Category Archives: Economic Development

Small Business Development Center at the Hamilton Mill achieves success

The Hamilton Mill’s transformation continues into its second year by demonstrating unparalleled success.

One year ago the incubator program refocused on the development of advanced manufacturing, clean-technology, and associated applications; a pivot which has introduced 15 new high growth companies into the program.

Additionally, there continues to be a strong programmatic focus on small business support through the hosting of Butler County’s only Small Business Development Center (SBDC) whose performance has garnered state-wide attention.

According to the latest Ohio Development Services Agency economic impact report, The Butler County Small Business Development Center hosted at The Hamilton Mill is on track to rank second in new business starts and first in capital infusion through the second quarter of 2015.

These are statewide results that compare data from 27 other centers. This is a tremendous accomplishment considering that other centers typically have between 5 and 9 employees. The Mill has 2 counselors.

David Riggs, Director of the Ohio SBDC at The Hamilton Mill, states, “We are very pleased with the economic impact numbers. Associate Director Mark Lankford and I have worked extremely hard to build a successful center here at The Hamilton Mill and at our satellite office in Middletown. The quality of the businesses starting up in these two great cities is truly impressive.”

The collaborative program between federal, state, and local entities includes the Small Business Administration, the Ohio Development Services Agency, The Hamilton Mill, the City of Middletown, the City of Hamilton, and the Hamilton Community Foundation is a proven formula for success. The SBDC program provides business development resources that have meaningful economic impact and long term sustainability.

SBDC counselors are specially trained and qualified to assist new and current business owners in making the proper decisions regarding small business development. In turn, business owners are able to build wealth, expand, and eventually provide employment opportunities throughout the community. The counselors also assist Hamilton Mill clients in taking their startups to the next level.

Additionally, SBDC training programs in both Hamilton and Middletown provide programming and resources for already-established business owners. They have teamed with SELF (Support to Encourage Low-Income Families) and NHS (Neighborhood Housing Services) to coordinate the micro-enterprise program which identifies high potential small businesses for classroom training and possible funding. This program has helped to create over 30 new businesses in Butler County.

Chris Lawson, Executive Director of The Hamilton Mill says, “In every step of the incubator’s reinvention we demanded outcomes over process, quality over quantity, and disruption over status quo – and the impressive results of our incubator program and our Small Business Development Center continue to demonstrate the value in this strategy.”

For additional information on America’s Small Business Development Centers visit

For more information about The Hamilton Mill visit

film hamilton banner


StarTek adds extra spark to downtown Hamilton’s renaissance

By Richard O Jones

More than 200 member of the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce came to an open house July 30 to welcome one of the city’s newest businesses, StarTek, an international company that has opened a call center on the second floor of a redeveloped abandoned department store.

Hamilton officials say that StarTek’s presence is significant for a number of reasons, not the least of which is jobs. When the call center becomes fully operational, according to Scott Farmer, vice president of operations, it will employ 682 people, the biggest influx of jobs in the city in over a decade.

But as a partner in the $6.5 million redevelopment of the Elder-Beerman building at 150 High St., abandoned during the recession in 2009 and leaving the city with an empty 167,000-square-foot building in the heart of its downtown district, the city believes the new tenants are ushering in a new era of downtown commerce.

Become a WCPO Insider to learn more about StarTek and Hamilton’s renaissance. 
HEY! Hamilton! Shop

Economic Report: Hamilton is Booming!


The city’s 2014 Economic Development Annual Report details eight projects that resulted in 335 new jobs and $83 million in capital investment

2015 0630 economic graphic01There was significant growth in the health care, advanced manufacturing, and logistics industries. The city’s newly revamped business incubator The Hamilton Mill experienced a significant amount of activity and a number of downtown projects were announced or completed. The report also summarizes the significant infrastructure projects underway in Hamilton that will have important economic development consequences.

2015 0630 economic graphic02“This year was rewarding from a number of perspectives, but most importantly it represented a year that Hamilton’s businesses expanded their operations in the city when presented with opportunities elsewhere,” writes Economic Development Director Jody Gundarson in the report. “Our medical system grew based upon the confidence and commitment they have in Hamilton and the region. The City was able to attract transportation funding for a project that had been on the drawing table for over a century based in large part on the confidence the State of Ohio has in the growth of our local economy.

“Due to the growth in employment opportunities, Hamilton companies have strengthened their collaborations with our Universities, Colleges, and Tech schools. The City witnessed the continued investment in our downtown business district as well as other commercial nodes throughout the City. All of this is occurring in our community as we collectively strive for excellence in each endeavor we undertake.

“I saw a poster once that sums up this attitude with greater meaning than I can express: Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical, and expecting more than others think is possible.

“The City of Hamilton economic rebound can no longer be said to be experiencing traction, but instead it should be characterized as momentum.”


CLICK HERE to view or download the report…

Photo: Jacob Stone

2014 1025 banner

Photo Tour of the Proposed Champion Sports Complex

HEY! Hamilton! editor Richard O Jones visits with Frances Mennone, project director of the Champion Sports Complex, and takes a tour of the remains of the Champion Paper site on North B Street.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Below is the “fit plan” for the site. That is, it does not show what will be a part of the sports complex, but is a tool to show what could fit in the spaces available. The main stadium feature on the left, for instance, is actually the plan of a 5,000 seat minor league stadium in Florida placed there to illustrate that such a field can fit in the space available.

2015 0519 champion fit plan



CLICK HERE for larger view of the Champion Sports Site Plan


2014 1025 banner
This video podcast sponsored by



Champion Paper’s Redevelopment Takes Next Steps

From Champion Sports Complex Project Manager Frances K. Mennone:

The redevelopment of Champion Paper continues on a great trajectory. As efforts move to the next stage of development, plans call for several major anchor developments; a large scale indoor sports and entertainment facility focusing on the hard surfaces of court and turf, the development of a multi-use stadium primarily used by a professional baseball enterprise and the repurposing of a co-generation power station into a waterfront recreation facility.  All three complementary projects collectively create a full scope of facilities that hit on many different interests and are rooted in the strong local sports market. Throughout the adaptive reuse project runs a theme to repurpose and reuse much of the existing structure, allowing for the former paper mills aesthetic to shine.

Key partners have already come online and are actively working towards the areas redevelopment.

  • Numerous project partners, including the Sports Facilities Advisory/Sports Facilities Management group, have engaged on the indoor development. In addition to the property owner Green Reclamation LLC/Moses Glick; James K. Fitton, Mike Dingeldein, of Community Design Alliance, and Frances K. Mennone round out the local team. With 500,000 sq feet of space to utilize, the amount of sports under roof would create one of the largest indoor sports complexes in the United States.
  • A countywide groups of ‘Project Champions’ have gathered around nonprofit interests at the site; principally the proposed stadium. The Project Champions are widely representative of the region and supportive of the recommendations of The Sports Force (formerly Ripken Sports) and National Sports Services.
  • The rowing center engaged a national independent operator earlier this year. Now one of five RowAmerica branded locations nationwide, the riverfront in Hamilton benefits from the resources brought by RowAmerica’s established programming expertise. Emersion Design and Community Design Alliance (CDA) of Cincinnati and Hamilton respectively, are collaborating on the repurposing of the former power plant on the site.

Over the last several months the project partners have paid continued visits to the county, as the ground work is laid for development beginning as early as 2016.

Study says Champion Sports Complex could work

The preliminary results of feasibility studies conducted by two national firms are showing positive indicators for the proposed redevelopment of the SMART/Champion Paper facility, according to Project Manager Frances Mennone, executive director of the Great Miami Rowing Center.

The Sport Facility Advisory and Ripken Sports, hired by a team put together by developer MB Glick, are wrapping up their comprehensive studies of the core market and the region.

SFA has served a portfolio of more than $4 billion in planned and operational sport initiatives. Ripken Sports,  now The Sports Force, is the national leader in amateur and professional sports consulting, planning and programming.

Together the two firms have determined positive feasibility for the proposed project in Butler County.

The project envisions the adaptive reuse of the former factory into an indoor and outdoor multisport complex. Developers intend for the project to encapsulate the unique history of the site, using the former factory as a backdrop.

The development includes a proposed multi-use stadium and a substantial indoor sports arena that could be one of the largest in the United States.

Already existing on the former campus is a rowing center development underway with the Great Miami Rowing Center. GMRC recently engaged a new national management firm Row America to assume programming responsibilities.

“Butler County has seen huge growth and development, with sports participation trends that mirror national growth, providing sporting facilities for a country that hosts an estimated 56 million families that participate in organized sports and non-school youth sports nationwide,” Mennone said. “Facilities like the proposed development in Hamilton could impact positively impact our region.”

Last fall, Mennone told the Cincinnati Business Courier that the property could be home to a number of different sports facilities, such as indoor track and field venues, baseball and soccer fields, volleyball and basketball courts, and tennis courts:

The owners of the Champion Paper facility… want to copy the success of Spooky Nook Sports, the largest indoor sports complex in North America located in Manheim, Pa. This complex was built in an old Armstrong World Industries distribution center that sits on 65 acres. Spooky Nook Sports has 700,000 square feet of indoor space, including a full-sized turf baseball/softball diamond, six cushioned tennis courts and 10 hardwood courts, plus 50 acres of outdoor fields.

The Champion Paper plant sits on 42 acres and includes almost 500,000 square feet of available space. The property was developed by Champion Paper, which became Champion International Paper, between 1894 and 1906. In 2001, Champion sold the plant to Smart Papers, which operated the plant for 11 more years. In March 2012, Smart Papers closed the plant and laid off the entire workforce. Green Reclamation bought Mill 1 in December 2012, and the city of Hamilton owns Mill 2.

A “fit plan” has already been designed, showing what could be built in the existing space, but that plan doesn’t include results from the feasibility firms.

If developed, the new facility would be one of the largest indoor sports complexes in the country. Mennone said the facility would retain the look and feel of a manufacturing plant.

In addition, the property has room for an outdoor baseball stadium as large as 5,000 seats. Mennone said the investors believe the stadium could host an independent or minor league organization.

The sports center would partner with affiliates to include water programming through a waterfront recreational facility at the Great Miami Rowing Center. The nonprofit rowing center is rehabbing an adjacent space and plans to expand to other water-based recreation such as canoeing and kayaking. They also believe the sports complex could connect with a proposed 2.7-mile Hamilton Belt Line bike path, a rail to trail conversion of property owned by CSX.

A Community Design Alliance rendering of a possible sports complex on the site of The Champion Coated Paper Company.
A Community Design Alliance rendering of a possible sports complex on the site of The Champion Coated Paper Company.



The Reinvention of Hamilton

Sometimes, we can’t see the forest for the trees and it takes the perspective of an outsider to affirm the good things that are going on in our city. Here’s an article from the January 2015 newsletter of KMK Consulting, a Cincinnati firm that specializes in economic development issues, that highlights the on-going success of Hamilton’s revitalization.

How a Small Midwestern City is Reinventing Itself

The Impact of Leadership and One Amazing City Manager

by James J. McGraw, Jr.

Hamilton, Ohio is a small 223 year old blue collar city about 40 minutes northwest of Cincinnati undergoing a major renaissance. The model for this reinvention is different than what we at KMK Consulting normally experience. We have preached private sector leadership with great success in over 100 cities for three decades.

But Hamilton, Ohio, may be the best example of public sector leadership that we have seen. And it is in the title of City Manager. His name is Joshua Smith. We have been honored to work with him, particularly in helping him build his city’s catalytic redevelopment corporation called CORE (Consortium for Ongoing Reinvestment Efforts), a $6.2 Million public/private redevelopment non-profit funded by the Hamilton Community Foundation, the City, First Financial Bank and US Bank. Joshua Smith is an amazing man. He’s aggressive, relentless, creative and tireless. In fact, he is the driving force saving Hamilton, Ohio. With leadership support from John Guidugli, CEO of the Community Foundation, Claude Davis, CEO of First Financial Bank, Mahendra Vora, CEO of the Vora Tech Park and Mike Dingeldein, Executive Director of CORE, the reinvention of this old town is a remarkable success story.

More than $130 Million has been invested by the public and private sectors in this City just since 2010. Take a look at some of the deals and the pipeline as assembled by Mike Boyer of Cincy Magazine.

  • Art Space Hamilton – $10 Million mixed-use residential project
    in the former H. Strauss Building on High Street, opens this
    coming spring with 42 artist loft apartments and ground floor commercial space.
  • Mercantile Lofts – 139 year old building once facing condemnation, underwent a $8.6 Million renovation two years ago creating street level commercial space and 29 market grade apartments that are fully leased with a waiting list.
  • Community First Solutions – Non-profit, providing health and wellness services and one of the City’s largest employers is renovating the six story former Ringel’s Furniture Store on South Third Street as its new corporate office and training center.
  • ThyssenKrup Bilstein, a maker of automotive shocks, announced in July its third expansion in recent years – a $52 Million project that will add 200 jobs.
  • Influx – A new P&G subsidiary to create more energy efficient plastic containers, announced last year it was investing $50 Million in the former Hamilton Fixture Plant creating 220 jobs. Its decade old business incubator rebranded itself as The Mill in July – recalling the City’s industrial past – and refocused its mission on emerging markets such as water technology, advanced manufacturing, and information technology.
  • The City has launched its 17 strong neighborhoods initiative to focus these areas on projects important to them.
  • The City has demolished more than 130 blighted buildings supported by state funds and Butler County’s Land Bank Program.
  • The CORE Fund is just one tool in the City’s redevelopment tool kit. It has hit the ground running committing more than $4 Million to buy four vacant downtown buildings including the former Elder-Beerman Department Store on High Street and preparing them for redevelopment. Now that Hamilton’s resurgence is gaining such good traction, developers are looking at projects in the City without the need of assistance from the CORE Fund, which is exactly the idea.

The City is taking critical advantage of its major differentiator asset which is its own municipal electric system. The City will begin receiving low cost hydro from a facility at the Meldahl Dam on the Ohio River through a partnership with American Municipal Power, a $500 Million project. Nearly three-quarters of Hamilton’s electricity will come from renewable sources when the plant begins operation this spring. The City is also focusing on clean and alternative energy in other ways and is building the area’s first public compressed natural gas fueling station offering lower cost fuel for City vehicles and the public. The sea change starting all of this was a new group of City Council Members several years ago along with the leadership of John Guidugli from the Community Foundation. Together they made a brilliant move in hiring Joshua Smith. This is simply a great story about a small older city coming back to life in a big way, leveraging both public and private leadership to make a difference and to realize a set of aspirations that previously most folks in that community thought were impossible. Working collaboratively has made a difference for this City. Along with the City Manager’s leadership, the Chamber, the Foundation and other businesses, everybody is moving in the same direction. They have a terrific City Council and a very effective and creative leader in Joshua Smith taking advantage of every opportunity and creating new ones on a daily basis.

Time spent on taking a close look at the progress of Hamilton, Ohio
and how it is happening is well worth the effort by leaders and economic development organizations from across the country.

For more information contact Jim McGraw at 513.639.3968 or

Photo by Andy Roehl, from the City's Facebook page.

Planet Fitness to open on Hamilton’s west side

A Planet Fitness store will be opening in the former Staples building on the west side of Hamilton.

Planet Fitness Fairfield sent an email to patrons today saying the gym will be at 702 N.W. Washington Blvd. in Hamilton, near Walt’s BBQ and Hobby Lobby.

The facility is expected to open in 2015 and will include “over 100 pieces of cardio,” multiple televisions, massage chairs and tanning beds, the email states.

“In addition, this location will feature a brand new Synergy 360 with TRX cross training classes twice a day,” the email says.

Memberships will be available starting Nov. 15, and members at the Fairfield location may transfer membership free of cost.

Hamilton economic development efforts receive international and state recognition

The City of Hamilton and The Hamilton Mill recently accepted awards for their economic development efforts from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) and from the Ohio Economic Development Association (OEDA).

The City of Hamilton received the Gold Excellence in Economic Development award from IEDC for the 2013 Economic Development Annual Report in the Annual Report category for communities with a population between 25,000 to 200,000. The City utilizes the report as a marketing piece in its business retention and attractionefforts. View the 2013 Economic Development Annual Report here.

The City of Hamilton was runner-up in the Excellence in Economic Development Marketing category from OEDA for the Utilities Marketing Campaign. The Utilities Marketing Campaign is a partnership between the Economic Development Department and Hamilton Utilities. It is an effort to educate the Hamilton community about the City’s publicly-owned utilities and to market Hamilton’s utility advantages regionally and nationally to foster economic development.

Liz Hayden

Additionally, Liz Hayden, Business Development Specialist for the City of Hamilton, received the Rookie of the Year award from OEDA. The Rookie of the Year award recognizes one who has met the challenges of providing economic development early on and who demonstrates the dedication to positively impacting the state’s economic growth.

The Hamilton Mill received the Excellence in Economic Innovation award from OEDA. This award recognizes unique approaches to any aspect of economic development and recognizes a person or organization that has developed innovative practices and programs. The Hamilton Mill also received the Bronze Excellence in Economic Development award from IEDC in the Green/Sustainable Development category for communities with a population between 25,000 to 200,000. These awards recognize the efforts of The Hamilton Mill, the recently rebranded business incubator that specializes in advanced manufacturing, clean technology, and digital technology.

Rahul Bawa

Rahul Bawa, Chairman of The Hamilton Mill Board, was runner-up in the Excellence in Volunteerism from OEDA. This award recognizes exceptional volunteer individuals who have assisted in successful economic development efforts in Ohio.

The IEDC honors were presented at an awards ceremony on Tuesday, October 21, during the IEDC Annual Conference, which was held in Fort Worth, Texas. The OEDA honors were presented at an awards ceremony on Thursday, October 23, during the OEDA Annual Conference in Columbus, Ohio.

“This is the second consecutive year the City has been recognized for its economic development initiatives by these two organizations and serves as validation that Hamilton’s economic development initiatives are heading in the right direction,” Hamilton City Manager Joshua Smith stated.

IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development Awards recognize the world’s best economic development programs and partnerships, marketing materials, and the year’s most influential leaders. These awards honor organizations and individuals for their efforts in creating positive change in urban, suburban, and rural communities. The OEDA’s annual excellence awards program recognizes the achievements of individuals and organizations in Ohio in the areas of economic and workforce development.