SALEM, Ohio (WKBN) – The people guiding economic development in the Salem area say they’ve been experiencing something of a resurgence in the last couple of years
Ben Ratner opened his coffeehouse and café — Lib’s Market — in Salem about 18 months ago. He said he saw the charm in the historic building that modern architecture couldn’t replicate.
Back then, there were more businesses moving out of downtown Salem that in, however. To determine why that was happening, the city’s economic development consultants hired a firm to conduct a study.
“When they finished, we had 38 vacant buildings and none of those were on the market in our downtown core. We have about 90, just a hair under 100 buildings downtown or business units, let’s call them, and 38 of those were vacant,” said Michael Mancuso, executive director of the Salem Sustainable Opportunity Development Center.
Today, there are only 15 empty store fronts and nine of those are on the market.
Mancuso said some marketing and new city regulations are bringing businesses in.
“Probably twice a month, I have site selectors here that I’m driving around, showing them the sites,” he said.
Mancuso said economic development is more than simply trying to attract new businesses.
“It’s community development. It’s making sure the quality of life is where it needs to be to attract people and attract workers, so we’re working on all aspects of that,” he said.
He said there are numerous job opportunities in the city, with about 65 manufacturing companies providing about 7,000 jobs. The city also hopes to add another company soon.
Joe Ginocchi, vice president of development at Trek Development, said the next step will be to obtain tax credits from the state. That application is due in March, and Ginocchi said it’s a high-competitive process.
“If we’re successful in getting those credits, then we will be developing here in Salem,” he said.
In the meantime, Ratner said the growth over the last year and a half now has people talking now what could be a brighter future for the city and his business.
“Being almost dead center between Pittsburgh and Cleveland, there’s no reason why we couldn’t be a little arts and entertainment hub in this area, between those two cities,” he said.