The Weastec, Toyodenso Group announced it is expanding and opening a plant in Greenfield at the Wednesday morning meeting of the Highland County Board of Commissioners.
Craig Miley, Weastec vice president, said many years ago the company got out of manufacturing and since then has focused on “pass-through.” He said the new business involve larger engine parts that will be assembled which the company will be “adding value to” and shipping to its customers. He said because the Hillsboro part of the business is out of space with “hundreds and hundreds of bins” of parts, the Greenfield space will be opened.
Miley said the target for getting the building up and running is the end of 2021. He said the target is January or February to move the assembly lines and start have them running.
“We’ll have two lines moving over there,” he said. “They’ll be semi-automated and use a lot of robotics. I think my production manager told me there’ll be eight robots that will be doing this assembling… It won’t be a lot of people, about 15, but as I said these are semi-automated lines, so one thing we’ve talked with (Highland County Economic Development Director) Julie (Bolender) about is we’re gonna need people that have a more technical background because we will have robotics and we will have a need for people to be able to program the robots, maintain them and things like that.”
Miley said many of the company’s current workers are from Greenfield, so the company is giving them the first chance to choose if they want to work at the new facility. He said the company has production assistants and material handlers, but one area it will be specifically looking for is someone that can work on the robots. He said the company will be hiring people from Highland County and that people interested in the positions should go through the company’s human resources department. He said the company uses a temporary agency because some of the positions are temporary, and that the new facility might open floor space in Hillsboro and bring more jobs.
“We are very thankful and this has been a process and I’m glad to be a part of the process,” Greenfield City Manager Todd Wilkin said. “We’re here to support any way that we can. We believe, as a government, we don’t create jobs, we just create the atmosphere in which you guys create the jobs and we do have some work that we’re going to do over there on the property to kind of clean it up and make it more usable… So very excited and looking forward to working with you guys on future projects, so thank you very much.”
Also discussed at the meeting was continued dialogue about Rocky Fork and Paint creeks and their possible designation as a scenic river.
Matt Ingles, a concerned citizen that opposes the designation, attended the meeting and said he drove up north the past weekend to visit already designated scenic rivers and talk to landowners about what might be in store for landowners in Highland and Ross counties. Ingles said those people said there wasn’t a “big concern” now, but that there are things already changing in those areas. He said there was only one person he asked that said the designation was a good idea other than someone that owned one of the kayak rental businesses. Ingles said the person the said the designation would be a good idea and that all the designation amounts to is personal profits for those involved in it.
“That’s one of the reasons we oppose the law,” Ingles said. “The waters that we got already they’re wanting to use for this scenic stuff is the cleanest in the area, so there’s no reason for the ODNR to even be involved in that kind of take more grant money for clean-up action… Really no sense of having another form of government in control of stuff they shouldn’t be involved in because everything that they’ve already taken control of they’ve ruined in our area. There’s not a thing that they’ve done right in that area.”
Commmissioner Jeff Duncan said he also visited northern parts of the state over the weekend and passed over Big Darby Creek, a National Scenic River with a higher designation than Rocky Fork and Paint creeks would have. Duncan said there is a fertilizer plant within 400 feet of the creek and that he called the manager of the plant. He said the manager said they haven’t had any issues.
Duncan said nobody he has talked to has said anything negative about the possibility of the designation. He also said someone he talked to had a home that was within 300 feet of the creek, put in a leech field, and didn’t have to have any special permits. He also said the person put a shelter about 30 feet from the creek, ran electricity and water to it, and didn’t have to have special permission.
Wilkin said the 4,700 Greenfield residents elect the council and the council sets policy and/or economic development plans. He said that three years ago council set an economic development plan that passed. A part of that plan the village is focused on is “destination tourism” and bringing people to Highland County.
Wilkin said that there isn’t a percentage that shows how many people end up moving to Highland County, but that once people visit the county, there’s a lot of people that come back. He also said that for Greenfield, from the village to Paint Creek Lake, it’s already all federally owned land.
“From the standpoint of what this can do, the waterways are already used. They are already used by many kayakers, canoeists … I don’t know that this scenic river is going to change the amount attracted in a negative way. I think the scenic river will actually increase the amount of traffic to bring them to Highland County, and then, therefore, when they’re here, guess what they’re going to do? They’re going to spend their money… Word of mouth is going to say, ‘You need to go out. You need to experience the natural beauty of Rocky Fork Paint Creek.’ That’s why we wrote our letter … We are doing our job as it relates to attracting destination tourism to our community and so that’s where we’re at from a community standpoint.”
Commissioner David Daniels said the law is clear. He said the law is written so that the designation doesn’t give any government agent agency any control over private property rights or landowner rights. He also said it doesn’t grant ingress or egress across private property rights for any reason. He said there are specific reasons property can be taken by imminent domain and that recreation isn’t one of them.
“When you read the law in its entirety it is very clear what can and can’t be done and the intent of the law is to protect private property rights and protect the scenic waterway,” Daniels said. “We’ve had a community in our county that has come and asked for this. They’ve asked for this to be a part of their economic development portfolio and we, in the review that I’ve done, that I think Jeff’s done and I’m not gonna speak for them, but shows no adverse negative effects on property owners any place where we’ve been able to find. If there are people out there that you have talked to that have experienced negative consequences, I’d like to know who they are because I’d like to talk to them.”
In other news, the board of commissioners approved the replacement of a heating and air-conditioning at the Highland County Justice Center. Duncan said there are four units there, and one that had not been replaced. He said the estimate for repairs was around $10,000 or $29,680 to purchase a new unit.
Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2570.