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Salem sees big return from SOD Center activities

SALEM — The city apparently earned a hefty $1.3 million return on the contract with the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center for economic development activities the past two years.

According to SOD Center Executive Director Julie Needs, the $1.3 million represents direct investment and revenue generated through everything the SOD Center has done on the city’s behalf to increase jobs and investments in the community from both new and existing businesses this year and last year. Needs provided the figures to members of city council’s Economic Development Committee during a recent meeting.

The committee agreed to renew the scope of work contract with the SOD Center for another two years for $60,000 each year, which is the same amount charged previously. To illustrate the city’s return on the past investment, Needs looked at six areas and estimated the value for each. For the recently completed economic development plan, she said the project would have cost the city $120,000 if done by an outside agency. The training center was valued at $500,000. In the area of project investment, the figure was listed as $13.5 million, which she said includes real estate transactions. She also said project investments resulted in $22,000 in taxes for the city and $142,000 for the school district.

Jobs retained at businesses, which could have been lost, were 1,194 and new jobs created were 104. New and increased payroll was valued at $4.5 million and retained payroll was listed as $29,450,000.

Needs also presented the report on third quarter activities, noting the SOD Center Board of Directors decided not to renew the contract with downtown consultant TCA, which helped the city implement the International Property Maintenance Code and vacant building ordinances. With the resignation of Lesley Kline, who served as the SOD Center training center administrator until recently, Needs is interviewing candidates for a new full-time position that will include coordinating training center activities and downtown development. The person will be responsible for assisting building owners, business owners and development efforts in the downtown, besides handling training center activities.

Needs reported on two new grants launched through JobsOhio that could help Salem, including the Vibrant Communities Grant an the Inclusion Grant. An unnamed Salem company secured one of the first Inclusion grants of $50,000 to expand operations. The grant is for small companies in distressed areas or owned by an underrepresented population.

For the Vibrant Communities grant, she said the SOD Center is working with a private investor on a pre-application and waiting for JobsOhio to allow them to submit a full application.

“We feel we have a very strong project, lot of investor support,” she said.

Details could not be released at this time. SOD Center and the city are also working on submitting another Brownfield grant application, this time focusing on the railroad corridor and downtown corridor.

In other business, Needs said the SOD Center assisted a local company with a list of properties available in the city, noting Plibrico moved into the former Firestone Sheet Metal building on South Broadway, bringing 20-plus jobs into the city from outside. The company had been previously located in Perry Township.

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