A community to call “Home”
Business View Magazine interviews representatives of the City of Kettering, Ohio for our focus on Sustainability & Community Development in American Cities.
The city of Kettering, Ohio offers an exceptional level of city services and a quality of life enhanced by beautiful parks, public art, specialized senior services, spectacular recreation facilities and a world-renowned outdoor music venue. Both residents and businesses locate, stay and grow in Kettering because the range of housing options, thriving businesses and outstanding schools make Kettering a great place to call home. You will not find a network of comprehensive services and amenities as diverse, impressive and affordable as what Kettering offers. Whether you are a student, a young professional, an active family or an empty nester, Kettering’s charming neighborhoods offer a sense of old-fashioned community.
For businesses, Kettering, Ohio boasts a strong workforce with a full range of skilled employees, an excellent infrastructure system, and attractive building options for location or expanding facilities. The municipal government, and the whole community of 56,000, has taken control of its own destiny by leveraging every redevelopment opportunity; believing that is the key to long term sustainability.
Business View Magazine recently spoke with long-time Kettering Mayor, Don Patterson, City Manager, Mark Schwieterman, and Economic Development Manager, Gregg Gorsuch about their ambitious, forward-thinking city. The following is an edited transcript of that conversation.
BVM: Can you give us an overall picture of the City of Kettering from an economic development perspective?
Patterson: “Twenty years ago, we like many other suburban communities had shopping centers going dark and the private sector wasn’t doing anything with them. That’s when we bought Governor’s Place, developed it, and became very successful. It was the lynchpin for us doing commercial development within our own community. We’ve repeated this process a number of times, each time with the end product after our investment attracting new businesses and new jobs with far greater returns. This not only ensures sustainable futures for these particular properties, it also protects the investment other businesses and our residents made when they chose Kettering. This is very important to us.”
Schwieterman: “Commercial space in Kettering, for everything from the small entrepreneur driven businesses to multi-million dollar international corporations, has always been in demand but from time to time properties didn’t have the type of reinvestment we know is critical. Over the years the city took a position that if the private sector wasn’t going to redevelop properties, then we, the city, would act as a catalyst. That approach resulted in some tremendous developments for us, new businesses and jobs in our community and frequent recognition for those efforts.”
BVM: Tell us more about the special partnership you have with your largest employer.
Patterson: “We have an unbelievable public-private partnership with our largest employer, the Kettering Health Network. They are a huge Kettering cheerleader and a part of the fabric of our community. We’re fortunate to have them partner with us. Kettering Health Network is the parent company of a very large hospital chain that operates in our region and we are home to their flagship hospital, the Kettering Medical Center.”
Schwieterman: “For the last 25-30 years, we’ve worked closely with them on their master plan which allowed them to open additional acreage in a land-locked community to grow their medical campus, and turned into additional projects being built and additional employment. We’ve also worked with them for safety reasons. We built a bridge over the thoroughfare that their hospital sits on, so pedestrians could get from one side of the campus to the other. It was an opportunity for us to show them that our number one employer and an asset our residents treasure having so close to home, is very important to us.”
BVM: Do you provide the infrastructure for your Business Parks?
Schwieterman: “Kettering, Ohio boasts two thriving business parks in our community, the Kettering Business Park and Miami Valley Research Park. The Kettering Business Park is the city’s largest and longest term re-use effort. Once the Gentile Air Force Station, the campus is now home to Synchrony Financial, Alternate Solutions Health Network and Kettering Health Network Data Center. Companies like Reynolds & Reynolds, Community Tissue Services, Kodak, Wilmer-Hale & Resonetics call Miami Valley Research Park home. The city has significant ownership of both business parks and thus significant control over ensuring that the infrastructure is sufficient for development. Often, we already have the roads, sewer, and water. Where we work with our regional partners like the Dayton Development Coalition and the state of Ohio is on the expansion of roadways. In fact in 2019, we’re extending another section of roadway in Miami Valley Research Park to enable expansion of existing tenants as well as future development. “
Patterson: “I’ve been Mayor for 13 years, and a commercial realtor for 40 years, so I have a very pro-business background. I understand that when communities don’t aggressively try to attract businesses, those cities struggle. And I know the importance of the tax base to be able to deliver the services our residents deserve. We’ve grown our commitment to redevelopment over the years with the Kettering Business Park and, last year, we had the opportunity to buy the large Miami Valley Research Park (owned at one point by four universities), for $1.5 million. We felt we were well equipped and positioned to grow that park and move it forward.”
BVM: What does Kettering, Ohio offer in terms of housing and recreational activities?
Patterson: “We have a variety of housing styles and prices (from $70,000 to $2 million+) to fit anyone’s needs and we are blessed with an excellent school district. We have 21 parks, including many neighborhood parks that offer recreation opportunities. Our spectacular 152,000-sq.-ft. Kettering Recreation Complex facility brings under one roof the Senior Center, Kettering Ice Arena, a lap pool and spa, a multipurpose gymnasium, a walk/run track, a nursery, aerobics and fitness rooms, meeting rooms, and more. The crown jewel of Kettering is Fraze Pavilion – a 4,300-seat outdoor amphitheater that’s consistently ranked in the Top 100 Outdoor Amphitheaters, nationwide, by Pollstar. Our residents treasure the fantastic Kettering schools and all our recreation amenities and cultural arts programs.”
BVM: Is it true you’ve built four new fire stations in Kettering, Ohio?
Schwieterman: “It’s true. The seven stations we had in various neighborhoods were no longer suitable. In 2006, we had a consultant come in for our fire department and we developed a master plan, dubbed the Fire Modernization Plan. We used to be a volunteer fire department from the 1920s to the ‘50s. Ultimately, we transitioned to where we are today, which is 95 percent full-time career and a few part-time people. Today, you not only fight fires, you provide emergency medical care, as well. So, our Modernization Plan resulted in four new fire stations, the last of which just opened. Along with all the other changes we’ve made operationally, I believe we have one of the finest fire departments in the state and the finest infrastructure for them to work out of. In true Kettering style, the old fire stations are being repurposed. We’ve sold one to a business, one as a residence, and we’re planning reuse for two others.”
BVM: What’s happening with green initiatives in Kettering, Ohio?
Schwieterman: “The biggest ‘green’ thing we do is repurpose. I believe the trendy term is ‘upcycle’. We do everything we can to use existing land and buildings. Sometimes it requires demolition, but we believe there is value in reuse. Our Government Center sits in a parklike setting that was built in the late 1960s, right in the center of town. Rather than build new, about seven years ago, we initiated a complete renovation. We kept the bones but gutted the interior and re-built a LEED-certified building; it was a major undertaking, but it is much more energy efficient. Our new fire stations, while not being LEED-rated, have also taken advantage of best practices for sustainability.”
BVM: What are the most important points people should know about Kettering?
Gorsuch: “Without a doubt, it’s the quality of life. Economic development is the lifeblood of the city. We work on it every day because we couldn’t provide residents with all the great programs and projects if we weren’t financially stable.”
Schwieterman: “We truly believe that Kettering is home. We have a tremendous mix of residents and businesses. When you add those together, our tax base is strong. That allows us to be a progressive community in our redevelopment.”
Patterson: “From my standpoint as Mayor, I realize that, for us to provide the services our residents expect, we need a strong business environment and a strong regional presence. We work every day for that. We have a great staff and they all buy into this community spirit. We talk things through. We have trust and strong relationships with our citizens because we reach out to them, we meet with them. To be successful that’s what you need to do. We’re very proud of that and will continue to do so in the future. It’s great to hear, as I often do, that people love living in Kettering.”
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AT A GLANCE
Who: City of Kettering, Ohio
What: Landlocked, inner ring suburb; population 56,000+
Where: Montgomery County, Ohio