SOD report claims 19:1 return on city funds

SALEM – Larry Kosiba of the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center said the city has a return of $19 for every $1 spent on SOD contracts over the past few years, with the numbers providing evidence of an economic impact.

“We’re very pleased. We think a 19 to 1 ratio is exceptional,” he said.

Kosiba received the green light for another three months of economic development activity from city council’s Economic Development Committee after giving committee members an update on the second quarter activities Tuesday night.

Kosiba presented them with a written report highlighting the successes and what’s happening in the areas of business development, business attraction, business expansion, business retention, grant applications and other activities in the quest to attract developers, retailers and industry to the city of Salem.

The committee had agreed previously to use money from council’s economic development fund, but on the condition that they release the funds on a quarterly basis after hearing a report from Kosiba, who serves as executive director of the SOD Center, which has to match the money provided by council. The committee agreed to release another $10,000 from the fund, which had $40,000 in it at the start of the year.

In a chart he created to show the community funding impact from the SOD Center, he listed the funding received from grants and philanthropy and compared that total with what city council had approved in contracts with the SOD Center. He said the $54,300 paid by the city for the TIF zone work, Project Seed Base and the economic development activity had enabled the SOD Center to leverage $1 million from the community through private funding and grants.

“That’s the hard facts,” he said.

The grants he pointed out stretched back to 2010 and this year included $400,000 from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to identify both hazardous and petroleum brownfield sites and $100,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission towards the cost of a water line project on state Route 14 to the north of the city. The city still needs final approval on the ARC grant from the Governor’s Office of Appalachia.

As another success, he pointed to the Salem Pointe residential development project on the east end. The apartment project by NRP received the necessary points for funding approval, but didn’t receive the funding this year, delaying the development.

For business attraction, he noted the same projects as before, but added a distribution center to the list. Kosiba said he may be able to name the manufacturing start-up company he’s been talking about when the next quarterly report rolls around. He explained that some of these projects take time to develop.

For the apartment project, he said he’s still looking for commercial opportunities for part of the land in question, especially since the project may not be ready in time for a development deadline for the strip of land next to Pershing Street. He said that strip could end up reverting back to commercial.

Mayor John Berlin cautioned that a change in zoning that created a buffer between the property to be developed and some deadend streets with single family homes also could expire.

He said most of the property NRP is looking at was already multi-family so they could still build there. They’re also looking at an idea of senior housing. Councilman Rick Drummond had questioned how national chains would consider the area if there’s low-income housing.

Kosiba said there’s a need for better housing and housing for the workforce that may result from the hotel under construction at the east end and any other development that occurs. He said to improve the demographics to attract national chains, he said the city needs more people, needs to provide a workforce and needs to remove blighted properties.

“You gotta start someplace,” he said.

Kosiba also provided the committee with instructional sheets for SEEDBASE Salem, 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.