DBJ Community Spotlight

At the height of the Great Recession, the city of Moraine was a microcosm of the economic downturn that plagued the country. A decade later, the city is a shining example of how communities can recover from economic crises.

Over a seven-year period, the city lost more than 7,000 jobs when major employers such as GM, Delphi and Elder-Beerman, along with many of their suppliers, skipped town. When unemployment hovered around 11 percent in Montgomery County, Moraine accounted for a full percentage point.

But as the economy improved, Moraine has started to see a resurgence. New and existing businesses have created more than 5,000 jobs since the peak of the recession, and that number continues to grow.

New jobs, investment from local companies

Two of the largest projects happening in Moraine come from existing companies that have chosen to expand their presence in the city. Tyler Technologies and Kroger Co. are both in the midst of multimillion-dollar initiatives that are expected to be complete within the next year.

Tyler Technologies, a Plano, Texas-based software development firm, is adding 45,000 square feet to its Moraine office, bringing the building’s total square footage to 85,000. The estimated $12 million project will accommodate future growth expected within Tyler’s Appraisal and Tax Division, which is headquartered in Moraine.

The division’s expanded space also will allow for up to 225 new hires. These higher-paying positions will have an average salary of $70,000, generating $15.6 million in new annual payroll. In addition, 160 employees who make an average of $72,500 per year would be retained. Between new and existing jobs, total annual payroll will exceed $27 million.

Facade work continues on Tyler Technologies' building project.

“This is such a huge win for our region,” said Mike Davis, Moraine economic development director and acting city manager.

Davis said the expansion is part of Tyler’s plan to increase its visibility in the Miami Valley. He noted they’ve been somewhat of a “silent company” in the past, but the need for skilled workers has necessitated an increase in visibility.

“Tyler will no longer be a silent wonder in the background doing great things,” he said. “Their intent is to increase notoriety in the region, and a lot of that has to do with getting themselves out there for the talent attraction they need.”

It was the talent attraction piece that almost caused the project to collapse before it began. Davis said many of Tyler’s top-level executives were concerned the company wouldn’t be able to find skilled workers due to low unemployment rates. In addition, the departure of tech giant Teradata had some Tyler execs thinking the region may not have the ability to support the company’s growth.

Ultimately, the city of Moraine and its regional partners addressed what Davis called “misconceptions” about the Dayton area’s ability to generate top talent. This included data from local colleges and universities that showed the number of students enrolled in degree programs related to the tech industry, how many are graduating this year and what the talent pipeline will look like in the next five years.

“That impressed them and showed them we have a lot of talent here,” Davis said. “That, along with showing them positive news across the region in terms of economic growth, encourage them to make the investment here.”

The expansion project is concentrated on the facility’s south end, so Davis says there is still plenty of room for Tyler to grow on the north end. He said they could potentially replicate the south side expansion if they continue on the same growth trajectory.

“Over the next three to five years, (Tyler) is going to be one of the shining stars across not just Moraine, but the whole area,” he said.

Kroger also is growing its footprint in Moraine. The grocery store giant is building a new Marketplace that will double the size of its existing facility at the corner of Alex Bell Road and Ohio 741. The current store will be demolished after the new facility is complete.

Davis said the project has been in the works for the last four to five years, and now it is gaining momentum. The land is ready for development, and grading work has begun to prepare the site for construction. Davis said he “wouldn’t be shocked” if foundation work started in the next week or two. Kroger has not confirmed an opening date, but Davis estimated it should be ready in early 2020.

The nearly $3 million investment will provide additional retail services, including a fuel center that does not exist at the current location, as well as new jobs. Davis did not have an exact count, but he said the store will likely employ between 150 and 200 people. The current store employed anywhere from 100 to 120 workers.

Site preparation is underway for the new Kroger Marketplace, which is being constructed next to the current store.

Davis said the new Kroger Marketplace will likely energize the entire complex it is housed in.

“All the other tenants are excited about this, so it is going to bring renewed energy that I think will continue,” he said.

Redevelopment of former Delphi site

One of the biggest blows to Moraine during the recession was the departure of Delphi. When the company left during the economic downturn, hundreds of jobs were lost and acres of land were left undeveloped. Since then, several companies have set up shop on the property and the area is now bursting with activity.

R&J Trucking was the first to open at the site, and now the company employs 70 people at its 30,000-square-foot building. Davis said the R&J investment sent a positive message throughout the community, and helped bring in other companies.

Today, the site is also home to Wright Mulch and the Ohio Department of Transportation. Wright Mulch is opening a 1,500-square-foot facility on the property, and ODOT is constructing several structures on the site. The organization is moving its Miami Township station to this location, and will be bringing workers along with it. The complex will feature an area for salt bins, washing bays, a mechanic’s garage and an administrative office building.

Wright Mulch is opening a new facility in Moraine.

In the same area, large companies such as Fuyao Glass America, DMAX and Heidelberg Distributing also are bringing a massive amount of jobs and investment to Moraine, helping the city return to its former status as an employment hub.

Residential growth

In addition to commercial investment, Moraine is also seeing an influx of residential growth.

The city is partnering with Ryan Homes on a two-phase project that will result in around 100 new houses. The city is acting as the developer on the project, which has entered the second phase. The neighborhood will be known as Pinnacle Ridge.

A home under construction in Moraine.

Davis said another 70 to 100 homes also are in the works across from Frank Nicholas Elementary School.

These homes were initially estimated between $160,000 and $170,000, but Davis said the value has jumped to $200,000 to $215,000.

An aerial view of the new residential neighborhood.

Developable land

Despite the recent activity, there is still plenty of land to develop in Moraine.

Davis said there is available property immediately west of the new Kroger Fuel Center near Tim Horton’s. Nothing is planned yet, but Davis said there could be room for a 10,000-square-foot shopping center.

Redevelopment efforts also are underway for an old paint shop. The facility features more than 360,000 square feet of space that is currently available. Like the former Delphi site, Moraine is working with real estate developer IRG to market the property. There are no tenants lined up for the site just yet, Davis said, but they are actively seeking an end user.

Moving forward, Davis said the city’s priorities will be to continue enhancing the residential base, making capital improvements to roadways and other infrastructure, and addressing workforce development needs.

Though the city isn’t resting on its laurels, Moraine has already come a long way from the Great Recession.

“Right now (the economy) is up across all industries,” Davis said. “We’re headed in a really positive direction.”

John Bush