Instead of simply relying on Hilliard’s largely young and professional population to attract business, city officials there have taken a more proactive economic development approach.
Entrepreneurs and business owners considering the area are given personalized attention, land continues to be annexed for commercial use, and the city has made substantial investments in the infrastructure and amenities expected to drive future growth.
Hilliard, like most Central Ohio communities, offers a variety of financial incentives to new and existing businesses.
For instance, the city has established Community Reinvestment Areas for nearly all undeveloped and commercial lands within its limits, which allows the city to offer real property tax exemptions for expanding businesses.
Hilliard’s staple business incentive, though, is a local jobs creation incentive whereby a new or expanding business receives an annual cash grant or credit based on a percentage of the local withholding taxes paid on its employees’ wages, says David Meeks, the city’s economic development director.
However, he contends that financial incentives are just one factor in the site selection process.
“Quality and stability in a community, strong schools, and an educated workforce are even more important than financial incentives,” he says, adding that Hilliard has strong schools and a highly educated workforce eager for employment opportunities closer to their homes.
Additionally, the “enterprising professionals” and “up and coming families” who live in Hilliard are highly sought after consumers by business services, retailers, and restaurants, he says.
To ensure that any business owner thinking of setting up shop in Hilliard knows how the city can meet their particular needs, Meeks says he meets with owners individually and crafts a solution tailored to their companies “rather than offer a standard palate of incentives.”
Meeks also helps them obtain state and federal assistance, and offers local business-to-business introductions.
In the last year, Hilliard has attracted a new branch of Indiana Weslyan University as well as high tech companies Touch Bionics, Star Dynamics, and E-Cycle.
“City development will stay focused on bringing these growth-oriented businesses to call Hilliard home,” Meeks says.
Over the past eight years, Hilliard officials have invested nearly $50 million in new roads, infrastructure, parks and community facilities.
First Responders Park opened in Old Hilliard on Sept. 11 and eventually an interactive park featuring an amphitheater, dancing water fountains, and other family-friendly amenities will be located across the street.
“We will continue to invest in things that improve the curb appeal of Hilliard for prospective businesses while maintaining the highest levels of public service throughout the community,” Meeks says.
Old Bag of Nails Pub and Abner’s restaurant are also new to Old Hilliard, an area Meeks calls a “vibrant, thriving area for residents and businesses alike.”
More than 1,000 acres in Hilliard were annexed between 2009 and 2010 to provide new growth opportunities and an expanding market for existing businesses, and Meeks says the city is already eyeing additional annexations to continue generating the critical mass needed to support the growth of its businesses and attract new employers.
Further, Hilliard will continue to focus on drawing medical and service-oriented businesses to serve the retiring Baby Boom generation and those to follow, Meeks says.
More information about economic development in Hilliard can be found at HilliardOhio.gov.
All photography by Adam Slane.