Economic development panel extends SOD contract

The Sustainable Opportunity Development Center and its executive director Larry Kosiba will continue helping the city with economic development for another three months.

The Economic Development Committee of city council agreed Monday to keep using Kosiba’s services in an effort to attract developers, retailers and industry to the city, voting for an agreement to be drawn up between the SOD Center and city with language loosely describing his duties.

The committee had agreed previously to use money from council’s economic development fund, releasing the funds on a quarterly basis and requiring a one-for-one match from the SOD Center.

After hearing Kosiba give his quarterly report, the committee agreed to release $10,000 from the fund and keep going. Council had set aside $40,000 in the fund specifically for economic development activities this year.

Committee Chairman Councilman Dave Nestic said the outline of duties should contain language that states the SOD Center will assist the city in the identification and execution of development activities and provide a quarterly report on projects and activities. Councilman Rick Drummond, another member of the committee, requested that the report be in writing next time. He said the specific companies he’s talking to don’t necessarily have to be named for the report.

Councilman Brian Whitehill, also a member of the committee, noted that the language needed to give Kosiba some flexibility, with Drummond agreeing, saying he has to be able to react to opportunities when they arise.

“What we’re trying to do is make the city better,” Kosiba said.

During his report, he reviewed activities from the past three months in several areas, including business development, business attraction, business expansion, business retention, grants and other activities. He explained that some of the activity was ongoing and some was new.

Under business attraction, he said there were 11 projects in the works, with involvement in at least 14 possible projects. He said eight of the 11 are retail and there were three restaurants, including a banquet center being planned for the east end by local developer Rodney Herron. He also said there’s work being done in the northern Tax Increment Finance zone, with plans still pending for a Hotel LaQuinta, which is a new name for the proposed hotel previously discussed for the site, and a convenience store, car wash and gas station. He said that will only take up about 5 acres of the 40 acres available for development on the north end of the city.

In the area of manufacturing, he said an Italian firm had been looking at Salem, but was delaying a decision on coming to the United States. There’s also a possible new start-up and technology advancement for a current company.

For business expansion, he mentioned there were three projects (two retail and one manufacturer). There’s also a company he’s working with on business retention.

Under business development, he talked about the completion of Project SEEDBASE, which will now be called SEEDBASE Salem. It’s an interactive website that can be accessed through the city website, SOD Center and Salem Area Chamber of Commerce, providing visitors with map locators and information about the community all in one place. Some of the information includes utility pricing, school facts, tax info, community info, locations of utilities, traffic counts and real estate available.

For some of the upcoming activities, he said he’s looking into grant availability to improve and enhance SEEDBASE Salem and discussed other grant possibilities for infrastructure. He also talked about ways to promote SEEDBASE through press releases to business publications and recognition through the Ohio Economic Development Association. He mentioned how the city will be involved in the Columbiana County Land Bank and the Transportation Improvement District.

Using a new exception to the rules for executive sessions, the committee went behind closed doors with Kosiba to hear more details about specific companies, citing a need to discuss economic development issues of a confidential nature. No action was to be taken.