WILLIAMSBURG TOWNSHIP, Ohio — What started with the secret code name: “Green Acres,” will now translate into hundreds of new jobs. It's also anticipated to jolt Clermont County’s economy.
"If you can see it, or you can dream it, you can build it,” said David Painter, president of Clermont County Board of Commissioners, regarding the new Nestlé Purina PetCare plant that recently broke ground at the South Afton Industrial Park site in Williamsburg Township.
By 2024, it is estimated that the 1.2-million square-foot facility — a $550 million investment by Nestlé — will create 300 jobs in the county — not to mention the jobs and commerce that comes with construction.
“Close collaboration between JobsOhio, its local partners and the Development Services Agency were essential to attracting Purina’s newest facility and 300 jobs to Ohio,” Gov. Mike DeWine said about the new development. “Talented workers in Clermont County will manufacture Purina’s most recognizable brands from the plant, which will play a critical role in Purina’s global growth strategy.”
The new location in Clermont County will be part of Purina’s network of 21 existing manufacturing locations across the United States, and will be the company’s first new factory built from the ground up since 1975. It is intended to produce dry dog and cat food brands, including Purina Pro Plan, Purina ONE and Dog Chow.
“Our new Ohio factory will build on our more than 90-year history of making science-based dog and cat foods that pet owners trust. We are grateful for the partnership at the state and local levels, and we’re excited to call Clermont County home and support this great community for a long time,” said Purina’s president, Nina Leigh Krueger.
Located along Ohio-32, known as the “Appalachian Opportunity Highway,” connecting Cincinnati to West Virginia, it was a plan seeded in soybeans, literally. The new plant will be built on acres of an existing soybean field, and is why it was dubbed as the project, “Green Acres” in early talks between the county and Purina.
"It was all planted in soybeans,” Painter explained. “So, when Nestle came out to look at it, although all the infrastructure was underneath those beans, it was completely planted in soybeans — which it was a 'green acre,' no doubt about it.”
According to Painter, Ohio-32 has 14 opportunities zones and about 400,000 developable acres for economic development from Cincinnati to Bridgeport, West Virginia.
“This particular location we have in Batavia is in one of those opportunities. So, we knew if we could get all the studies done, all the EPA requirements out of the way, all of the infrastructure that would support a large commercial industrial-type project, that we would have a really good chance of winning, what I would call a 'mega project,'” Painter said.
A mega project, by definition, is a large-scale venture that may take years to build and will impact many people and the surrounding communities.
For Clermont County, that “mega project” is the new Purina planet ant it is projected to bring in a continued revenue stream to benefit the local economy, as well as the education system, he said.
“Once we got all our negotiations done with Nestle, we turned that over to Williamsburg schools. We made a commitment to them, that if they could not come to an agreement on payments, in lieu of taxes to the school system, we would not approve the deal,” Painter said.
“So, we gave them the hammer, which you can imagine, is risky. And they negotiated a deal with Purina where the least amount that they get is $350,000 a year to their school system. And then it's based on the value of the plant once it's actually completed. And it's appraised for tax purposes. And then that amount will go up, depending on what the appraised value is,” he further explained.
With that, Williamsburg Township and Williamsburg Village will benefit from income tax revenue – and the Williamsburg Local School District will receive negotiated payments in lieu of taxes for decades, Painter said.
The construction is expected to last 24-28 months and Painter expects it will boost the economy immediately with a peak of 1,200 construction-related jobs in Clermont County for the next couple of years.
“Not only will they be putting their hard-earned money back into the economy structure here in Clermont County, but it will also bring opportunities for motel rooms and rentals and apartments, and then obviously, entertainment, shopping, gas sales,” Painter surmised.
“These plants are a real shot in the arm for local economies everywhere they are,” he said.
Many of newly created jobs will include professional staff, production operators, technical staff and engineers within the factory, which is expected to be operational by 2023.
“Governments don’t create jobs, businesses do,” Painter said. Nestlé currently employs 3,300 people across Ohio, with Nestlé USA, Nestlé Professional, Nestlé Foodservice and Nestlé Purina operations.
To apply for open positions at the new site in Clermont County, visit purinajobs.com/WilliamsburgTownship.