Call it the Cincinnati Metroplex, Pill Hill North, the I-75 Growth Corridor, Healthcare Highway or the 275-to-675 Corridor.

Just take a look.

1 It's a business oasis

The area bounding Interstate 75 from the I-275 beltway north of Cincinnati to the I-675 beltway south of Dayton is exploding with growth. It's a business oasis amid a national economic desert. It starts in West Chester and Liberty townships, two Butler County communities just north of I-275, and stretches north.

2 THREE interchanges, TWO townships, 12 years

The opening of three I-75 interchanges in the two townships in a 12-year period threw open the door for development of what once was farmland. Lots of it.

Those three interchanges:

  • Union Centre Boulevard (Exit 19), opened in 1997.
  • Liberty Way (Exit 24A), 2009.
  • Butler County Veterans Highway (Exit 24B; also known as Ohio 129), 1999.

Add to those the 2010 opening of the Austin Boulevard interchange (Exit 41) in southern Montgomery County just south of I-675, and the line between the Cincinnati and Dayton metro areas is much more blurry. Of the roughly 115 I-75 interchanges in Ohio, 10 are located between I-275 and I-675.

3 Liberty and West Chester flow together, mirror each other

Joe Hinson, president and CEO of the West Chester-Liberty Chamber Alliance, started there just as the area started booming with businesses. He began his job of supporting business growth in 1998, just after the Union Centre interchange opened "when nothing was here."

"When Union Centre opened, it opened up 3,000 acres for commercial development and the different sequences of interchanges," Hinson says. It was the first new I-75 interchange in Southwest Ohio in more than 25 years.

"The next big spoke of commercial development is going to be in Liberty Township," he says. "To the outside world, Liberty and West Chester are going to flow together. The two townships almost mirror each other."

4 Next Up: Liberty Way

That next big spoke is Liberty Way, which will be home to a 64-acre, 1.3 million-square-foot mega-center being dubbed the next Easton, modeled after the outdoor shopping center in Columbus. Steiner+Associates, the Columbus-based developer of Easton, The Greene in Dayton and Newport on the Levee in Northern Kentucky, started checking out the area in 2008, according to Caroline McKinney, economic development director for Liberty Township.

When the economy went south, Steiner backed away but has since returned and plans a groundbreaking next year for the center, to be named Liberty Town Square, McKinney says. Retail will fill more than half of the Square, with office space, residential housing and a hotel making up the rest. The hope is a spring 2015 opening.
"The size and scope are quite large," McKinney says.

"For us, this is exciting. For the township, this matches perfectly what our vision was for this area." In 2006, the township put together a comprehensive land-use plan and hired McKinney. What came from the planning process was that "Liberty Township needed a central gathering place for its residents, as well as more amenities."

5 perfect mix of residential, agriculture and 3 percent business

The project is indeed a big deal for Liberty Township. Right now, the township is about 50 percent built out, with residential and agriculture making up 97 percent of the area and businesses taking the other 3 percent.

"We're always going to be more residential," McKinney says. "Our job now is to bring on that commercial development into some strategic corridors that make the most sense because we have a lot of neighborhoods and residents that come first."

If Liberty is more of a bedroom community, West Chester Township will give residents plenty of places to work. Its three I-75 interchanges have led to an explosion of economic development. The township's mix is about 60 percent commercial and 40percent residential/agriculture.

6 West Chester's strength: economic diversity

"West Chester has always assigned its economic development successes to our infrastructure," says Judi Boyko, township administrator since 2005. "Interstate 75 is the spine, and from the interstate, the township was able to enhance its roadways to create greater pockets of developable areas."

Boyko started with the township in 1992, when "it was probably about 50 percent developed." So, like Hinson, she has seen a lot of change.

"West Chester is very proud of the evolution from what typically and predominantly had been a manufacturing/warehouse type of host back in the early '90s," she says. "Our diversity, in terms of economic development, now ranges from retail to finance to insurance to real estate to medical, so we've hit every sector."

West Chester has even dubbed its three interchanges Downtown (Union Centre), Midtown (Cincinnati-Dayton Road) and Uptown (Tylersville Road), giving the township a city feel.

7 Healthcare Highway — bringing services to growing population

Early on, the health-care industry took note of the coming population explosion between Cincinnati and Dayton.

Hinson says that in the late '90s, John Gillespie, then with UC Physicians, started showing how the increasing population was going to be underserved by health providers.

Now, a number of large health-care providers do business in the two townships, including West Chester Hospital, Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Wellington Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, UC Physicians, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center-Liberty Campus, Kettering Physician Network, The Christ Hospital Outpatient Center and Mercy Health Center at Liberty Falls. Not too far up the road is Atrium Medical Center at Exit 32 in Middletown.

"Health care put a stake in the ground," Hinson says. That's where the monikers Health Care Highway and Pill Hill North came from "” the latter being a play on what is known as Pill Hill in Cincinnati, where a cluster of hospitals sits near the University of Cincinnati in the Clifton area.

Providers keep coming. Boyko notes that Louisville-based Springstone just announced a $10 million mental-health facility along Union Centre Boulevard that will provide 100 jobs.

The Kettering Physician Network, part of the Kettering Health Network, is an example of a Dayton-area business moving south to fill the health-care needs of the I-75 corridor. The physician network opened Liberty Pointe Primary Care earlier this year near the Butler County Veterans Highway exit.

"We take into consideration a number of factors, including population growth and increases in health issues, in a particular community," says Julie Hellings, the network's director of operations.

"While Kettering Health Network is new to Liberty Township, we are no stranger to Butler County. Fort Hamilton Hospital has been serving residents in Hamilton and throughout Butler County for generations, and we are proud to have welcomed the hospital into our network in 2010."

8 Good Pay, Good Education

Communities love those kinds of jobs. Most are high-paying, requiring higher education levels. They draw people to live near their workplaces, which leads to higher-end neighborhoods and a strong tax base. Liberty Township's median household income is $96,943, and West Chester's is $80,268, according to the latest U.S. Census estimates.

9 Global presence: FIVE of Southwest Ohio's top 10 employers

Five of the top 10 employers in Southwest Ohio have a presence in West Chester: Fifth Third Bank, Kroger, Procter & Gamble, UC Health and the University of Cincinnati, as well as major employers GE Aviation and AK Steel, whose corporate headquarters is there.

"The days of building a community with manufacturers up and down the corridor are over," Hinson says. "If you're thinking global, you need to think of that type of worker and that type of industry."

10 Lifetime of Learning

Education is also a big component of the growth equation in the area. Lakota Local Schools, the K-12 system that covers almost all of West Chester and Liberty, has garnered the highest ranking available "” Excellent and then Excellent with Distinction "” on the Ohio School Report Cards for the past 10 years. The district is the seventh-largest of the 612 districts in the state.

"To be able to boast of a school district that has the reputation and caliber of Lakota is instrumental in being able to market your community for economic development purposes," Boyko says.

11 Colleges Stake a Claim with on-site learning centers

At the postsecondary level, colleges have stepped into the corridor in a big way. Miami University has its Voice of America (VOA) Learning Center, while Xavier University, Indiana Wesleyan University, Hondros College of Nursing, Antonelli College and University of Phoenix all provide adults with a plethora of educational paths.

Further, Butler Technology and Career Development Schools also provides 11th- and 12th-graders with alternative programs that prepare the students for either post-high school careers or college. It also offers adult-education classes and courses.

Hinson and Boyko point to Butler Tech's purchase of 24.7 acres at the Cincinnati-Dayton Road/I-75 interchange for a planned bioscience academy as an example of education stepping up to help business.

"It will attract businesses of that nature because they know they will get a trained workforce," Hinson says.

12 Small-business Success

Those types of businesses also lead to a rise in other sectors: restaurants, banks, hotels, retail and entertainment, for instance.

Kevin Molony, principal partner of the firm that franchises the Mellow Mushroom pizza restaurants in Greater Cincinnati, is opening his second eatery along Union Centre Boulevard.

"We chose West Chester as the first Cincinnati location because of the great demographics, the great corporate presence and the good traffic counts in the area," he says. "It's just a very vibrant mix of businesses there. The office occupancy is high, you have P&G nearby, GE Aviation nearby. There's a lot of successful, high-quality restaurants."

Mellow Mushroom, an Atlanta-based franchiser founded in 1974, has about 145 restaurants, mostly in the Southeast. Molony, who helped develop the Five Seasons Sports Clubs in the Midwest with Corporex founder and chairman Bill Butler, opened his first Mellow Mushroom in Wilder, Ky., two years ago. He describes it as "craft pizza (baked on a stone) and craft beer "” and it's a funky environment that's very family-friendly."

PetPeople, which prides itself on animal nutrition, is opening its third Cincinnati-area store, and 12th overall, this fall in West Chester. Terri Montigny, marketing manager, says the Hilliard, Ohio-based family-owned company looks "for a space that is close to residential but also with easy access. The community has been great. We have quite a few customers from West Chester who shop at our other locations."

The new PetPeople store will have "the biggest dog wash in the company. We provide the water, the towels and shampoo "” you just have to bring in your dog."

Fresh Market is opening its third Cincinnati-area store at Voice of America Centre off Tylersville Road.

"We are always on the lookout for markets where shoppers appreciate high-quality food and outstanding customer service, and West Chester is just such a place," says Rob Koch, the company's senior director of real estate.

The larger employers get a lot of attention, but it's those smaller enterprises that are the lifeblood of the community. The townships have more than 3,000 businesses, Hinson says, and the West Chester-Liberty Chamber Alliance has doubled its membership in the past 10 years to almost 800 members. He says 73 percent of those members employ 12 employees or fewer.

13 Melding of Two Cities

As West Chester and Liberty continue to fill space alongside I-75, the focus moves to the north. Already, planners have a vision for another interchange, possibly at Millikin Road in Liberty Township. McKinney says it's part of the master plan but probably "a good 10 years out."

Development continues at interchanges at Ohio 63 (Monroe), Ohio 122 (Middletown), Ohio 123 and Ohio 73 (near Franklin and Springboro), and is accelerating at Austin Boulevard.

"We have a lot of undeveloped land east of I-75, and there's interest in all of it," says Denise Hamet, economic development director of Middletown.

All of this business-building brings Cincinnati and Dayton closer together "” not the city boundaries, but certainly the mentality of the residents in between. The populations of West Chester and Liberty are up about 10 times from 1960.

"The two cities really are coming together," McKinney says. "No longer are you seeing this dead space in between, especially now that Austin (Boulevard interchange) has popped up."

Boyko adds: "West Chester sees Cincinnati and Dayton as assets to our growth and development, not competitors. West Chester has different amenities, different lifestyles, different community assets to market than Cincinnati or Dayton. I believe that the benefit comes in having the uniqueness of both" suburban and city living.

Hamet says Middletown is constantly meeting with economic development people and chambers of commerce from Cincinnati to Dayton.

"What will happen in the next five years is that we'll be included more in both communities," she says.

So in the future "” and it could be sooner than we think "” maybe the I-75 corridor from I-275 to I-675 will get a new name. Cincidayton or Daytonnati, perhaps?

14 Exit 16A and Exit 16B

15 Exit 19 (Union Centre Boulevard)

16 Exit 21 (Cincinnati-Dayton Road)

17 Exit 22 (Tylersville Road)

18 Exit 24A (Liberty Way)

19 Exit 24B (Butler County Veterans Highway, or Ohio 129)

20 Exit 29 (Ohio Route 63)

21 Exit 32 (Ohio 122)

22 Exit 36 (Ohio 123)

23 Exit 38 (Ohio 73)

24 Exit 41 (Austin Boulevard)

25 Exit 43 (I-675 North to I-70 and Columbus)

50 Places and People


26 IKEA, the Swedish home furnishings giant, makes Union Centre location its first store in the Tristate and only the third in the Midwest after Chicago and Detroit.

27 Frontgate is one of the country's top upscale home furnishing providers through its catalog and online sales division. West Chester is home to its corporate headquarters, national distribution warehouse and outlet store, which attracts shoppers from around the country.

28 Butler Tech is the largest career and technical school in Ohio.

29 Kemba Credit Union, which traces its beginnings to the Kroger Employees Mutual Benefit Association, moved its corporate headquarters to Union Centre Boulevard.

30 Butler County Metroparks manages more than 3,000 acres of land throughout the county.

31 In just three years, the Crazy Cardboard Regatta at Voice of America Park has become the must-see (or participate) event of the summer as well as a key fundraiser for Butler County Metroparks.

32 Jag’s Steak & Seafood is the go-to restaurant at Union Centre, whether it’s for a special meal from its eclectic menu created by chef Michelle Brown or simply schmoozing with clients in one of six dining rooms.

33 Butler County United Way focuses on helping young people become successful adults and adults become self-sufficient.

34 UC Health made the investment to build West Chester Hospital into a full-service, state-of-the-art facility so residents wouldn’t have to drive into Cincinnati.

35 Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Liberty Campus has extended the renowned medical center’s reach into one of the state’s fastest growing regions.

36 Atrium Hospital, near the intersection of I-75 and State Route 122 in Middletown, is affiliated with Dayton’s Miami Valley Hospital.

37 Otterbein Skilled Nursing & Rehab Neighborhood is on the campus of Atrium Medical Center in Middletown and is affiliated with Otterbein Retirement Lifestyle Community in Lebanon.

38 When Cincinnati Premium Outlets opened at the intersection of State Route 63 in Monroe, bargain shoppers no longer needed to drive to Washington Court House or Lexington.

39 Miami University’s Voice of America Learning Center brings the school to the people, complementing the courses available at the regional campuses in Middletown and Hamilton.

40 Four Bridges Country Club features a Robert E. Cupp designed golf course, tennis facilities, three swimming pools and a fitness center. A wine cellar, dining room and lounge complete the picture.

41 Planes Companies has grown from one family and a truck to a modern moving and storage business with five locations, 200 trucks and 400 employees.

42 Dorothy Lane Market, the iconic Dayton grocer, puts its more than 60 years of service to good use in its Springboro store.

43 Dayton Children’s Hospital has reached out to the south with its Outpatient and Urgent Care centers in Springboro.

44 Heather’s Coffee and Café in downtown Springboro is a homey place for locals to meet friends, share meals and root for sports teams.

45 Soin International, the multinational holding company founder by Raj Soin, has consolidated its Dayton area headquarters in Beavercreek, the booming I-675 suburb.

46 The Fitton Center for Creative Arts in downtown Hamilton is art for the people and by the people. It offers exhibits and events, but also programs for people to make their own creations.

47 The idea behind Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum seems like something that would be hatched in New York or San Francisco, but Harry Wilks decided a 265-acre plot in Hamilton along the Great Miami River would do just fine.

48 Wetherington Golf and County Club is well known for its golf course and dining, but it’s really the place where West Chester does business. U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, an avid golfer, lives nearby.

49 GE Aviation, whose Evendale footprint can’t be missed along I-75 north of Cincinnati, is also one of the largest employers in Butler County with more than 1,500 workers.

50 Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport is perfectly situated off Exit 41 near the Austin Landing development. It serves corporate and personal aircraft and houses a museum dedicated to the history of the Wright Brothers.

51 Teradata, the NCR spinoff that is one of the world’s leading data warehousing and analytics companies, is headquartered at Austin Landing.

52 RG Properties is the developer of Austin Landing, the 142-acre mixed-use property that has its own I-75 interchange (Exit 41), corporate headquarters, housing, entertainment and restaurants.

53 The Trenton Brewery of MillerCoors is one of the company’s most modern facilities. The location’s 560 employees brew 11 million barrels of beer each year.

54 Champion Window anchors the south end of the I-75 corridor from its headquarters and factory and showroom. In 2000, the company was named the country’s largest replacement window, siding and patio room company.

55 BAE Systems, the global defense, aerospace and security giant, manufactures armored vehicles in its Fairfield plant where it employs about 1,000 people.

56 Amylin Pharmaceuticals, which was recently bought by Bristol-Myers Squibb, manufactures the diabetes drug Bydureon at its facility on Trade Port Drive.

57 Cohen, one of the largest metal recycling companies in the country, likes to say that it was “green when the world was black and white.” That philosophy has paid dividends in today’s environment.


58 Chris Worrell set up the West Chester law office of Graydon Head before it was common practice for firms to do that. He died in March.

59 Joe Hinson has made the West Chester * Liberty Chamber Alliance the “Chamber of Choice” along the I-75 corridor.

60 Christine Matasic, president of the Liberty Township trustees, has been closely involved with transportation and development issues, and is a board member of OKI.

61 Craig Rambo is the chairman of McGill Smith Punshon, the architectural and engineering company responsible for award-winning projects such as GE Aviation offices at North Pointe at Union Centre and West Chester Baseball Complex at Beckett Park.

62 Larry Schumacher, president of Schumacher Dugan Construction, has more than 50 years in commercial/industrial construction and real estate development.

63 Tom Urban, the former president of Mercy Health, is the driving force behind the organization’s Fairfield Hospital, one of the leading healthcare providers in Butler County.

64 Caroline McKinney, the Liberty Township Economic Development Director, is at the center of the Liberty Town Square, a $300 million project at Liberty Way and I-75 that is called the biggest development in Butler County.

65 Lee Wong, a retired U.S. Army veteran, brings military discipline and energy to his role as vice president of the West Chester Township Board of Trustees.

66 Executive director Carol Hughes is the driving force behind the Springboro Chamber of Commerce, an influential business group in a thriving area.

67 John Limbert, CEO of National Bank and Trust, relies upon small-town customer service to keep the 10-branch operation profitable against its much larger competitors.

68 Pat McNab, senior director of Miami University’s Corporate and Community Institute at its regional campuses, works to establish partnerships that help students find jobs and provide local employers with skilled workers.

69 Rich Arnold, the president of the Sharonville Chamber of Commerce, leads a growing membership and is bringing business to the city near the intersection of I-75 and I-275.

70 James Wainscott has guided AK Steel, Butler County’s only Fortune 500 headquarters, back to stability. The company is the county’s second-largest employer with more than 3,000 workers.

71 Judi Boyko, West Chester Township administrator since 2005, has a strong track record in attracting business and events.

72 Jim Kleingers is the head Kleingers & Associates, the civil engineering and land survey company that is intimately involved in many of the building projects along the corridor.

73 Keith Richburg is one of Fifth Third Bank’s key executives in the West Chester–Liberty Township area, serving on the board of the Chamber alliance.

74 Deborah Brenneman, a lawyer with Thompson Hine, is active in the West Chester-Liberty Chamber Alliance and was a finalist for Cincy Magazine’s Athena Award in 2011.

75 Bill Triick, president of the Chamber of Commerce Serving Middletown, Monroe and Trenton, is responsible for a key stretch of the corridor that has seen a development boom and is expecting even more.