The city’s largest employer closed nearly 20 years ago, leaving hundreds of acres just south of downtown Miamisburg virtually vacant.
More than $1 billion in federal environmental cleanup later, local officials are looking to the former nuclear weapons development site known as Mound Laboratory to eventually bring more than 2,000 jobs to the city of about 20,000 residents.
Since 2010, when the site was declared clean and ready for commercial and industrial re-use, the 306-acre Mound Advanced Technology Center business park has attracted 11 businesses and more than 250 jobs.
The center’s work is being singled out by federal officials, and plans have been made to improve access to it from the highway. It is in a “prime” location for future development, according to one industry observer.
Matching the Mound’s employment level – it had about 2,500 workers at its peak – is a long-term goal, said Miamisburg Mayor Dick Church Jr.
“It’s a goal to shoot for,” he said. “I would like to see it in the next five to seven years.”
The Mound Connector
During that time frame, a key factor to attract business will be the Mound Connector, a 3-plus-mile road project planned west of Interstate 75. Church and other officials are counting on it to provide better access to the business park.
“The Mound Connector will be pivotal to the success” of the park’s development, said Eric Cluxton, president of the Mound Development Corp., which oversees MATC operations. “That will expedite access to the highway.”
The connector must still clear some environmental and funding hurdles, but it is a “priority” that is expected to be completed by 2020, said Steve Stanley, executive director of the Montgomery County Transportation Improvement District.
The project was envisioned with the Mound site in mind during the planning of the Austin Boulevard/I-75 interchange and will include federal funding, he said.
The connector would widen Miamisburg Springboro Pike from Medlar Road to three lanes, improve the intersection at Miamisburg Springboro and Benner Road, and widen Benner to three lanes to Cincinnati Dayton Pike, Stanley said.
“What we’re hearing from the real estate community,” said Miamisburg City Manager Keith Johnson, “is that it is key because in relocating your business, it’s hard to get excited about it” without improved access.
Despite the access issue, the business park is in “a prime location,” said Berkwood Farmer, former dean of Wright State University’s Raj Soin College of Business.
“I look at the location like a new development,” said Farmer, who said taught classes at leased space at the MATC. “It’s close to the interstate, close to the Dayton airport and close to a lot of other smaller airports in the area.”
The connector, a project now estimated to cost $13.3 million, should receive environmental clearance late this year, and detailed design work is expected to begin in the first three months of 2015, Stanley said.
Actual construction is not expected to begin until 2016, and completion of the connector by 2020 is a “realistic” target, he said.
Mound in DOE spotlight
For now, the focus is on attracting businesses. The development corporation and the city this spring agreed on a multi-year income tax sharing deal to help fund economic development at the park. The agreement calls for the city and the MDC to evenly share income tax revenue generated by businesses locating there, Cluxton said.
The business park’s buildings include about 550,000 square feet, about 25 percent which are occupied, Cluxton said. In five years, the goal is to have them 75 percent full, he said.
Cluxton has talked with prospective tenants about moves that would that would bring about 85 jobs combined. The companies – longtime Miami Valley firms – are “well-known names in the marketplace,” Cluxton said.
Last week the Department of Energy, which monitors the business park, announced it will hold a two-day national workshop May 20-21 focused on the re-use of former federal sites.
The DOE is working to redevelop a number of similar sites around the country, said Gwen Hooten, Mound site manager for the department’s office of legacy management. The Miamisburg location was selected because it has been “successfully conducting their business,” she said.
The MDC’s sale of property to boi Solutions, a firm specializing in media collaboration, was singled out, Hooten said. Transferring property will be a topic at the workshop.
As part of the event, Cluxton said he plans to unveil a new website, logo and marketing campaign for the business park, noting its current plan is “too isolated, too narrow of focus.”
While the business park has passed environmental standards, Hooten and local officials stressed it has been cleared for commercial and industrial re-use only. Hooten said her office will continue testing at the site, which involves the routine sampling of ground water, in “perpetuity.”
The history of the site should not deter businesses from considering the park as a location, Farmer said.
“I wouldn’t think that we be a negative factor at all,” he said.
Cluxton said the topic still arises but is “fading.” His response to skeptics:
“Your concerns are no longer valid,” he said. “I can understand your concern from a historical perspective. But those concerns shouldn’t exist anymore.”
Development at the site is moving in the right direction, according to Church.
“I’m pleased with what the organization is doing,” he said, “and I think we have a good future ahead of us.”