Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Business academy to rise in Butler Co.

Worker training called key as area growth takes off

By Jennifer Edwards, jedwards@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WEST CHESTER TWP. — Business and education leaders Monday announced a new economic development academy to serve the burgeoning business community along Interstate 75 between Cincinnati and Dayton.

        The Southeastern Butler County Workforce Academy will emerge in the lower level of a new, 5,000-square-foot Peoples Community Bank building at the northeast corner of Cox and Tylersville roads.

        The bank building is Peoples' second West Chester location since moving its corporate headquarters to West Chester Road in Union Centre in 2001.

        The building also will be the new home for the Southeastern Butler County Chamber of Commerce.

        The chamber will help run the academy, and the Butler County Joint Vocational School District will provide curriculum and employees. Miami University campuses in Hamilton and Middletown also are expected to join the venture over the next four to six weeks once internal university reviews and approvals are given.

        “We are developing a world-class facility,” said Joe Hinson, chamber president and chief executive officer. “This is just good business for all of us in a competitive environment to achieve success.”

        Since January 1999, the chamber has sought to provide work force development for the 2,500 businesses in Liberty and West Chester townships, Mr. Hinson said.

        Educating employees and providing one place where businesses could to go to do it will continue to be crucial as developments grow between Cincinnati and Dayton, he said.

        “This is the time that we need to be looking at putting some services and products in place to help with the growth,” he said.

        “The academy offers the opportunity as an attraction tool for businesses looking at the area. More importantly, it offers the opportunity as a retention tool for businesses already here.”

        The high-tech academy, with a 3,000-square-foot conference center, will be housed in the basement of the new, $2.5 million Peoples building at the Voice of America Centre.

        The building is expected to open in June. The Southeastern Butler County Chamber of Commerce plans to move its corporate offices from Olde West Chester on Cincinnati-Dayton Road into a 2,500 square-foot space on the first floor, next to the bank branch.

        The new location will put the booming chamber, with nearly 700 members, in a high-growth, centrally located area.

        U.S. Rep. John Boehner, R-West Chester, lauded the academy Monday as a “perfect example” of the public and private sectors working together.

        “The level of cooperation it has taken to make this project a reality is truly commendable,” said Mr. Boehner, chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

        “Everyone involved in this project understands that a solid, well-trained work force is the backbone of a strong economy,” he said.

        “Thanks to their efforts, the future for the business community here in Butler County is as bright as ever,” he said. “I expect the workforce academy will serve as a model for other such ventures here in the Tristate.”

        The Butler County JVS is the third-largest vocational district in the state and served more than 4,000 people last year.

        Butler County JVS and Miami University will contribute by providing employees to run the work force academy with the chamber and educate workers.

        “We don't quite know what to expect yet in terms of response,” said Michael Governanti, executive director of Miami's Middletown campus.

        “But we are hopeful that, given the needs for work force development businesses are indicating, the partnership would be serving probably hundreds of employees over the next couple of years.”

        The sale of the land for the brick building is expected to be complete by early September, with the academy opening in June, Peoples Community Bank President Jerry Williams said Monday.

        The building will sit in front of the 500,000-square-foot shopping center's anchor store, retail giant Target, and face a new medical campus, University Pointe, which is expected to open this fall.

        Residents are already bracing for congestion from all the development. Cox Road has been shut down just north of Tylersville Road to Hamilton-Mason Road since April to be widened from two to five lanes.

        It is expected to reopen in December.

        But Tylersville Road, the most congested artery in the township, isn't expected to see relief for years.

        Township leaders have said it cannot be widened because the right of way would cost too much to acquire.

        “After they finish building all these other places, traffic is gong to be really horrendous,” said Mary Seitz, a 45-year resident who often travels Tylersville Road.

        “You just wonder what we are going to do with all this traffic, but they just keep building more and more. We don't know when it will end.”

        Peoples Community Bank will own the building and rent out at a reduced rate the space to the chamber for offices and the academy. The schools will help the chamber with start-up costs and support for five-years.

        Part of the rent for the academy will be donated back to the chamber, Mr. Williams said.

        The bank also will use the building as a bank training center.

        When the academy is not being used, businesses will be able to rent it for teleconferences and other events.

        All parties have made a five-year commitment to the venture, which has been endorsed by the Butler-Warren Workforce Policy Board.

        “We got a great deal and this is a great partnership,” said Robert Sommers, chief executive officer of the Butler County JVS.

        Peoples Community Bank has three locations in Warren County, including corporate offices, and six in Hamilton County.

        The bank, not affiliated with Peoples Bank of Northern Kentucky, moved its corporate headquarters from Lebanon to West Chester in 2001.

        “West Chester has been very good to us, and this is our way of giving back to the community. It just fits with the branch network strategy we have and the continued opportunities as this area expands,” Mr. Williams said.


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