A funny thing happened on the city of Wilder
's way to 2012.
It grew. And grew. And grew some more.
All those drivers from I-275 and the AA Highway? Those commuters to downtown Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky University? The families with soccer-playing, hungry kids wanting the best of a small town within minutes of an international airport? They all realized the advantages of Wilder. They're not just passing through anymore. They're sticking around.
"One of the best attributes for Wilder businesses and residents is the location. Having great access and being close to downtown, the airport, and NKU make it a great place to live and do business," says Terry Vance, Wilder's city administrator.
That doesn't mean growth occurred on its own. Leaders of this Campbell County city, with population of 3,035, fostered a positive business environment. They've offered infrastructure assistance and tax incentives toward purchasing land for resale to businesses relocating to Wilder, for example.
"Both large and small companies that have made the move to Wilder will comment on how much assistance and cooperation they had when the final decision was made to make Wilder the place to do business," Vance says.
Wilder is home to numerous heavy industrial, warehousing and wholesale products operations, and is branching out to other sectors. Patient Aids
, for example, is a home medical supplies seller with locations in NKY and in Lexington. It employs mobility specialists and registered respiratory therapists. The Wilder store recently expanded. Nearby, Greater Cincinnati Veterinary Emergency
offers a wide range of care for animals. Its doctors include dermatology and internal medicine specialists.
"One of the things that Wilder has tried to do over the last 20-plus years is diversify the tax base and the type of business climate. Wilder has much more commercial, service and other types of businesses than it did 20 years earlier; large, diverse companies like (produce distributor) Castellini
, (retail merchandising manufacturer) Display Specialties
, and the Town and Country Sports Complex
to name a few," Vance says. "In addition, Wilder still has the steel plant IPSCO
. This was the city's only employer and one of the largest in Northern Kentucky years ago. Downsizing and outsourcing many of the actual steelmaking jobs resulted in big cuts. Now the steel plant is back on the rise with the manufacturing and distribution of pipe used in the oil and gas industry."
IPSCO and Castellini are the city's largest employers.
Ken Warden, CRS, GRI, of Warden & Associates Realtors
in Ft. Thomas, is president of the Northern Kentucky Association of Realtors. He says Wilder is taking advantage of its resources.
"When you've got access for commercial real estate, plus the university on the hill above it … it's right for development," Warden says.
It's good timing, too. "Commercial money is available. Commercial rates for development are some of the lowest we've seen, and that allows it to happen," Warden says.
Business travelers as well as out-of-town sports fans who don't want to pay downtown Cincinnati hotel rates are discovering affordable lodging at the Wilder locations for Hampton Inn
and Country Inn & Suites
, both constructed in recent years, both near the highway interchanges, restaurants and gas stations. Warden said the success of one lodging place led to development of the second.
Hampton Inn General Manager Gayle Helmer says she's heard many guests praise her 94-room facility's location for its convenience, citing proximity to on-ramps.
"Many people want to be close to things but not around a lot of traffic congestion … They like to be able to get on the highway in a few seconds and be able to go in multiple directions," she says. Guests also appreciate the 40-seat meeting room for training sessions, business meetings and related get-togethers.
Local residents have used the Wilder Hampton Inn, too. It's becoming a popular choice for bridal parties and family reunions – and occasionally, area homeowners displaced by weather-related power outages, according to Helmer.
Wilder's got resources for folks who want to relax, too, such as Frederick's Landing
, a park and boat launch site. It's only three miles from the Ohio River. Daily and yearly passes are available. Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers
is a funky chain with about 100 locations across the U.S. Only four are in Kentucky. One of them is in Wilder. (Hint: it's the one with the VW bus sticking out of a wall, and a patio with a fountain in back.) And Great Escape Theater
shows the latest flicks without the hassle of being inside a mega-mall.
Warden expects Wilder to see more office space development because of its location and access. He points out, too, that although the country's economic conditions have slowed residential sales in recent years, the Johns Hill Road area of Wilder is cause for optimism.
"More and more people are stopping and looking around and seeing the same thing," Warden says.
View of Licking River from Frederick's Landing, courtesy of CincyRails.com
Mellow Mushroom Pizza. By Flickr user Weekend!, used under Creative Commons License CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0.
Wilder City Building, courtesy City of Wilder.