Liberty Twp. unveils new economic impact tool

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Caroline McKinney talks about new economic development tool.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Liberty Twp. now has a tool that will help them gauge the economic impact of proposed projects, rather than having to take a developer’s word for it.

The township recently unveiled the tool, developed by the Economics Center at the University of Cincinnati, that will tell them how many jobs, wages — directly and indirectly — and total “economic output” various kinds of developments would benefit the township, county and local schools.

Economic Development Director Caroline McKinney said they will be able to evaluate the impact of “retail versus office versus light industrial versus residential” on development proposals as well as looking into the future development of the Millikin Road area.

The township says there is a whole as yet untapped opportunity in the northeast quadrant of the township — where they hope to build an interchange off Interstate 75 — and this $10,000 tool will help them direct development.

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She plugged a couple different scenarios into the new tool recently which revealed a 100,000 square-foot health care office within a Joint Economic Development (JEDD) area would produce about $16.3 million in direct wages and $4.4 million in indirect wages such as landscapers and other people hired to maintain the facility.

The tool calculated that a mixed use development with industrial, office/professional services, retail and a hotel would bring in 910 employees earning $46 million and would have gross revenue of $1.9 million and a net fiscal impact of $ 1.3 million after township services are subtracted.

Factor residential into a mixed use development — along with retail, offices and restaurants — and numbers shift dramatically because residential uses are heavy on services needs from the township. The tool said that kind of development — outside of a JEDD so income taxes aren’t applicable — would have $1 million in gross revenue but only a net fiscal impact of $202,376 because of services.

McKinney said they don’t plan to use the tool exclusively when pondering new developments, but it is much more powerful than guesswork or relying solely on numbers from developers.

“It’s a neat way to look at it but this is just one factor to be looking at,” she said. “This is not kind of, every decision now gets made using this. Oftentimes developers are providing information and data and this is just meant to be an additional sources for the trustees to have.”

Trustee Board President Christine Matacic said the tool can help even the playing field a little when dealing with developers because the discussion won’t only be about how much a given development will bring in.

“We get developers coming in and saying it’s only going to cost you so much or you’re going to be bringing in so many dollars,” she said. “This gives us the ability to say well yeah, we can bring in those dollars but here is what it’s also going to cost us. We have services for different types of businesses, therefore we have to take into consideration what it’s going to end up netting the community in the end. It’s just a good business decision maker.”

Trustee Tom Farrell said he is delighted with the tool and it only needs a couple of tweaks in his opinion. He said the economic impact on township services is built into the tool but he wants to be able to see the data on the screen.

“We want to break it out so we can at least see what the services expenses were for those different entities,” he said. “The data is in there but it didn’t show it. Other than that we were extremely pleased with it and I think it is well worth the money spent.”

McKinney said it has been recommended they update the customized tool every couple years.