Location, location, location. It's the mantra of Realtors everywhere, but it seems particularly true in any discussion of business success stories in West Chester and Liberty Township. The firms that choose to open doors here, or relocate from other places, are attracted by the happy confluence of highways and runways: Easy access, in other words, to Interstate 75 (no less than four interchange exits) and such regional airports as Butler County and Wilmington.

Here are just some of those success stories:

West Chester's 'Energizer Bunny'

Situated across the street from global manufacturing giant Procter & Gamble, West Chester's Rite Track has "very quietly" become the largest manufacturer of track equipment in the United States, explains Tim Hayden, president and CEO.

"In plain English, we make the machines that are used to make computer chips. We provide everything to support the tools including installation and repairs. Our technical staff upgrades and calibrates customers' electronic components and assemblies," observes Hayden. Another major component of Rite Track's production comes from remanufactured parts used in photolithography and cleaning processes.

Since relocating the company from California to West Chester in 1994, the company has experienced "phenomenal" growth, according to Hayden. Rite Track, in fact, is ranked by Deloitte & Touche as among the 50 fastest growing companies in the Tri-State.

Hayden grew up in the Cincinnati area and didn't feel comfortable raising children on the West Coast. Since he moved the company to West Chester, Hayden has made Rite Track a family affair. (Hayden's father Tom is director of administrative services. The elder Hayden is a prominent member of the West Chester community, as a former superintendent of Lakota School District and one of three Union Township trustees.)

Community leaders have taken notice of Rite Track's achievements and the growing high-tech industry in Butler County. "I am fascinated by the contrast between Rite Track and its neighbor across the street, Procter & Gamble. Both are doing business globally, both are expanding, both are enjoying the advantages of a skilled labor market and high-visibility location. But one is a Fortune 100 giant, and the other a father-son empire in the making," observes Melissa Koehler, director of economic development for the rapidly growing region. She labels Rite Track as "West Chester's version of the Energizer Bunny."

Half of the 150 worldwide Rite Track employees work on million-dollar semiconductors in the corporate headquarters in West Chester. Factory technicians and field service engineers boast more than 400 years of direct track experience.

But in the end, location is all about the ability to distribute: Rite Track employees are on call 24 hours a day. If a machine goes down on the West Coast at 2 a.m., Rite Track can be immediately notified and a part will be shipped out that morning. Some of Rite Track's more notable clients include IBM, Motorola, Intel and Phillips. They also do business in Europe and Asia as well as North America.

As Hayden sees it, "there's a lot of business reasons to move to West Chester; cost of labor, cost of land. Out in California people tend to job hop every couple of months. It was very hard to have a trained work force and out here things are more stable, we have a loyal dedicated work force."

On the 'Professional Case'

The traditional leather bag that doctors carry, with its sturdy handle and heavy hardware, is as iconic in the medical profession as the physician's white jacket and stethoscope.

The company that may be the last in the U.S. to make those bags, Professional Case, Inc., is thriving in West Chester by combining tradition, market innovation and what the owners see as a great location.

If you see a doctor's bag on stage, in a movie or on television, most likely it's a Professional Case model. The company just completed an order for custom doctor's bags for the movie version of The Producers, along with a purse for cast member Uma Thurman.

Professional Case was founded in 1977 by Thomas Brown, owner of Quick Pak, a custom packaging company. Brown rented warehouse space in downtown Cincinnati from a leather goods company that made traditional doctors' bags. When that company left town, some remaining employees convinced Brown to get into the business, and Professional Case was born.

Forward to the mid-1980s. Brown's daughter, Erin, began assuming management responsibilities. Today, with her father in semi-retirement, she's president of Professional Case and her husband, Paul Biel. He's vice president and oversees all of product design, working with up to 12 employees.

In 1997, the Biels moved the company to an existing, 7,000-square-foot facility on Inter-Ocean Drive in West Chester, just north of I-275 and west of I-75.

For the Biels, the convenience of moving their business closer to home was a prime factor in their site search. They had lived West Chester for 10 years. Their decision also was influenced by the easy access to the interstate freeways, and being centrally located between Cincinnati and Dayton.

"It's such a nice area, and it's probably better now than it was years ago," Erin Biel explains. "We have so much more access than we used to.

"This truly is an emerging business corridor," she adds. "Now there's a lot of potential here."

In its new location, Professional Case expanded and diversified. The company now fabricates more than 80 products, including fine leather cases, planners, folios and travel totes, an exclusive line of designer purses, and custom embroidery. Items range from practical cases made from nylon and polyester to high-end leather bags with gold-plated, solid brass hardware.

Most sales channel through medical supply houses and independent distributors. The internet has fed sales growth, including international orders. Products are shipped easily from the factory to customers throughout the U.S. and around the world using UPS, DHL, Federal Express and other carriers.

Finding and keeping skilled labor was another factor when the Biels decided to move the company to West Chester. "You can have something imported that looks similar to what we make and that costs much less," Erin Biel notes, "but it's obviously not the same. And quality is everything."

She says joining the West Chester Chamber Alliance forced her and her husband to develop relations with other business people they wouldn't have known otherwise, and they're glad they did. "It makes you feel much more connected. We have more of a sense of community here now."

The Liz Claiborne Look

West Chester gave the Liz Claiborne Inc. distribution center more than just great proximity to both customers and stores that carry "Liz" products. The quality of workers in the area, combined with government tax incentives, created an attractive development incentive, according to Jane Randel, vice president of corporate communications for the company.

Liz Claiborne is well known for designing, marketing and distributing a range of fashion apparel for men and women, along with accessories and fragrances. The West Chester facility fulfills orders for retail outlets and replenishes stock as needed, and can manage more than 32 million unit transactions per year. Orders are shipped from West Chester to all national destinations, although most customers are located with a couple of days' transportation time.

Opened for business in August 2002, the 900,000-square-foot building sits on 42 acres on Jaquemin Drive off Union Centre Boulevard, with close access to Interstate 75. It's one of nine such distribution centers that Liz Claiborne has built across the country. Accessibility was important because the company relies on carriers such as DHL, Federal Express and UPS to reach them without difficulty.

Just as important, Randel says, was that the surrounding area had the right workforce profile. Liz Claiborne commissioned an independent study of potential employees. That study showed the Butler County area has not only a good supply of labor "but also the right quality for our needs," Randel recalls.

The encouraging role played by the state of Ohio and Butler County was influential, too. The distribution center"”costing a reported $55 million and employing about 290 workers"”represents a major business investment for the township and Butler County. Officials came up with a tax abatement package.

"We found the incentive process to be efficient and financially meaningful," Randel says, adding that the West Chester center "is unique to our network in the types and levels of technology that it utilizes.

"The decision to locate to Ohio has been a positive initiative within our organization."

Graydon Head & Ritchey

With its newest expansion opening in West Chester on November 14, Graydon Head & Ritchey LLP is taking good notice of one of the fastest-growing business communities in Greater Cincinnati.

The firm, which caters to businesses ranging from public corporations to non-profit organizations, already has offices in downtown Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky and is optimistic about its growth into the West Chester area with its third firm site, the Butler-Warren Office of Graydon Head & Ritchey.

Although it could "technically" be called a satellite office, Chris Worrell, an attorney with the firm, feels that the Butler-Warren Office provides an independently functioning firm that gives Graydon Head & Ritchey the opportunity to further extend a hand to the communities it serves.

The new Butler-Warren Office will potentially be able to give more personal and convenient counsel to clients operating outside the city limits of Cincinnati, specifically in the locale of the growing West Chester business district.

"It's not a suburban office, per se," says Worrell, but "an office focused on the West Chester business community."

Graydon Head & Ritchey recognizes the growing economic atmosphere ˆ and consequently, the growing business needs ˆ of the West Chester area, and sees the opening of its third office as a logical step toward continuing its dedication to the Greater Cincinnati community. The firm considered not only the draw of new clients but also the opportunity to better serve its existing clients"š business needs when plans were laid to extend legal services to a new, local firm for the West Chester area.

First and foremost with the expansion, says Worrell of himself and his colleagues, "We are reaching out to better serve the clients we already have."