willing to do that, now it’s like wow.”

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