Move localizes downtown development control

SALEM — The Sustainable Opportunity Development Center now has a full-time coordinator for the training center and downtown development.

SOD Center Executive Director Julie Needs updated members of city council’s Economic Development Committee on Thursday regarding fourth quarter economic development activities in the city.

Part of the update was the hiring of Eva Slagle as the new training center coordinator, replacing Lesley Kline who with her family is planning to open a business this year.

Previously the position was part-time, but the decision was made by the SOD Center Board of Directors to make the position full-time and add the duties for downtown development.

The contract with TCA, a downtown economic development consultant, wasn’t renewed, with Needs explaining there was a desire to localize control of downtown development efforts. Slagle will connect with downtown business and building owners, offering assistance to new businesses and established businesses on opening or expanding. Properties and businesses will be tracked also, just like they do with industrial businesses.

Needs also talked about the SOD Center and everything done to help businesses last year deal with the pandemic. She said some business had better years in 2020 than they did in 2019. A lot of new businesses opened, also.

“We want to keep that progress going,” she said.

Plans this year call for updating the financial resources page on the website at sodcenter.com, providing more detailed information to businesses. Plans also call for implementing year one goals for the city’s economic development plan.

During the meeting, chaired by Councilman Jake Gano, Councilman Sal Salvino asked about how long grants take from start to finish and also about the possibility of a Joint Economic Development District, known as a JEDD, which can include a city and a township.

Needs said the timing on grants vary, but the pandemic slowed the process down for a lot of grant programs.

“Grants are there so we can leverage private investment,” she said.

Currently, she said there are no JEDDs in Columbiana County and the process requires a lot of steps and a specific project in place.

Gano asked if there’s a list of people who are willing to invest in businesses. Needs said the city doesn’t have that, but she would love to a have a list of what she referred to as angel investors that could help with capital as a sort of silent partner.



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