Gentry talks Honda plant, local economic development at Agronomy Field Day


WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE — On Tuesday, the Southwest Corn Growers and Fayette County Agronomy Field Day took place at the Fayette County Airport. A large group gathered to take part in the day full of speakers and activities.

A complimentary lunch was provided by the Southwest Corn Growers and Fayette County Agronomy Club and the food was prepared by Carson’s Farmhouse Favorites.

One of the speakers was Miami Trace High School graduate and partner at Enterprise Advisory Group, Jamie Gentry. According to Gentry, he provides economic development services, whether it’s private companies or small communities that may not have full-time economic developers. He spoke about his role in Fayette County.

“My role basically has to do more with outward marketing of the community, and not just the entire community, but specific to the industrial parks that the city and the county are both developed. What it comes down to is working to expand the capabilities of those industrial parks to try to attract high value, high wage jobs.”

He talked about the growth of site selection projects over the last few years in Fayette County.

“In my career, site selection projects, especially in a small rural community, are not something that you come by very frequently as an economic development professional. Ninety-plus percent of your economic growth comes from your existing businesses that are already here, they’re already creating jobs, and you’re adding jobs and you’re expanding over that time. The last few years that has really flip-flopped, and it’s not just because Fayette County is a great place to be, it’s that economic activity in general has exploded in the last five years.”

Gentry displayed a graphic that showed nine site selection project activities for Fayette County in 2019, 14 in 2020, 33 in 2021, and 36 in 2022. He attributed the growth to the electrification of the auto industry, the re-shoring of manufacturing, and e-commerce and logistics.

Gentry spoke about the October 2022 announcement of the LG/Honda joint venture facility coming to Fayette County’s mega-site in Jeffersonville and his feelings about it.

“Last October, Governor (Mike) DeWine and state leadership invited us all to the State House to announce the joint venture between LG and Honda and their investment in Fayette County. I can tell you it was the most surreal moment of my professional life to be sitting in that audience, knowing what was going to be announced and waiting to hear the governor say ‘Fayette County.’ I knew this community would be at this point one of these days, but still to see it happening in front of you, I’m still trying to wrap my head around it a year later. I believe in Fayette County and knew that this could happen. It’s good to finally see everybody else jump on board with it.”

According to Gentry, this plant will be the battery manufacturing facility for all Honda electric vehicles. The 3 million square foot facility will bring in 2,200 permanent, full-time jobs and will have an annual payroll of over $100 million.

The facility will be the headquarters of Honda battery technology and is one of the top three largest economic development projects in Ohio history. The project site encompasses nearly 450 acres, which will include the manufacturing facility, an electric substation, roads, parking, and on-site utility facilities. Infrastructure is expected to be in place by the winter of 2024-25, with production set to begin in the summer of 2025.

The substation, owned by AES Ohio, will be the largest in AES Ohio which will make it larger than the substation that services Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. This will solidify the electric service in Fayette County for residents and businesses, according to Gentry.

“If you try to eat lunch at any of the restaurants at 71 and 35, you’ll see it is loaded with contractors right now. They are all spending money in Fayette County, so we are already seeing some dividends,” said Gentry. “Everyone’s going to benefit from the public improvements that are being put in place for this project. There’s gonna be 3,000 feet of new roadway extended into the site. We intended to do services and additional projects through the aquifer that was already under the ground there in the area, but as we got into this project and started drilling wells and test wells, we found out that the aquifer would not be adequate to service the industry in the area and any future growth. In a huge partnership with the City of Wilmington, we’re actually running 20 miles of water line down Interstate 71. We’re going to be connecting into the pipeline there that comes from Caesar Creek State Park. There’s nowhere else in the state of Ohio where you’ll see a water line going down the interstate.”

He continued, “That will give us at least four million gallons of water a day. Well, we can’t treat 4 million gallons of water a day. We can only treat a couple hundred thousand gallons of water a day. So, we’re building a brand new four million gallon a day water treatment facility. In addition to that, we’re building a brand new two million gallon a day wastewater treatment facility. The Fayette County Engineer’s Office is spearheading the build-out of a lot of this infrastructure.”

Gentry shared a list of state and local partners that have helped make this project possible. The list included Governor DeWine and the State of Ohio, Ohio Department of Development, JobsOhio, Dayton Development Coalition, Fayette County Commissioners, Jefferson Township Trustees, Miami Trace Local School District, and the City of Washington Court House.

According to Gentry, Fayette County is in talks with another company on a 50-acre project that would be built in the same location, but the project is not related to the battery plant. Specific details on the project were not announced at this time.

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