The city of Aurora has taken steps over the last several years to draw in new businesses and boost the performance of existing ones in an effort to bolster the economy and create jobs.
In recent years, Aurora has seen the arrival of new businesses, many of them from the industrial sector. Businesses such as Specialized Inc., Premalux LLC/Accublends, Cardpak and Natural Essentials, to name a few, have put down roots in Aurora, bringing jobs and money to the area.
"Many of the new businesses are industrial because we have a plethora of industrial companies versus commercial and retail, but that doesn't take away from commercial and retail [companies] which are experiencing growth," said Aurora Economic Development Director Jack Burge.
Along with large companies immigrating to the city, Burge said, Aurora's existing businesses such as Custom Pultrusions and Mill Distributors also are experiencing growth or have made large investments in their facilities.
BUSINESSES GLAD TO WORK WITH CITY
Ken Klemencic, president of National Pump and Process on Treat Road, said Aurora was very helpful in getting the firm started in the city. The company, based in Ohio, has expanded recently.
Citing geographical convenience, among other things, Klemencic had only positive things to say about the city.
"Aurora couldn't have been more helpful. The process -- planning/zoning and architectural review -- was pleasant and not intimidating," he said. "Aurora is central to the major manufacturing centers of Cleveland, Youngstown / Warren and Akron / Canton."
Klemencic said Aurora is a "great location to have customers and manufacturers visit …There are good places to entertain them."
Doug Wieder, chief financial officer of Mill Distributors off Route in the southern industrial park, said Aurora is a better place to do business now than ever. The firm has been in the city for 18 years, and Wieder said an economic development board has become a great resource.
"The board gives us a lot of help, and Burge has been a big asset in bringing us the resources we've needed," Wieder said.
He explained the company plans to continue to grow as long as the economy stays strong, adding the firm has grown its design department from one person to three full-timers.
Wieder also said Mill Distributors wants to expand its sales internationally. "Aurora has been very proactive in economic development and we're happy to be here," he noted.
Burge explained Aurora has a good technical infrastructure and highly-rated fire services, which brings down insurance rates and attracts more businesses. And he added Aurora is magnetic to new businesses because of its many positive attributes.
"We're getting almost daily contact from businesses interested in moving to Aurora. [Its] location and surroundings are great. It is a good place to live, work, recreate, and learn," he said.
METAULLICS IS COMING
Metaullics Systems, a division of Pyrotech, is the most recent industrial company to decide on Aurora as its new home. Preparation of land prior to building facilities on Campus Drive in the southern industrial park is under way.
The firm would bring 80 jobs from its current location in Solon.
When City Council discussed the project last fall, Burge said the city negotiated with the company for about a year.
The Solon headquarters handles sales, marketing, engineering and production of molten metal pumps, degassing equipment, and melting systems. It also has extensive graphite machining capability.
The Aurora project would result in an investment of about $10 million, and the initial payroll would amount to about $5 million per year. Sixteen additional employees are planned in the first three years, with $500,000 more in payroll.
"This is the first really significant 'build-to-suit' project in our industrial park in a number of years," Burge said. "We're excited to have this company coming to Aurora, and the possibility of future expansion," he said.
City Council approved a 100 percent, 15-year tax abatement for the company, for which Allen Roy is listed as principal owner/officer.
Mike Curtis of Curtis / Layer Design-Build has said the initial 150,762-square-foot facility would include space for a possible future 92,750-square-foot expansion.
He said the facility would operate in three shifts, with about 50 employees on the first shift, 20 on the second and 10 on the third. Curtis Layer Design/Build is a company located in Aurora which has built several facilities in the southern industrial zone.
In December, the state of Ohio approved a 40 percent, seven-year tax credit for the project.
"WE'VE DONE EVERYTHING WE CAN TO MAKE IT EASY FOR BUSINESSES TO OPEN HERE"
When asked whether he expects Aurora's growth to continue, Burge said emphatically, "Yes. The interest in all sectors of [the] business community is very gratifying."
Burge continued that Aurora is attracting so many businesses for two main reasons.
"First, the improvement in the economy, plain and simple," he said. "Second, the fact that Aurora generally, from an administrative standpoint, is very welcoming to new business helps."
He also cited the city's initiative to fill vacant buildings that could be used for business. To date, most of them have been occupied.
"We've done everything we can to make it easy for businesses to open here," Burge said. "Two years ago, Cardpak signed a deal around Christmas, and we had it up and running in 60 days. It's not always easy to do that, but the effort is always made."
EVERYONE BENEFITS FROM A STRONG BUSINESS COMMUNITY
Laura Holman, executive director of the Aurora Chamber of Commerce, said industrial businesses like Metaullics are paramount to Aurora's economy.
"As new industries come into town, symbiotic relationships can develop that provide growth for each individual business and strengthen the business community overall," she said.
"Businesses also can join together and communicate their common needs in terms of issues like infrastructure. Everyone benefits when we work together."
Holman pointed out she "absolutely" believes Metaullics is a positive indicator of growth in Aurora's economy, and said the company improves the attractiveness of the city as a place to start or move one's business.
Holman explained that, when assessing the relative importance of industrial businesses coming to Aurora, two things are key to understanding it.
"First, the taxes brought in from businesses provide about 81 percent of our tax revenue," she explained.
"As our tax base grows, our city can continue to invest in infrastructure, focusing on such things as keeping our streets in top shape and our safety forces properly staffed.
"Second, when industrial businesses establish themselves here, their employees are introduced to all we have to offer. Through that, other businesses -- such as retail shops, restaurants, and services -- can grow.
"Everyone benefits from a strong business community."
MORE PROPEROUS TIMES AHEAD
Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin explained that Aurora takes a very hands-on approach to welcoming new businesses.
"Aurora has become very proactive in helping prospective businesses look for sites in the city and then taking them through all the necessary processes to get them started," she said.
The mayor pointed to Metaullics' willingness to move here as a signal of post-recession economic vitality.
"Pyrotek moving to Aurora is significant because of the jobs that it brings and because it is the first new build-to-suit construction in our industrial park in some time," she explained.
"This hopefully signals an end to the last recession and more prosperous times ahead."
Womer Benjamin also provided the most convincing evidence that points toward the growth of Aurora's economy -- that in the 1990s about 70 percent of the city's tax revenue came from residents. Now, about 80 percent comes from business.
The positive economic news isn't solely about new businesses, but resident ones as well.
"Almost 90 percent of all the businesses we visit declare growth, and some are looking to expand," the mayor said.
Speaking with pride, the mayor explained that "above all, Aurora is a strategically growing community which has many suburban amenities yet continues to cultivate a small-town, rural atmosphere which appeals to many prospective residents and businesses."
Aurora officials certainly concur the city is experiencing growth and strengthening by the day. With the introduction of so many new industrial businesses in recent years, it is hard to imagine the economic vitality will be stifled any time soon.
The jobs that industrial companies have in tow when they put roots down in Aurora will continue to be cited as evidence that Aurora is a strong industrial competitor, and grows stronger as it continues to welcome new businesses in.