An effort to clean up the former SK Hand Tool factory in Richland Township and plans for an upcoming teachers’ manufacturing bootcamp were discussed during Thursday’s meeting of the Defiance County Community Improvement Corporation (CIC).
The factory — located on Hickory Street, just outside the Defiance city limits — closed years ago when the owners declared bankruptcy, and is now deteriorating.
County officials have completed two phases of EPA-required environmental testing at the site. Defiance County Commissioner Ryan Mack told the CIC board that the county is “attempting to get the land in control of the land bank as quickly as possible” in order to apply for an EPA grant to help fund demolition and cleanup at the site.
The newly formed county land bank, like others around the state, provides a mechanism for the public purchase of abandoned and dilapidated properties, with the end goal being to resell or repurpose them.
The deadline for the grant application is Dec. 3.
“Obviously this is a time-sensitive thing, based on the legalities of foreclosure and how we take control of the property,” Mack said. “There is a chance we might not get it in time for this specific grant, but we have also looked at some other grant options.”
The particular grant being sought would require a 25% local match, though not all of it would need to be cash. A 2017 cost estimate put demolition and cleanup at $450,000.
The land bank board will hold a public hearing on the EPA grant application Monday at 1 p.m. in the E-911 conference room at 500 Court St. in Defiance, which will coincide with the board’s regular meeting.
Economic development director Jerry Hayes told the board that once funding is secured for the SK site, plans can be made to address the former Vortex building on South Jackson Avenue.
“In my mind, it’s second in line behind SK,” Hayes said. “We’ve got to believe that the railroad is going to have interest; that property sits in a nice strategic location.”
In other business, Hayes reported that “significant progress” has been made on an effort to create a local teachers’ manufacturing bootcamp similar to those in Ottawa and Sandusky counties. Fulton, Williams and Defiance counties will be participating, with the first camp set to take place June 8-11, 2020.
The camps will provide educators with an up-close look at area manufacturers, allowing them to earn either continued-education credits, or college credits toward a master’s degree, in the process. The effort is being spearheaded by the Northwest Ohio Educational Service Center.
Preparation of the CIC’s 2020 budget is underway, and following the public portion of Thursday’s meeting the board met in executive session to review a second draft. No related action was taken, and Hayes said he expects the budget will be ready for formal approval at the board’s Dec. 19 meeting.
Hayes also told the board that about a month ago, an attempt was made to hack into the CIC’s financial accounts.
“They do not suspect that we had any damage, but there was an attempt to hack and to infiltrate for financial gain,” Hayes said.
Also Thursday, the board:
• heard Hayes report on three possible land transfers involving the CIC: the city-owned Legion ball field on South Jackson Avenue to Habitat for Humanity for possible home starts (a survey is still needed), a possible land swap between private owners at Harmon Business Park and the transfer of a small strip of land on Integrity Drive from Defiance County to Standridge Color Corporation (pending easement language). No related action was taken.
• heard from Hayes that Purdue University Fort Wayne has proposed offering one or more new programs centered on agriculture, particularly agri-business and ag technology. The school has agreements that allow for students in 14 western Ohio counties to pay in-state tuition. Hayes said the programs would likely be offered beginning in fall 2022.
• heard Hayes report that Goodwill is considering creating a job connection center in Defiance similar to that in Toledo, and that modifications to its current building would be required.
• heard that the Advanced Manufacturing Consortium will host an event Dec. 9 called Connecting Tomorrow’s Workforce, which will bring employers and schools together in a roundtable format to discuss how they can assist each other with today’s workforce needs.
• heard a financial report from CIC board treasurer Tyson Stuckey. He reported that on the revenue side, investor support was a bit stronger than usual this month, while expenses were “typical,” save for one larger bill related to an audit that is nearly complete. The total in all funds as of Thursday was $293,966.
• was joined by Jack Stantz, the newly elected mayor of Sherwood.
• heard that a workforce lunch and learn is set for Dec. 18 at noon in the upstairs conference room at the CIC office, 1300 E. Second St., suite 201.
The CIC is a quasi-public organization that relies on both public and private funding to help promote the retention and expansion of existing businesses, while attracting new ones to Defiance County.