ODA working to demonstrate that “Ohio Means Agribusiness”

By Matt Reese

These fancy lapel pins emphasize the ODA's key message to potential agribusiness opportunities in Ohio.

If you ask the Governor, or the Director of Agriculture, in the state, they’ll tell you that “Ohio Means Agribusiness.” Since Governor John Kasich was elected the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), along with the Ohio Department of Development (ODD), has made concerted effort to work with attracting and expanding agribusinesses to Ohio to boost Ohio’s struggling economy.

“If you take a look, the ODD and the ODA are following about $1.3 billion of proposed new ag facilities and expansions in Ohio, and those are just the larger facilities that the ODD has identified for possible assistance,” said Rocky Black, ODA deputy director. “There are a number of different projects we are working on.”

One example is Pioneer Hi-Bred that set up a temporary research station in Plain City and is now looking for a site for a permanent facility in western Ohio.

“We are working with Pioneer Hi-Bred on bringing a permanent seed research facility to Ohio,” Black said. “We have hopefully been helpful to them on finding the best place to locate that. They have also talked about the possibility of bringing other facilities from out of state to Ohio.”

Another possibility is with FTW, an export company from Florida.

“FTW is relocating its cattle and hog export operation. They are currently looking at Wilmington Air Park in Wilmington,” Black said. “It is a USDA export facility to get animals ready for air shipment overseas to countries such as Turkey and Istanbul. There will be a number of different projects with that, but it is essentially for replenishment of stock over there.”

Dannon Yogurt has long been an important part of the economy in the Minster area and has been expanding significantly in recent years.

“This is truly one of the exciting projects that the State of Ohio has been working on. Over three or four years, this will add 100 jobs to the Dannon plant’s existing 400 jobs,” Black said. “Dannon invested over $200 million in their plant in Minster since 2006. They use about 400 local farmers to meet their needs including milk from 20,000 Ohio cows.”

Other interesting possible projects the ODA and ODD are working with include an expansion of J&M Manufacturing in Mercer County, possibly adding outside vendors to the Orient Correctional Facility’s meat packing plant, an expansion of Pops Snack Foods in Cleveland, a possible construction project of a grain shipping and handling facility in Defiance County with Consolidated Grain and Barge, and a delicious new plant for Pierre’s Ice Cream in Cleveland. In addition, researchers at The Ohio State University Extension office in Piketon are working with the ODA and the Department of Transportation on a possible pilot project for highway grasses. Cellulosic rich grasses like switchgrass and miscanthus could be used along highways as a natural barrier between properties and generate up to $4 million per year as renewable feedstock for electricity, ethanol, synthetic gas and other fuels.

Both Zehringer and Black emphasized the willingness of the ODA to aggressively encourage the development in these and other agribusinesses of all sizes in Ohio.

“Whether people are undertaking a new agribusiness or expanding something they are already doing, they should get in touch with us and we will find a way to be helpful to them if at all possible,” Black said. “We are more than willing to work very vigorously with people to expand agriculture.”

For more about Ohio’s efforts to attract and expand agribusiness in Ohio, see the July issue of Ohio’s Country Journal.

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