Impact 2020: KAO POW! The Port Punches the Winning Ticket for Two Manufacturing Companies


Story By: Tom Millikin, The Port's Communications & Marketing Team

Part of The Port's 2020 Impact Report

Kao USA, Inc, a global manufacturer of cosmetics and chemicals with its North American headquarters in Cincinnati, faced a crossroad created by its growth. The Tokyo-based firm needed to re-shore various product lines and expand its operations in the manufacturing corridor along Spring Grove Avenue or move out of Cincinnati. Its options, however, were few – it was landlocked by neighboring manufacturers which prevented any expansion.

The Port’s industrial team finds a solution

A roadblock to the Kao USA expansion was industrial valve manufacturer Powell Valves, which had been located on the property right next door since 1892. Knowing Kao was interested in continued growth in Cincinnati, The Port led a partnership-based effort with Kao USA, Powell Valves, JobsOhio, REDI Cincinnati, and the City of Cincinnati to find the best solution.

Creative thinking and unique financing by The Port allowed Powell Valves to move its location for the first time in 174 years, facilitating its longtime neighbor, KAO USA, to expand its research and manufacturing facility.

After months of due diligence, both companies agreed to a deal brokered by The Port in which Powell Valves agreed to sell its headquarters to The Port and use the proceeds to build a new, modern facility on a property The Port owned just north of the former Sara Lee/Kahn's manufacturing site on Spring Grove Avenue.

Hero Image - Kao Powell - web

Job retention in Cincinnati

The Port worked closely with leadership from both companies to create a customized roadmap and provide financing to meet both companies’ needs. The result: a combined 525 jobs retained in Cincinnati with an annual payroll of $51 million, an anticipated 45 new jobs created, and $39 million of private capital investment.

It was a complex problem requiring a complicated solution.

“It’s a proud accomplishment for the organization and it is a nice feeling to see Powell Valves in their new facility up and running,” said Laura N. Brunner, President and CEO at The Port. “It’s also exciting to plan and take care of the property in anticipation of Kao’s continued investment and growth,” Brunner added.

Continued growth was the theme for all three players: Kao, Powell and The Port.

“The Port is a facilitator of growth and prosperity for the community,” said Brandy Cowart, executive vice president of Powell Valves. “And the growth they create in turn facilitates the City. It’s all one big wheel that everybody benefits from,” Cowart added.

With Powell Valves’ new headquarters slated for completion in 2021, The Port will next acquire the former Powell facility and begin site preparation for Kao’s expansion, making for two happy company campers in Camp Washington.