Buying 300 acres will help attract businesses to Kettering, mayor says

City of Kettering will purchase 305 acres of the Miami Valley Research Park for $1.5 million. FILE

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City of Kettering will purchase 305 acres of the Miami Valley Research Park for $1.5 million. FILE

The 300 acres of land the city of Kettering purchased last week bring an unique opportunity for the suburb to draw new businesses and much-needed jobs into its borders, Kettering’s mayor said.

The land along the city’s border with Beavercreek was sold Friday by the Miami Valley Research Park, which was founded in the early 1980s as a university-related office park to attract technology and science based companies to the region.

However, the research park has since fallen into financial strain and become increasingly unrelated to the missions of the three schools left governing the park through a foundation: Sinclair Community College, University of Dayton and Wright State University.

While the city bought the land from the park’s foundation for $1.5 million, the city could retroactively pay $1.5 million more for a total $3 million if it has success reselling the land.

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Mayor Don Patterson said there aren’t many large swaths of undeveloped land left in Kettering that can be used to attract business. Controlling 300 acres could be the key to competitively drawing in new business to the office park, which is already home to some of the largest employers in the area.

“These opportunities don’t come around very often. We’re all built out. We don’t have hundreds of acres of corn or open land,” he said.

Patterson said there’s a difference between when a private person owns land versus the city of Kettering owning the land, which it can sell for cheap since the city’s motive isn’t to make money on the land sale.

“We’re not a third party that has to get a return on the sale of the ground. We’re looking to create opportunities and jobs within the city of Kettering. Our return on investment is the jobs we bring,” Patterson said.

The city also can combine land with other business incentives.

Miami Valley Research Park is made up of 1,250 acres of land in Beavercreek and Kettering and is home to companies like Reynolds & Reynolds, WilmerHale, BWI, Community Tissue Services, Kodak, Lunarline and Vivial Company.

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“This investment provides an excellent opportunity for economic development for the future of our community and also provides the Research Park with the stability needed to move forward. This is a great day for all parties involved,” Steve Johnson, chairman of the park’s foundation and separately president of Sinclair, said in a statement.

The park was the first large office park in the Dayton region and represents $410 million in capital investment. The park foundation manages and develops the complex, where more than 4,000 people work, and most of the developed part of the park is owned by the businesses. There are 22 buildings and 450 developed acres at the park.

The way that the park was set up requires the university presidents to personally sit on the park’s board and doesn’t allow them to send a representative instead. This business model has become outdated as other local office parks were developed and the region no longer needed universities to serve as office park developers.

The foundation also said in October it was struggling to repay PNC bank for its loan, with the land sales moving a slowed pace, operational expenses too high and low occupancy at the foundation-owned buildings, like with the recent loss of defense firm Booz Allen Hamilton as a tenant.

PNC’s regional vice president, Dave Melin, said in a statement about Kettering buying the 300 acres that the bank “is pleased to play a role in maximizing the development opportunities for the Miami Valley Research Park. The current stakeholders, University of Dayton, Sinclair Community College and Wright State University and now the city of Kettering have been tremendous partners to work with as we collectively considered opportunities to enhance the relationships with the current tenants and expand development opportunities that benefit the Dayton region.”

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