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Onsite OHS Provides Local Stimulus
02/15/2011

While others may wait around for another stimulus package, business owner Kyle Johnson has started what he is calling ‘the Kyle-stimulus plan’ for Princeton.

Johnson started quietly buying properties around the square in Princeton with the idea of starting a business incubator that will offer people who want to start businesses a chance to occupy buildings around the square rent-free for a year, and then will offer the spaces at 25 percent of market value the second year, 50 percent the third year, and 75 percent the fourth year.

By the fifth year, the businesses should be on their feet and able to pay full market value for the spaces.

Meanwhile, Onsite OHS, the occupational health and safety company owned by Johnson, will relocate to the former Fifth Third Bank building.

The company offers services to emergency medical services, like paramedics and physicians, safety professionals, and medical surveillance of potentially hazardous materials, and substance abuse testing.

Also in the plan for the buildings, the spaces above the businesses will be renovated into one bedroom, open plan, loft apartments that he hopes will attract a younger generation as well as bring foot traffic and dollars to those businesses on the square.

CorporateSo far, Johnson has either already purchased or has options on a total of 12 buildings, with deals already closed on 109 W. Broadway St., where his Onsite OHS building is currently located, 113 W. Broadway St., (the former Lincoln Land building,) 110 N. Main St., (where Pass Through Archery is located,) 101 N. Hart St., and 124 N. State St., (the Palace building.)

He has started construction on loft apartments above Pass Through Archery, and said that Kevin McKannon and J.R. Fox were the first in the business incubator plan.

He has another business planned to go into the space where Onsite OHS is currently located, although that business is not yet ready to announce its plans to open.

He’s looking for other small businesses to participate in the business incubator project, businesses that can fill the spaces and bring life to the square, from coffee shops to boutiques to retail stores. Johnson said he would consider any businesses. He said a mentor and a business incubator is how he started his first business in 1994.

Pass Through Outside Front“I never graduated high school,” Johnson said. “The first checkbook I ever balanced was a corporate one.”

Johnson now owns Onsite OHS and has employees in six countries all over the world. Just this year he hired eight people in Gibson County on top of the two he already employed. Being a businessman has allowed him to travel the world.

He said a good mentor guided him through his business start-up and that’s the kind of guidance he’d like to offer to burgeoning businesses.

“You never know where the next iPod will come from, or the next Kyle (Johnson) will come from. But when you’re starting out you only have to step on one land mine to have it all blow up,” he said.

He said he could turn people onto accountants and attorneys, and give them someone to bounce ideas off of, because when opening a business, he said having someone for free to ask how to do things can make all the difference in the world.

Even those who don’t plan to open a business will be affected by the plan; he pointed out that the 10-15 business spaces he hopes to eventually fill will create hiring opportunities for as many as 100-150 jobs. The renovations he will do on the buildings will also be done by local contractors, and will create work. The property taxes will support the local government.

Altogether, in 10 years he said that he expects the return on the investment to be a better Princeton business community and a good return on his monetary investment, which he estimates will be over one million dollars. He describes the scope of the project as an experiment in what the private sector can do to benefit the public sector.

Value Vision“It’s not completely altruistic,” Johnson said. “I’m sinking in a ton of money and I don’t want to lose money.” He doesn’t think that will happen, however. He points to the businesses that have done well on the square, and improved Princeton in general, citing The Farmer’s Daughter, Lin’s Garden, antique malls and Bobe’s Pizza, to name a few.

“I don’t see how there could be detractors,” said Johnson. “I’ve thought about it, and I don’t see where there could be a negative side. Oh, people could say I’m giving people pipe dreams about being successful…I believe they can be successful.”

Right now, the changes are happening inside the buildings, as lofts are being renovated. In the spring, he said, people will start to see more outward improvements.

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