Business parks have been a rising trend in the region over the past two decades, which is “a sign of the strength of the regional economy,” said Fairfield’s development director.
Ambrose Property Group plans to invest up to $50 million as it constructs as many as five new buildings on the planned 137-acre Fairfield Commerce Park, which includes the formerly owned Liberty Mutual building. The Indianapolis company is not alone in building these types of complexes in the region, as two others recently announced plans to either build or expand a business park in Butler and Warren counties.
NorthPoint Development is looking to add 24 acres along Union Centre Boulevard to the company’s adjacent West Chester Trade Center business park. The business park is already 68 percent leased with 500 new jobs brought into the township, and NorthPoint officials say “there’s still plenty of interest” in the remaining complex.
In neighboring Warren County, the Research & Development Park in Mason landed Cincinnati-based VEGA. The pressure measurement technology company plans to construct a new $50 million headquarters and bring in more than 200 new jobs, and it promises to add 50 more jobs in the next five years.
The Fairfield park is Ambrose Property’s first project in Ohio, and estimates adding between 600 to 1,000 jobs. There’s one 276,000-square-foot building on the property and the developer will break ground this month on 246,000-square-foot and 300,000-square-foot buildings. They could have as many as six buildings in the business park.
“People don’t spend that type of money unless they have a lot of confidence that it will be a successful project,” said Fairfield Development Services Director Greg Kathman.
The commercial real estate market is constantly changing and evolving, according to the real estate advisory firm Newmark Knight Frank.
Over the past 10 to 15 years, Kathman said e-commerce has penetrated traditional retail, softening the retail sector. And as more people shop online, that requires more industrial- and light-industrial-type businesses like warehouses and distribution centers to deliver goods.
Ambrose’s Fairfield Commerce Park will be designed to support the e-commerce market, including attracting light industrial businesses.
The increasing e-commerce industry is a primary driver for business parks expansion, and Kathman said a slight increase in manufacturing, particularly in the Midwest, has been a factor.
“You can’t build everything overseas,” he said. “Some products either require a level of expertise, or it’s not cost-efficient to manufacture and build some products, some devices overseas.”
Many of Butler County’s business parks have been built in Middletown and Monroe.
The Chamber of Commerce Serving Middletown, Monroe and Trenton developed the MADE Industrial Park in the early 1960s, and “it was designed for employment,” said chamber President and CEO Rick Pearce.
And typically, Pearce said these jobs are going to be in a community for years to come. The MADE Industrial Park is home to several longtime industrial businesses, including Grager Plastics, Metal-Matic and Worthington Industries.
While these companies bring jobs to a community, Pearce said they’re not designed to be along a main thoroughfares. Also, segregating business parks to various corners of a community will direct truck traffic to roads designed for heavy use.
One of the newer Butler County business parks is Monroe’s Park North at Monroe, a 1.3-million-square-foot facility that was completed in August 2018 and is home to an Amazon fulfillment center.
But business parks aren’t a fit for everywhere, as locations to major thoroughfares and highways and community partnership are key success factors, said Fairfield Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kert Radel.
“You’re seeing a resurgence because there’s value here,” he said.
These parks also diversify the jobs in a community. A larger standalone business shuttering could have “huge ramifications” to a region, but a collection of smaller companies is more protected from major impact said Radel.
“If you have nine tenants, and eight are strong and one of them is weak and they’ve got to pull out, it doesn’t mean the boat has sunk,” he said. “It’s still viable to the region, it’s important to the economy.”
Kathman sees business parks benefiting areas that have more logistical challenges.
“I think what we’re seeing is, particularly in the southern Butler County area, we don’t have a lot of remaining vacant acreage left so the sites that are left. They’re expensive or have some challenges to overcome,” Kathman said. “So it makes more economic sense for a larger developer to come in and they can deal with the challenges that are on the site or they can pay the high prices that are requested for these sites.”