Van Wert Aims To Turn Chunk Of Real Estate Into a Magnet For Jobs

By Jeff Neumeyer

April 18, 2012 Updated Apr 19, 2012 at 7:25 AM EDT

VAN WERT, Ohio (Indiana's NewsCenter) --- The city of Van Wert Ohio hopes it will soon have a leg up on the competition in attracting a major employer to town.

Community leaders there can finally see the finish line in securing a “mega” industrial site.

Jeff Neumeyer: " The average person looking upon a sprawling piece of real estate northeast of Van Wert sees nothing more than farmland, but when Van Wert City officials peer over the same ground they see a gold mine.

The city has options to buy 30 parcels of land, totaling 1,600 acres, which it hopes to dangle in front of a major car manufacturer or other big employer looking to locate a new plant.

In 2006, Van Wert showcased a different supersite in trying to snag a Honda plant.

The city lost that sweepstakes to Greensburg Indiana.

But not long after, Van Wert pursued a matching grant with the State of Ohio to try and prepare the new 1,600-acre site for the next prospect to come along.

The mission hit a major roadblock when the state insisted that Van Wert have a costly natural gas line in place and paid for, before a company even made a commitment.

Mayor Don Farmer/(R) Van Wert: " Once that was removed by the state, it put us in a totally different situation, that we could go ahead and do all the rest of the infrastructure. It was a major decision."

Neumeyer: " Farmer, who returned to the mayor's office in January, after four years away from the job, was able to get the state to back off the gas line demand, and lower Van Wert's financial responsibility on the project.

The city hopes to start running utility lines and a rail spur to the site starting this summer.

Jay Fleming/Van Wert Service Director: " You're at the gas station, people are saying, what's happening with the mega site? You know, and for a couple of years, it was tough to tell them an answer. I mean, we just kept saying we're working through it, stay tuned. We're going to make this thing happen. And so, it's a relief to think that we're finally going to pull it off."

Neumeyer: " Van Wert lost out on the Honda prize. Because of the new site, the second time might prove to be a charm.

If all goes as planned, the supersite could be ready to attract a new plant by the end of 2013.

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