Knox County Land Bank Partners with NAI Ohio Equities to Help Bring Manufacturing and Jobs Back to Heartland Commerce Park

A nearly 200-year-old manufacturing campus in Knox County is once again coming to life five years after the announcement that one of the area’s largest employers, Siemens Energy, would cease operations there.

The 47-acre property which includes 12 buildings totaling 670,000 square feet was acquired by the Knox County Land Reutilization Corporation, also known as the Knox County Land Bank, in 2020 after Siemens decided it no longer wanted to retain the property following the closure.

The property has housed power generation systems manufacturers, from steam engines to jet engines to generators, since 1833. The majority of that time, by the successors of the original occupant, the CE Cooper Co.

The campus, now named Heartland Commerce Park, represents the largest collection of available industrial space within the city, explained Jeff Gottke, president of the Knox County Area Development Foundation and the Knox County Land Bank.

“It’s a homegrown property that the community feels a lot of connection to. Thousands of current Knox County residents have worked on that property or know someone who did,” he said.

“Manufacturing is our largest sector by employment, so it’s a nice fit that we have a skilled workforce and available manufacturing space,” he continued.

Gottke is optimistic about the future of the park and says the land bank is looking to diversify its manufacturing and has established a soft goal to create 500 jobs at the park over the next three to five years. 

“Knox County has always been a community that makes things. Twenty-three percent of Knox County’s population is employed in the manufacturing sector. This represents the highest employment sector by type in the county. As the Columbus Region continues its rapid growth outward, many companies are looking toward the outer ring cities, like Mount Vernon. What they discover is that Knox County has the skills, sites and quality of life that will allow their business to thrive,” said Gottke.

To help achieve that goal, the land bank has partnered with NAI Ohio Equities’ Doug Shull and Joe Menninger to manage the sales and leasing of the property. Shull and Menninger both say the property has had a lot of activity.

“We’ve had interest from a strong mix of local, national, and even international firms thanks to the special facility features and economic incentives offered,” said Shull.

“You rarely come across an industrial park that offers the same capability as the Heartland Commerce Park which will soon offer 12,000 volts of dedicated power, along with more than 100 cranes that can support up to 50 tons, and clear heights of 50 feet,” he continued.

“One Columbus and JobsOhio’s economic development professionals have done a great job making Ohio a very competitive place for manufacturing, and that has also attracted a wide variety of buyers and tenants to the park,” added Menninger.

To date, three buildings have been sold including a 13,408-square-foot Controls Building, a 17,260-square-foot 3-Bay Testing Facility, and a 32,400-square-foot 4-Bay Testing Facility. Four more buildings are anticipated to close in 2024 including Plant 4 which is a 101,236-square-foot warehouse, Plant 1 which is a 117,000-square-foot industrial facility, Plant 2 which includes three buildings totaling 106,5455 square feet and the adjacent 26-acre industrial site, and a 57,000- square-foot Shipping and Receiving building.

The 31,130-square-foot Engineering Center and 97,000-square-foot Plant 5 buildings are both still available.

The land bank has also made infrastructure improvements that will support new manufacturers to the park, including putting the electric, water, and gas utilities for each building on individual meters.

This year, it will also make a $3.5 million investment into parking lot improvements and creating an employee plaza on part of the vacant outdoor space which will include outdoor workstations, an amphitheater for outdoor meetings, and an outdoor walking path and historical markers that will pay tribute to the usage of the property throughout its history.

Gottke says the revitalization of the park will impact the quality of life for residents both directly and indirectly.

He explained that if the average wage for those 500 jobs were at the rate of $22 per hour, the campus could generate as much as $23 million in annual payroll equating to more than $450,000 in income tax revenue for the city, in addition to other general economic activity.

“It’s exciting to be able to bring vibrancy, jobs and investment back to the area,” said Gottke.

“Knox County is a scenic community with a low cost of living and a high quality of life. We welcome new businesses and residents who want to be a part of it,” he added.

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