Rafael Rodriguez, who has been the business development manager for the Canton Community Improvement Corp., will begin dividing his time between the agencies.

CANTON  Economic development groups for Canton, Jackson Township and Stark County have agreed to share a single staff member to retain and expand existing businesses.

Rafael Rodriguez, who has been the business development manager for the Canton Community Improvement Corp., will begin dividing his time between the agencies. He said it'll allow him to spend less time on administrative duties and more on business calls.

"I really believe that is our strength, the existing business community," he said. "It's nice when we can land a major manufacturer or big company, but in the meantime, though, we can grow our organic community."

The Canton CIC agreed to enter the business retention and expansion service agreement Wednesday morning at a special meeting. It's effective from the start of this month until Feb. 28, 2019, and automatically renews unless an agency ends the agreement.

"I just think it's a great opportunity for us to collaborate with our partners," said Canton Deputy Mayor Fonda Williams. "I mean, we've already been collaborating, but this pretty much solidifies it."

Canton and Jackson Township have three joint economic development districts (JEDDs): At Stark State College, Stolle Machinery's facility on Excel Street NW, and vacant land owned by Fitzpatrick Realty southeast of Applegrove Street and Frank Avenue NW.

JEDDs are meant to develop township land for commercial or industrial uses, allowing cities to collect an income tax without annexation and townships to share in the tax revenue. A township cannot collect income tax on its own.

For at least the past year, Canton and Jackson Township also have sent liaisons to the other's CIC meetings.

Justin Hardesty, the Jackson CIC liaison to Canton, said the new service agreement alleviates the township corporation's need for its own employee. It also allows the agencies to "speak in one voice."

"I think the coordination will be great to do it that way versus all these silos working independent of one another," Hardesty said.

Ray Hexamer, president of the Stark Economic Development Board, also said the move increases collaboration "instead of duplicating our efforts."

Rodriguez will move offices, from City Hall to the county development board's office on Third Street SE. He is expected to spend 20 hours a week working for Canton, 18 hours a week working for Jackson Township and two hours a week working for Stark County.

Canton will contribute $28,100, Jackson will contribute $24,100, and Stark will contribute $16,100 for his salary. It amounts to $68,300, which Rodriguez said is about equal to his pay as a Canton CIC employee.

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