Garfield Heights, Ohio – Cuyahoga County

May 30, 2024

Garfield Heights, Ohio

A Gateway to Opportunity

 

An economic hub with a lifestyle an enviable lifestyle for its residents

With its charming tree-lined streets, welcoming neighborhoods, and vibrant recreational opportunities, Garfield Heights has always been a beloved place to call home. Today, it is also a city on the rise, transitioning from a tranquil bedroom community into a vibrant and diverse economic hub.

Known for years as “The Community of Homes,” Mayor Matthew Burke explains how city leadership sought to alter Garfield Heights’ trajectory five years ago by attracting new industry. He imparts, “We realized to ease the tax burden on the residents, we had to have businesses coming in.”

 

Economic Revitalization

“We identified a couple of areas of the city that really could be developed and utilized for industrial purposes,” Mayor Burke continues, sharing the transformation of a rundown shopping center as one example. Recognizing the strategic location and transportation advantages of Garfield Heights, Real Estate Developer, Industrial Commercial Properties LLC, purchased and rebranded the center as Highland Park, focusing on industrial use.

“In that corridor of Garfield Heights, it’s easy access to I-480. If you’re trying to move products from a distribution or a manufacturing standpoint, you hit all the major metropolitan areas within a two or three-hour radius,” says Burke.

One of the first companies to take root in the industrial park was Mpac Switchback, a designer and manufacturer of innovative packaging equipment. “They also have plants in Asia, they have plants in the UK, and they have a plant in Canada. It’s truly an international company,” shares the mayor. With the potential for future expansion, Mpac has indicated the need for a skilled workforce, and Garfield Heights is prepared to meet this need.

Working in partnership with the company’s director for the US market, Burke says, “One of the things that our economic development team has done is to take that Director and partner him with universities like Case Western Reserve University, our local Cuyahoga Valley Career Center, and the local high school, to start the process of recruiting these young, talented individuals who aspire to become your engineers, or HR people of tomorrow, to help develop that workforce in the Cleveland region.”

Innoplast, manufacturers of visionary products for vehicle and facility protection was the next company to establish a presence in Highland Park, followed by M Tech who specialize in maintenance vehicles for municipalities and large venues. “I have to hand it to Industrial Commercial Properties because they’ve been very proactive on this. Probably once a month I have a meeting with them, just to talk about how things are going,” notes Burke.

Open for Business

He identifies Garfield Heights’ potential as a central hub in the region, acknowledging that there have been some barriers to progress. “Our zoning has not been updated since 1962. Just recently, our council and I worked together on getting the zoning code studied and we’re going through an update right now. We’re ready to rewrite some of the zoning codes and update the zoning,” he shares.

“The reason we haven’t had the investment here, by outside developers and individuals, is because we have not made it easy. We put too many roadblocks in front of them. So, we’re currently trying to get rid of those roadblocks and help in making it easier for a developer to come in.” In partnership with Cuyahoga County, Mayor Burke says Garfield Heights is also conducting a study of a potential corridor for a transit-oriented development. “That is a big thing right now, connectivity, getting people around,” he asserts.

Infrastructure and Residential Development

Moving on to the subject of infrastructure, Burke says the city diligently goes after any available grant money for water and sewer upgrades in identified areas. “Cuyahoga County and the state of Ohio have been wonderful because, the Cleveland Water Division and Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, they’re the ones who monitor our water and sewer lines. They look at the current infrastructure and at ways that they can reroute to make it a better situation for everybody,” he conveys, expressing gratitude for the work of Senator Sherrod Brown, who was instrumental in the $3.2 million in funding received toward water and sewer projects in the city. “He worked hard to get that for us. And we can see the benefits of that.”

Currently, plans are underway to secure grant funding for various programs aimed at designating the entire city as a Community Reinvestment Area (CRA), to encourage residential development. With numerous empty lots across different wards, one innovative strategy being considered is to offer a housing development option for young professionals with the support of local industry. This would involve partnering with companies like Mpac, where promising individuals could be offered the opportunity to purchase empty lots at a largely discounted rate, with incentives like tax abatements, on the condition that they build a home within a specified period.

Burke portrays, “What that does is it keeps that professional, who has the job and is making good money, here in Garfield Heights, in a brand new home that they were able to build. It develops the workforce and develops the city at the same time. If we could ever pull something like that off, I think that would be incredible.”

In addition, the city is looking at ways to encourage infill development and is working to adjust zoning on the residential side. “We’ve got to reestablish our housing inventory,” he admits. “But again, how do we do that? How do we leverage that to develop the workforce and make it stronger? To be able to even build a single-family home on an infill lot, we still have to address some zoning issues. So that’s being addressed in that zoning rewrite as well.”

 

Collaboration and Growth

Last year Cuyahoga County identified 72 acres in Garfield Heights as an ideal location for their Central Services campus. This facility, which will house various departments including the sheriff’s department, mental health services, and a county jail, is expected to bring around 1100 jobs to the city.

“They might be bringing in a lot more here, they have finalized the votes and everything they needed,” reports Burke, sharing that Garfield Heights was chosen due to its clean land, which eliminates the need for remediation. “You have to make it safe for the people that are incarcerated. But also, the employees that work there for 30 years, they don’t want to work in a place that was a toxic environment,” he states. “This is clean land, it’s never been a waste dump. It’s never been toxic. That’s what drew them to Garfield Heights.”

The focus is now on extending a transportation road in the city, to unlock development opportunities for Garfield Heights and neighboring areas. County Executive Chris Ronayne and Mayor Burke are aligned in prioritizing this extension, which will encourage economic growth and job creation, as well as offering an alternate corridor around the new county facility.

“Right now, the state of Ohio is on the map because of Intel coming in, and other manufacturers that work along with Intel are looking at Ohio now,” relays Burke. “So, while we’re on center stage, we better get our stuff together to make sure that we are making the best use of that. We both agree that this is the time to key in and extend that road.”

Future Growth and Unity in Garfield Heights

Looking ahead, Burke says attention will remain on economic and housing development, and the road extension initiative, along with an investment in parks and recreation throughout the city. He further emphasizes the importance of community engagement in Garfield Heights, pointing out the shifting demographics in the city, and highlighting the success of town hall meetings and community events like Fall Family Fun Day and a three-day Memorial Day Extravaganza, in bringing people together.

“Our last town hall meeting, we had over 200 people show up. You see some of the same people coming, but then you see that they’re bringing their neighbors, you see that they’re bringing the guy down the street that they met walking through the park. It’s incredible to watch people of all walks of life, interact with one another and laugh and joke around,” Burke recounts.

Centered on progress, Garfield Heights remains focused on enhancements in quality of life and opportunities, nurturing a community where every resident can prosper and thrive.

AT A GLANCE

Garfield Heights

What: A visionary city, embracing growth and progress.

Where: Cuyahoga County, Ohio

Website: www.garfieldhts.org

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