UPDATE #4 - 04/22/2009 AT 5:10 PM - The Report has just received communication from the office of Region 9 Director (for economic director) Steve Meeks (former trustee out of Jackson Township) saying that the Ohio Department of Development is reversing itself on North Canton and all other Job Ready Site agreement "in process" and taking the language out which could be problematical to the desire of IN-OHIO companies which want to relocate within Ohio.
Meeks office did say that the "new" language will be a party of future agreements.
UPDATE: #3 - 04/22/2009 AT 6:52 AM - The Report talked with a spokesperson from the Ohio Department of Development yesterday and was told that Director Bardash is not considering resigning over the North Canton matter.
CORRECTION: The original article erroneously reported the tenant as being AultCare when in fact the correct name is Altercare. The original article has been corrected.
UPDATE #2: 04/20/2009 AT 12:37 PM - A source of The Report says Eric Bowles' (North Canton's economic development director) characterizes the problems with the Hoover re-development project as being "a rift between Stuart Luchter and Bob DeHoff."
UPDATE #!: 04/20/2009 at 10:45 AM - North Canton Mayor David Held tells The Report that he feels confident that the problem with the tendered "Job Ready Sites" agreement can be resolved.
Held says that North Canton will ask the Ohio Department of Development to retrace its steps and go back to the original agreement which did not contain the limiting language (not within Ohio).
The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report/SCPR) has learned many of the details of a rewrite of the Ohio Department of Development rules that may stymie the redevelopment of the former Hoover Company in downtown North Canton.
One of the fall-outs of this flap, may include the resignation of interim director of Ohio Department of Development (ODD) Mark Bardash. The Report is working on this aspect of the story and will update later.
What has happened to cause North Canton to possibly scrap its $5 million Ohio Department of Development "Job Ready Sites" grant?
The rubbing point is that within the past 10 days the North Canton administration has received an agreement on the grant to sign that is hugely different than ODD was having grantee sign before the North Canton agreement.
The specific troubled language in the agreement?
Clause 15. This clause prohibits grantees from using grant monies to attract IN-OHIO businesses to "Job Ready Sites" such as the Hoover redevelopment under the name Maple Street Commerce which is largely owned by partner Industrial Realty Group, Downey, California (of which Stuart Lichter is president and senior managing partner) in partnership with local real estate entrepreneur Robert DeHoff who owns about a 10% interest).
Okay, okay, how does this language specifically affect Maple Street Commerce?
Interesting, very interesting.
DeHoff Realty has a tenant at it facility on Whipple (in Jackson Township) known as Altercare. Many Stark Countians are familiar with Altercare which provides assisted living, rehabilitation and senior care services. Altercare at the DeHoff owned premises has about 270 workers at the DeHoff Realty owned site and sources tell The Report that Altercare desires to leave DeHoff yesterday even though four (4) months remain on the lease.
According to a very reliable source, because Altercare is very upset with how it is being handled in the landlord/tenant context by DeHoff and because Altercare needs more room.
So Altercare commissioned a "Site Selector" that came up with the idea that the old Hoover facility would fit Altercare's need.
But because of the clause 15 language in the "Job Ready Site" tendered agreement, North Canton cannot allow the relocation or the city will be on the hook for the $5 million in renovation costs to the Hoover site as well as the re-work of roads and other infrastructure around Hoover.
There is a "waiver" possibility on the IN-OHIO exclusion but a source tells The Report that nobody knows what the criteria will be for obtaining a waiver and that even if the rules were known, who, under the contract rules of due diligence would recommend that an Ohio based company consider relocating within Ohio.
A souce has suggested to The Report that perhaps the ODD will sued because of the two sets of rules that apply pre-North Canton/Hoover and post-North Canton/Hoover.
The Report can see a strong "equal protection of law" argument against the Strickland administration's new inserted language.
The bottom line is that what the Strickland administration's Department of Development is doing to Ohio's economic development efforts could be devastating in the near term.
Who would argue with the need to go out and get non-Ohio business to come to Ohio?
But is it fair to do to North Canton what Ohio is doing?
Not in The Report's opinion.
One remaining question.
Did Mayor Frank Cicchinelli having anything to do with ODD's change of language?
He did complain to Ohio officials when Myers Industries moved recently from Massillon to North Canton. It could be that Cicchinelli had Stark County Democratic Party chairman Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. put pressure on the Strickland administration to change the language, but The Report doubts it.
Maier is politically close to Strickland and many in his administration.
But close enough to get a major policy change made?