Downtown Dayton businesses optimistic about growth: Here’s why

Downtown Dayton business leaders are more optimistic than ever.

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Downtown Dayton business leaders are more optimistic than ever.

Downtown business leaders are more optimistic than ever after strong growth last year.

Nearly 83 percent of business leaders in downtown Dayton said they think downtown is better off than it was three years ago, according to 370 downtown businesses surveyed by the Downtown Dayton Partnership. In 2010, only 25 percent of businesses said downtown was better off than it was in the three previous years.

The optimism gap has grown since 2010, when nearly 21 percent of businesses thought downtown was worse off. In 2018, only 1.7 percent of businesses thought downtown was worse off than it was three years earlier.

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“We see a confidence in our downtown, and that confidence is really important when businesses are making their decisions on where to locate or expand, when investors and developers are looking at where they’re going to put their money and time,” said DDP president Sandra Gudorf.

Downtown has seen major business growth in the past year where $83 million in projects were completed and 32 new businesses opened, according to the DDP. The Levitt Pavillion opened, RTA launched a free shuttle service. The Fairfield Inn & Suites was the first new hotel to open downtown in decades and several new apartment and housing units hit the market.

One of the largest investments was CareSource’s Pamela Morris Center, which wrapped up construction in April and could bring new employees downtown. CareSource currently employs 2,200 people at its downtown locations and has capacity for 1,000 more, said Dan McCabe, chief administrative officer for CareSource.

“As job growth continues downtown it validates to CareSource that the city of Dayton is a great location for our headquarters,” McCabe said. “Millennials often want to work in energetic settings with the ability to live close to work and have entertainment options nearby.”

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Nearly 35 percent of downtown businesses plan to add employees this year, building on nearly 1,100 employees added to downtown in 2018, according to the survey. Currently there are more than 21,000 jobs downtown.

TriComB2B moved its office to the Performance Place across from CareSource’s new PMC building, near Premier and Taylor Communications in 2013. The firm started in downtown Dayton in 1985 but spent 15 years at a warehouse in Vandalia before returning to the city’s core when the business to business advertising model changed to require less printed materials, said John Buscemi, principal with TriComB2B.

“We have definitely seen the growth and we noticed it just looking out our windows at lunchtime, you see a lot more people on the street, jumping on the flyer bus,” he said.

The company has grown from 22 to 36 employees since the move downtown and said it’s a different energy to be downtown, which is attractive to both employees and potential clients. Getting employees on board to move to Dayton is a “much easier sell” than it used to be when potential employees visit the city because of the growth, Buscemi said.

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Area business leaders also expect downtown’s momentum to continue with the Arcade development securing funding, several leaders said. The Fire Blocks redevelopment is another major project that could attract more businesses and jobs to the urban core, Gudorf said.

“There are exciting times ahead for Dayton,” McCabe said.

The University of Dayton’s part in anchoring the Arcade redevelopment also has promise to bring more young people into the downtown area, Buscemi said.

More vacant spaces are also being filled as momentum continues and programs like Site Seekers help connect potential tenants and landlords, said Rick Holmes, president and founding partner of The Architectural Group, Inc. on 135 N. Main St. Holmes business owns its building and uses the site seekers program to help fill upper level spaces.

“There for a while people were pulling offices from downtown left and right. Now all the sudden people are wanting to come back downtown,” said Holmes, who has worked downtown for decades, including 15 years before founding The Architectural Group downtown in 1990.

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