Lancaster looking to attract additional small businesses

As home to Anchor Hocking Co., Lancaster has long been identified as a manufacturing community. Recently, though, the city has begun touting its small business friendliness.

Lancaster officials are quick to list the city’s skilled workforce, proximity to several universities and colleges (and the fresh talent they offer), and its location (30 minutes southeast of Columbus) and direct access to Route 33 and nearby interstates 70 and 71 as compelling reasons business owners should consider locating there.

The city has utility capacity for growth coupled with a large labor pool and a can-d0 attitude, says Michael Pettit, Lancaster’s economic development director.

Its downtown business district in particular has successfully attracted numerous niche businesses that are doing well.

“The downtown business district is very conducive for small startups, as it offers the right size spaces and appropriate amount of foot traffic and exposure for businesses getting started,” he says.

Business owners thinking of setting up shop in Lancaster are advised to discuss locations with the Zoning Department before renting or purchasing to verify that their building meets code.

Though he couldn’t provide exact figures regarding the number of businesses that open in Lancaster each year, Lancaster-Fairfield Chamber of Commerce President Travis Markwood says the organization helps out with three to four ribbon cutting ceremonies per month at companies celebrating the opening or expansion of their operations.

To assist businesses just getting off the ground, the Chamber offers one-on-one meetings with a consultant from Ohio’s Small Business Development Center at its offices on North Broad Street.

“The Chamber also works to create strategic partnerships with organizations, suppliers and providers, like the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, insurance carriers and third-party administrators, to negotiate pricing that many of the small business Chamber members can take advantage of,” Markwood says.

In an effort to retain and promote the businesses it already has, Lancaster has partnered with Canal Winchester, Pickerington, Violet, Bloom and Greenfield townships, and Fairfield county to create the Fairfield 33 Corridor marketing alliance.

“The alliance is public and private funded, and the economic development practitioners from the partners market the region for investment through corporate calling missions, trade show attendance, Web-based marketing, and print media,” Pettit says.

Three brownfield redevelopments underway in Lancaster suggest the city is poised for additional growth.

The former Lancaster Glass Factory, located in the city’s downtown gateway, received a $2.5 million grant from the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund. Plus,  a $1.5 million CORF award will facilitate the clean up of a former Ray-O-Vac battery plant, and a $100,000 grant from the Clean Ohio Assistance Fund will be used to assess the environmental status of a former service station next to Fairfield Medical Center that will be the site of a new medical office building.

More information about economic development in Lancaster can be found at Ci.Lancaster.oh.us.