When Dave Giblin and his partners were looking for a place to expand ODW Logistics in 2013, he frankly admits that Hamilton was not his first choice. By that time, the company was nearly five years old and employed 25 people scattered throughout the former Municipal Building at 20 High Street. This made it difficult to communicate with each other – crucial for a company arranging transportation services – and also to hire new people and integrate them into the culture of the company.
“We had been working with Biztech [now known as the Hamilton Mill] and part of their deal was they wanted us [ODW Logistics] to stay here, wanted to see us mature and grow up,” said Giblin. But ODW’s major competitors were mostly in downtown Cincinnati, West Chester, and Northern Kentucky, all of which are thriving, growing metropolitan areas attractive to the young talent ODW was looking to recruit.
“We hire college-age, entry-level folks,” said Giblin. “Bringing them into a building that wasn’t exactly the Taj Mahal… it just wasn’t very impressive. We reached a point where we realized that the intrigue of being a start-up business was no longer enough to attract new employees. We needed more. We needed a work environment that allowed our business to flourish.”
Giblin and his partners began to look outside of Hamilton for new office space. They were looking to relocate to an exciting area with a lot of things to do: places with bars and restaurants, with nightlife activity that would be enticing to 22-26 year olds. At the time, there wasn’t a whole lot of that kind of activity taking place in Hamilton.
When City Manager Joshua Smith got word that ODW was looking to locate outside of Hamilton, he and Economic Development Director Jody Gunderson immediately went to work. They met with ODW to find out what they could do to keep the growing company here, including offering them an entire underutilized floor of the Government Services Center at 345 High Street. They also gave Giblin and his partners a sneak peak of the City’s plans.
“They showed us what they were doing from an infrastructure perspective, what they were doing with different businesses, what they were doing on the riverfront,” said Giblin. These plans included providing new amenities, such as RiversEdge amphitheater and the free summer concert series held there, as well as supporting new economic activity.
And the City of Hamilton delivered on those promises. Since 2013, Hamilton has seen millions of dollars in investment from companies expanding in and moving to Hamilton, including multinational giants such as ThyssenKrupp Bilstein and Barclaycard. More than 20 new small businesses have opened in the urban core in the past two years, giving downtown workers something to do at lunch and after work. Craft brewing has also returned to downtown Hamilton; Municipal Brew Works opened in June 2016 and is an integral part of Hamilton’s nightlife.
“Most importantly, they showed us a class-A location here in downtown Hamilton,” said Giblin. The sixth floor offices at 345 High Street look out over the town and give a breathtaking view of the revitalization taking place. All the things that the City team used to sell ODW on Hamilton, ODW now uses on new hires. “You can see growth in Hamilton. You can see younger people bringing their families into town. That’s what we wanted to see: a city that was trending the right direction. The reason we didn’t move to West Chester is ultimately because we were convinced that this was a place that other businesses were going to invest in.”
Logistics is one of Hamilton’s key industries, along with advanced manufacturing, healthcare, information technology, and beverage.