By Jared Nill
With the recent construction of three new schools and the demolition of the older school buildings that many of us attended, the Piqua City School District is left with the decision of what is to be done with the four vacant lots where the older schools once stood. There have been discussions on what to do with these lots dating as far back as August 2015, but as of now, no final decision has been made.
It would be in the best interest of the city for the school district to sell at least some of the vacant lots to manufacturing companies. Attracting manufacturers to Piqua will create new, well-paying jobs that will attract new residents to the city and inject money into the local economy.
According to a 2015 report on U.S. manufacturing by Robert E. Scott, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, Ohio ranked third among all states for the highest number of manufacturing jobs with 662,100 in 2013. Furthermore, according to clrsearch.com, roughly 29 percent of Piqua’s population was employed in the manufacturing industry in 2012 with the national average being 10 percent. These figures show that manufacturing companies are clearly willing to locate in Ohio and, importantly to us, in Piqua as well.
In his report, Scott also finds that non-college educated manufacturing workers enjoy higher wages than workers of equal education in other industries. This is due to the high productivity and skill level of many manufacturing jobs. In Ohio, the wage premium is estimated to be a relatively high $2.99. This means that in Ohio, non-college educated manufacturing workers earn on average $2.99 per hour more than equally educated workers in other industries.
As of 2012, the percentage of people with high school being the highest level of education was about 44 percent in Piqua — above the national average of 28 percent. This means less people in Piqua are going on to attain college educations. That is not to say that the people of Piqua are not skilled workers. With the percentage of workers in Piqua employed in the manufacturing field being 29 percent as mentioned previously, it is evident that there are many people in Piqua skilled enough to take on new manufacturing jobs. The relatively high level of non-college educated residents in Piqua makes it extremely important to attract additional well-paying manufacturing jobs to the community.
To incentivize manufacturing companies to build facilities at these locations, the school district and the city should work together to respectively sell the vacant school properties at a discounted price as well as provide tax exemptions to manufacturers. With Ohio’s Community Reinvestment Area (CRA) tax abatement, the city can exempt up to 100 percent of real property taxes on a newly constructed industrial project for up to 15 years.
I would suggest that any new manufacturing company be exempt from all real property taxes, but still pay an agreed upon portion of the property tax levied by the school district for the full 15 years. This ensures some investment by the company into the community. Any lost tax revenues due to these exemptions would likely be offset by the additional income tax revenues generated by newly created jobs.
Advanced manufacturing and materials has been identified by community leaders as a key industry for potential expansion in Piqua. Why not act on this observation now to try and attract quality, well-paying manufacturing jobs to the area? These are the types of jobs the community needs to help spur economic development and provide the highest quality of life possible for residents.
Jared Nill grew up in Piqua, is a 2012 graduate of Piqua High School and is a senior economics major at The Ohio State University.