Fairfield business: Hundreds of millions coming from openings, expansions in coming years

Hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested into the city of Fairfield as existing businesses are expanding and new businesses are opening up.

Upwards of 1,000 jobs have been promised through tax incentive deals with several companies as they expand their footprint, with the lion’s share of those new jobs coming to Koch Foods as part of its $220 million expansion.

“Going into 2021, I wasn’t sure how busy we’d be because the pandemic was still going on, and it was just a lot of uncertainty,” said Fairfield Development Services Director Greg Kathman.

Fairfield’s income tax receipts in 2021 grew nearly 11.3% over 2020, which was the largest jump in years, and commercial building permit activity more than doubled last year.

Kathman described 2021 as receiving two years’ worth of investment in one year.

“In some ways, I’ve been telling people that 2020 was almost a punt year,” he said. “It was as if everybody just dropped back and punted on the year, and then they got to 2021 and said, ‘You know, we’re not doing so bad, the economy is hanging in there, there’s some stimulus money, things are changing, it’s time to invest.’”

Fairfield wasn’t the only community to see economic development prosperity. Nationally, the industrial market remains hot, especially with the new speculative construction market. Fairfield has seen several speculative building projects start or be completed in the past two years, and neighboring communities in Springdale, West Chester Twp., and Monroe have also seen new speculative construction.

Hamilton has also seen several significant economic development projects, like Rossville Flats, Saica Group, and Agave & Rye, and the anticipated summer opening of Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill. The complex’s Warehouse Hotel will start taking reservations for May 3 and beyond.

The U.S. economy saw its strongest growth in 2021 since the mid-1980s, according to Reuters. The economy grew 5.7% last year, which was aided by the government injecting nearly $6 trillion in COVID-19 pandemic relief funds, according to the news agency.

While speculative building construction has been a significant trend that’s primarily e-commerce driven, Fairfield has seen expansion projects get kicked off in 2021 with the collective promise of hundreds of jobs.

“Three of our big projects this year were assisting existing companies,” said Fairfield Economic Development Manager Nathaniel Kaelin.

The largest project announced was Koch Foods, where at least 400 jobs are promised as part of a $220 million expansion. Koch Foods’ general manager told Fairfield City Council in September that they’ll likely create 600 new jobs, which would make the chicken processor the second-largest employer in the city when those jobs are filled.

Between nine speculative building projects announced or in progress and three major expansion projects, there will be an investment of more than $420 million into Fairfield.

“Beyond the spec construction, which grabs headlines and is very noticeable and the dollar figures are very impactful when the spec projects are announced, but the retention and expansion projects are just as exciting for us development professionals,” said Kathman.

Kathman said the relationships developed with these existing companies that are already committed and invested into the community “is always a great positive.”

REDI Cincinnati Director of Regional Talent Adam Jones said Fairfield understands that finding workforce is a challenge and is implementing strategies by collaborating with the city school district, Fairfield Chamber of Commerce, and other organizations.

“They are answering the call by implementing new strategies to help businesses win the war for talent,” Jones said.

Companies also need to alter their philosophies on finding employees to fill jobs, which, for example, is why some are offering tuition assistance to younger workers. Jones said it’s a marriage of companies meeting the needs of the workforce, and workforce meeting the needs of the companies.

“It’s not all one way or the other,” he said. “There’s a common middle ground between what the employer needs and what the job-seeker needs. And when employers are open to that, and not doing things because that’s how they’ve always done things, that’s how they become progressive and win the war for talent.”


THE EXPANSION OF FAIRFIELD’S ECONOMY

The city of Fairfield saw a large number of jobs promised in 2021 as a result of tax incentive deals with a variety of employers. The Journal-News is taking a deep dive into Fairfield’s looming economic expansion as new employers are moving into the city and existing employers are adding to the workforce.

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