LAFAYETTE TWP. — Several years after Innovation Park was established, the area still doesn’t have any tenants other than the University of Akron’s Medina County University Center.
Bethany Dentler, executive director of the Medina County Economic Development Corp., said part of the problem has been the lagging economy and part has been the competitive market. She said other parks offer tax abatements, luring potential businesses away from Innovation Park off state Route 162.
In addition, the park might be lacking in certain utilities. For example, some tech-heavy companies require up to 5 megawatts of electricity, while the park only offers 1 megawatt. She said updating it could cost several hundred thousand dollars.
Efforts are ramping up to make sure Innovation Park does not fall short in the race to attract businesses. However, officials will have to agree on a plan to get their attention.
Of two recent proposals, one aims to scale back taxes companies must pay, and the other aims to add taxes, which could help fund improvements in the area.
Lafayette has proposed expanding its Community Reinvestment Area to Innovation Park, a move that would give businesses there a 50 percent property tax abatement for up to 15 years.
On the other hand, an idea proposed by county officials this week would have Lafayette working with Medina to create a joint economic development district. That way, the city could levy an income tax in the area, and part of the revenues could go to a fund for capital improvements like increasing electricity output.
Officials also could decide to go with the abatement and the income tax.
Township, city and county officials may meet in the coming weeks to discuss possibilities for the area.
Talk of a technology park began as plans for the Medina County University Center solidified. Officials said at the time that businesses could locate near the school campus and send their workers there for continuing education.
Construction for the technology park and the University Center began in October 2005.
The county owns Innovation Park, about 60 acres. It also funded some of the infrastructure improvements in the area.
The county plans to transfer the land to the Medina County Port Authority later this year, and the authority will pay the county a set amount for each parcel sold.
“The economy has slowed down a lot, but we are getting nibbles on the park,” Dentler said. She said there have been instances where businesses have been interested in Innovation, but located to other parks that offered tax abatements.
She also said the park potentially could lose customers because of its electricity limitations. One company looking for a 50-acre site somewhere in Ohio requires 4 to 5 megawatts of power.
Last month. trustees proposed the idea of expanding its Community Reinvestment Area, which only encompasses the Chippewa Landing site where a resort and spa has been proposed.
“The township has gotten pretty aggressive doing things to ramp up marketing the property in order to help us pay for our services without taxing our residents,” township trustee Lynda Bowers said.
Financial forecasts show the township will need additional revenues in the coming years, she said. Instead of asking residents for more money, she said trustees want to see the money coming from the business sector.
However, the tax abatement would mean Cloverleaf Local Schools would not get all the taxes that normally would be due it. Dentler presented the CRA proposal to the school board last week and asked for its support.
“From our perspective, with an abatement, the school system would be getting 50 percent of something brand new. Anything on top of what they’re getting now would be an addition to their budget,” Dentler said Monday.
Cloverleaf Superintendent Daryl Kubilus declined to comment on the abatement until after the school board votes next month on whether to support it.
County Commissioner Steve Hambley proposed the idea of Joint Economic Development District as one way to collect money for improvements to the area.
Townships normally can’t collect an income tax, but the JEDD would allow Medina city to collect such a tax in the district. Some of the revenues could go to a fund that only could be used for capital improvements. The rest would be split between the city and the township, and both could provide services to the area.
“If they’re going to enter the game, they really do need to have all the tools available,” Hambley said Monday.
He said an income tax wouldn’t do much to deter businesses from the area, since it would mostly affect workers and not taxes on property the company must pay.
However, Bowers said the township wants to stay away from additional taxes. She said trustees discussed a possible JEDD several years ago, but found it wouldn’t be beneficial to Lafayette.
She said the township already can provide services to the area. It has its own fire and roads departments and has a contract with the Medina County Sheriff’s Office to provide police services. She also said the township could look into other ways to fund infrastructure improvements — anything from seeking state grants to selling bonds.
“There is just simply nothing (Medina) could bring to the party, except additional taxes,” she said, adding that the township has a good working relationship with Medina.
Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell said the city would support a JEDD and wants to talk to Lafayette trustees about it.
“When you’re talking about a JEDD, anything can be added in as an exchange for consummating a deal,” he said Monday.
Contact Maria Kacik Kula at (330) 721-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.