The Stark County Port Authority is willing to provide up to $97,000 to help search for a new tenant.
CANTON The Stark County Port Authority is prepared to help efforts to find a new occupant for the soon-to-be empty Nationwide building.
Port Authority members approved awarding a grant of up to $97,000 to help the Stark Economic Development Board market the office building at 1020 Market Avenue N.
The development board will work with the Downtown Canton Land Bank, the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce, the mayor's office and Team Northeast Ohio, based in Cleveland, to look for a company willing to bring jobs to the building.
The plan is to be proactive and "aggressively fill the building with jobs," said Ray Hexamer, development board president and chief executive officer.
"We don't want to sit back and wait," Hexamer said. "We want to cast some lines out."
Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. announced the gradual shutdown of its Canton offices in February 2015. At the end of October, it filed notices that the final 173 jobs in the building would be eliminated — and the building vacated — by the end of March.
The Columbus-based insurance company opened the facility in 1954 and expanded it during the early 1980s. The facility served as a call center and housed underwriters. About 600 people worked from the center when Nationwide announced plans to close.
Nationwide officials said in November the company is working on an agreement to sell the property, which includes the office building and surfacing parking lots, to the Land Bank. The deal still is pending.
During a Port Authority meeting Thursday morning, members reviewed the grant proposal. Board members Ronald Manse and Susie Steiner excused themselves from discussions and abstained from voting because they also serve on the Land Bank board.
Port Authority members set a limit on the grant and asked any unused funds be returned. Hexamer will administer the grant.
The initial marketing effort likely will include a website to promote the property. Hexamer noted the building is in good shape and called it an opportunity for a company seeking a location.
"We have a good work force. It's a good location. There are a lot of good things going on in the community," Hexamer said.
In other business during Thursday's meeting, the Port Authority took steps to assist two local companies with building projects.
Members authorized selling revenue bonds to generate $10 million to help OMNI Orthopaedics build a medical center near Whipple Avenue and Portage Street NW in Jackson Township.
A similar agreement is being developed to help the Schroer Group, which plans to build a $14 million headquarters and office complex in the Keck business park off Wales Avenue NW near the McDonaldsville area of Jackson Township. Board members approved the first step in the process.
In both instances, the Port Authority provides "conduit financing" for businesses. Because bonds run the Port Authority, the company building the facility can avoid paying sales taxes on building materials, which helps reduce the cost of the project.
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