“Envision will lead a strategic planning and stakeholder facilitation process that fully empowers BCPA to take the next logical step as an economic engine for the region,” Emil N. Liszniansky wrote in the proposal. “By expanding their staff capacity and service offerings beyond traditional bond and sales tax lease financing.”
It involves interviewing stakeholders countywide — representatives from cities, townships and other entities — to see what services the Port might provide to help them encourage new growth in their areas.
Under Ohio law, port authorities can own, finance, construct and lease real estate including land, building 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.
Some of the board’s more recent endeavors represent more than $86 million in investment and hundreds of new jobs. A few projects include: West Chester Trade Center; NorthPoint in Fairfield and The Marcum and Thyssenkrupp expansion in Hamilton. The giant Spooky Nook sports and convention center was another major project.
Butler County Development Director David Fehr said there are some outside the box type of projects — they might consider incentivizing new residential developments, for example.
“We’ve not gotten into that area, so I think that’s going to be part of that strategic plan process,” Fehr said. “Is there a need for that, if so what does it look like and what are the guardrails for the Port.”
Another new idea is PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) financing to help people install energy efficiencies in older buildings “some developers have expressed interest in that.”
A decade ago, the Port was barely afloat — in the red by about $10,000 when a former director left in 2014 and had borrowed $55,000 from the county commissioners. Today it has a healthy $4 million it has amassed in fees — and investments — for supporting projects.
Fehr said the entire amount obviously won’t be just given away; he envisions setting up a revolving loan program.
“Ideally if we could do something almost like a revolving loan where we agree to loan money to help with a project, with the expectation we’ll get paid back, but we don’t have to get paid back next year ... ,” Fehr said. “We may not even charge interest, as long as we can get that money paid back at some point and put into another project.”
Part of the strategic plan will also help determine staffing of the Port operation. The county hasn’t had an administrator running the operation since County Treasurer Mike McNamara left in August 2020 to become Clermont County’s economic development director. (McNamara has since returned as Butler County treasurer.)
County Administrator Judi Boyko has had a vision since she took the helm in 2019 of pooling all the economic development assets the county has namely the Port Authority, Land Bank and different tax incentive programs. She told the Journal-News “we need to collaborate those resources and coordinate them.”
She said this strategic plan came out of those discussions with the commissioners.
“The board of commissioners recognizes it has so many tools at its disposal to advance economic development initiatives and long-term community investments,” Boyko said. “The Port is one of the tools and creating a strategic approach to apply the programs they are allowed to do is critical in this development ecosystem.”
The goal is to begin implementing the strategic plan this fall.
PORT AUTHORITY INVESTMENTS
Some of the Butler County Port Authority’s more recent endeavors represent more than $86 million in investment and hundreds of new jobs. A few projects include West Chester Trade Center, NorthPoint in Fairfield and The Marcum and Thyssenkrupp expansion in Hamilton. The giant Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill complex in Hamilton was another major project supported by the BCPA.