By Brandon C. Baker
Photo: Maribeth Joeright/[email protected]
Nancy White and Chuck White are co-owners of Newbury Business Park which has long-standing companies as well as start-ups.
Chuck White said he would be taking a "wild guess" if he were to estimate how many businesses have come and gone through the Newbury Business Park since he and then wife, Nancy, purchased it in 1998."
Forget taking a stab at how many have called the 17-acre plot home since it was formed in the '60s."
What doesn't require Chuck and Nancy to guess is discussing why entrepreneurs feel comfortable running their companies from the park near the intersection of state routes 44 and 87. Businesses there range from manufacturers to jewelry designers to automotive equipment suppliers.
In all, Chuck and Nancy, who remained business partners after their split, lease space to nearly 20 companies that operate out of 13 buildings there.
The mix of offices and warehouses are between 1,200 and 13,000 square feet. "The companies' reasons for staying, such as proximity to industrial suppliers or paying lower rent than they would find in Cleveland, vary as much as the nature of the businesses themselves. However, the common thread is comfort."
"This is the perfect location for many reasons," said Justin Sly, plant manager at BaseTek, a tenant since April that makes polymer concrete baseplates used in rotating equipment in various industries."
"We are close to a lot of our resources — our aggregate comes from (nearby) Best Sands, we are local to some of the resins, and some of the mold shops are close to here," Sly said. "The building itself has been great, as far as the docks that we have here and access we have to the trucks that come here."
As Sly and his crew got back to work, the Newbury Business Park's variety was on display a few doors down where workers at The Buckeye Chocolate Co. were preparing a 200-pound order of peanut brittle. Buckeye has been in the park since it was founded by the Hart family in 2004. The company has since created a 60-product list of chocolate treats, developed a solid Web and wholesale presence and become a mainstay at conventions and trade shows across the nation."
The park is close to home for Craig Hart, who co-owns the company with his brother, Eric. He enjoys bouncing ideas off his entrepreneurial neighbors and feels fortunate to have a headquarters large enough to house a retail store along with enough space to package and distribute baskets and large orders to individual customers and corporate clients like Giant Eagle, who will carry Buckeye products in its 215 stores.
The Hart family enjoys Newbury Business Park so much that Craig and Eric's parents, Dennis and Carol, have started packaging and shipping their Nectar of the Vine wine Frappe products in the space next door to Buckeye. "We've all come out of our garages or wherever, and this is our first step," Dennis Hart said of businesses at the park. "Some go off on their own and get bigger, but there's excitement here all the time.
"Chuck has no problem with companies who leave to become bigger and better. After all, that's what he and Nancy did when they sold previous business ventures before completing a 1031 Exchange with park's previous owners just over a decade ago. He thinks it adds to the park's status as a "business incubator."
Saint Gobain Crystals' Northeast Ohio Scintillation business unit might be the most storied case because it started out in Newbury as Bicron Corp. in 1969. Saint Gobain purchased Bicron in the '90s to form the Scintillation Products business and last year moved it to a massive new facility in Troy Township. That building is now also the headquarters of the French manufacturer's Crystals division.
Kinetico Inc. spent early years in the park, and Unity Rubber expanded there before the now defunct Johnson Rubber purchased it.
"The park has had a long history of being an incubator for many successful businesses," Chuck said. "At one point in time, there was more than 400 people working here.
"Now, that number is more like 150 and shows that an industrial park rich on history is always susceptible to jobs that can be replaced and, now, a downtrending economy."
Today, the park has about 22,000 square feet available for leasing. But that number is mostly represented in a central structure with a myriad of conference rooms, possible gym or studio space and nearly 30 walled, free-standing offices still furnished after the recent departure of Saint Gobain. "Saint Gobain is still using four smaller buildings, but also will pay the remainder of its lease in the facility it left in 2008. Still, the owners know that remaining year and a half will be over before they know it, so they're already on the tenant hunt.
Saint Gobain probably wouldn't mind if they find some takers too, so it can reduce the money it is paying to Chuck White and Nancy White's Middlefield Village-based White Management Inc., the official owner of the business park."
Chuck and Nancy envision the vacant building becoming the ultimate model for the entrepreneurial diversification seen throughout the business park. Chuck was a bit mum regarding whom he's close to forming an agreement with, but mentioned lawyers, certified public accountants and even facets of Geauga County as possibilities for those offices."
What we're looking for are people who'd like to expand the business they have already, or start one," Chuck said. "They can rent one office, totally furnished, their heat, electricity and snowplowing is all included."
The park also has its own on-site water supply and Newbury's unique zoning code that allowed manufacturers to reside next to food servers like Buckeye and Dairy King to try to entice new tenants.
Chuck says it's a gamble, but the type he and Nancy live for and have made careers out of.
"It's interesting and challenging, but it's become more challenging with the economy," Chuck said. "Since the early 2000s, the industrial base of this country, as well as this park, has changed dramatically, and bringing in big manufacturing facilities that hire hundreds of people has pretty much gone by the wayside. "We're dividing the park, knowing that getting big tenants is hard to do, and No. 2, if somebody moves out, you're not devastated," he said. "The other thing is the business incubator type is going to keep us pretty busy. ... There are new ideas, fresh ideas, fresh people, and they still have that excitement when you're first starting a new business.
"Everybody is all excited."