ELYRIA — Elyria Plastic Products will buy the former General Industries site in an expansion deal that brings together the Elyria-based company, JobsOhio and the Elyria Community Improvement Corporation.
Nearly nine years after a fire gutted the sprawling facility that spanned two blocks on Olive and Taylor streets, a plan is in the works to clean up the property, turn it over to a neighboring business that wants to grow and eliminate an eyesore in the city’s 1st Ward.
Mayor Holly Brinda made a campaign promise more than six years ago to deal with the property, so being able to make the announcement Wednesday afternoon brought a sense of closure.
“This was a lot of convincing of a lot of people whether it was the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Ohio Development Services Agency, JobsOhio, the business community with their patience, and finally, a willing buyer in Elyria Plastic,” she said. “It was a lot of moving parts and pieces, and if you would have asked me five years ago if it would have taken this long, I would have said never.”
The deal comes together through several agreements and with a price tag of about $500,000 for a complete site remediation. In the end, Elyria Plastic will use the land for a new employee parking lot as it builds a $1.3 million expansion that will bring five new jobs.
Jim Reichlin, company president, did not return a phone call or email requesting comment.
Brinda said Reichlin expressed a desire to grow more than four years ago and it has been a race to close a deal before the company elected to leave Elyria.
“Just from a job-retention standpoint, this will keep 60 jobs in Elyria,” she said.
The first agreement between Elyria Plastic and the Elyria CIC sets the purchase price for the property at $50,000. Elyria Plastic will place the funds in escrow until the property is remediated for use.
A second agreement between Jobs-Ohio and the Elyria CIC brings in another $300,000 that also will be used for cleanup.
The city’s CIC will put up the last $150,000 to round out the cleanup costs. Brinda said the city is using the remaining balance of funds it received in 2013 when Elyria received the largest amount of unclaimed funds in Ohio’s history. Back then, the state’s Division of Unclaimed Funds sent the city $3.4 million from forgotten insurance policies the city purchased from Anthem in the late 1990s that turned into a one-time windfall for the city.
Elyria Plastic, a supplier of injection molded parts, CNC-machined parts and tooling, agrees to create five new jobs within three years of the transfer closing as well as retain its 60 current jobs. The payroll is more than $1.87 million, and the new jobs will create an additional $137,000 in payroll.
The deal also comes with several conditions, Brinda said. This includes the federal EPA removing a lien on the property that dates back to the original fire when the federal agency completed an initial cleanup.
Also, the city has to receive the remediation grant from JobsOhio and complete the site work and remediation by 2019.
Brinda said the cleanup likely will happen by the end of the year.
Naysayers may question the logic behind investing so much time and energy for five new jobs and a parking lot, but Brinda said more was at stake in allowing the site to linger. Within a mile of the fenced-off rubble-filled lot, there are numerous manufacturing companies making about $352 million in annual revenue and employing more than 1,400 workers.
“It was not a situation that enticed anyone over there to make additional improvements to their properties,” she said. “We are happy to help this company in particular because they are right next door to the property, but we were very concerned about the possible outcome of doing nothing for all of the companies in the neighborhood.”
City Councilman Larry Tanner, D-1st Ward, said residents asked him constantly about a cleanup of the site.
A long and fiery history
The former General Industries site once included about 12 buildings that had a century-long history of manufacturing.
J-Tech Technologies, owned by John Peshek, was the last company to use the former manufacturing site at Olive and Taylor streets. However, many of the buildings were destroyed in a fire in 2008.
Peshek did not insure the property and said soon after the fire that he did not have the means to fund an extensive cleanup and redevelopment.
The federal EPA did the initial cleanup at a cost of nearly $1 million in 2009 and the Ohio EPA followed up with a subsequent Phase I environmental assessment at no cost to the city. The Ohio Development Services Agency, through the Clean Ohio Fund, provided Elyria with $200,000 for a Phase II environmental assessment.
That assessment revealed the presence of petroleum byproducts in the property’s subsurface but not at levels that would prevent redevelopment.
In April, Peshek signed an agreement allowing the city to take ownership so it could apply for and receive additional state grant money to aid in further cleanup.
Peshek also signed a conveyance in lieu of foreclosure and quit claim deed to the city. This allowed the county to forgive more than $80,000 in owed property taxes and convey the property to the city.
For his cooperation, the city agreed to pay Peshek $10,000.
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