A question of location

There is a story in circulation that Vernon Stouffer moved his company out of downtown Cleveland after seeing a bumper sticker with the words, “Solon loves business.”

To be fair, it probably wasn’t the bumper sticker as much as it was what he found when he investigated the validity of that simple slogan. No matter what it was, it worked, so the story goes, and Stouffer ultimately moved his famous frozen foods operation to the eastside suburb.

Over the years, Solon leaders have had much luck drawing both commercial and manufacturing businesses to their city. Unless a business owner wants to move his company into an existing facility, there really is no industrial land left on the market in Solon.

“There may be some additional opportunities in the future, but for the moment, new parcels haven’t opened up,” explains city economic development manager Peggy Wile. “I guess we’ve done our job.”

Solon’s position is an enviable one for leaders in other cities, who are fighting tooth and nail to draw new industry to their communities. Competing for business investment is high among a number of suburban cities. Some even go as far as actively wooing businesses away from neighboring municipalities with promises of a better location and attractive tax abatement packages.

For business owners pondering a move, finding the right community may be difficult. For those still looking, consider the state of affairs in a number of cities:


Officials at the Greater Cleveland Growth Association say more than half of the relocation or expansion projects in Cuyahoga County occur within the city of Cleveland’s municipal boundaries.

It makes sense, given the prevalence of new industrial areas like the Cleveland Enterprise Park in Highland Hills Township or Cleveland Business Park near the airport along Rocky River Drive, and a host of financial incentive programs the city can offer business owners.

The city’s central business district is also a popular location. Following BP’s decision to vacate its downtown skyscraper, many businesses sought the open space to upgrade their offices. Despite the move, top-grade office space downtown is still at a premium.


Richard Jacobs’ new Chagrin Highlands project recently opened 405 acres for development in this eastside city. So far, Scott Technologies is the only company to build on the Beachwood portion of the 603-acre property that spans the borders of four municipalities.

Suited more to office buildings and retail development than manufacturing operations, Beachwood offers no tax abatement deals to business owners who invest in the city. Instead, local leaders offer lower payroll and property taxes as incentives.


Mentor has plenty of industrial space available to business owners and a thriving commercial business core rated sixth largest in the state of Ohio. Local leaders offer five-year, 100 percent tax abatements on new buildings in the city’s targeted revitalization zone.

Meanwhile, business owners who build on any of the city’s industrial space along Tyler Boulevard can receive tax abatements if they employ at least 50 people and invest at least $500,000 in building renovation or new construction. Although the city is in Lake County, community leaders stress Mentor’s proximity to both I-90 and State Route 2.

North Olmsted

There are one- and two-acre parcels of land available in the highly developed commercial area along Lorain Road near Great Northern Mall for business owners, while many older properties are being renovated for new clients.

Meanwhile, the city’s 20-acre industrial park, located north of I-480 and south of Lorain Road, is only about half filled. Business owners looking for tax abatements likely won’t find them in this westside community — tax breaks are rare and have traditionally been reserved for heavy-hitting companies.

Lorain County

As industrial land becomes more scarce in Cuyahoga County, a number of cities in Lorain County are readying themselves to benefit from industrial growth in Northeast Ohio.

Avon, formerly a small farming community, is already getting a healthy lesson in new development. Leaders there have drawn a number of new businesses, but need more to keep up with booming residential growth. Meanwhile, in nearby Avon Lake, community leaders are looking for new industries to expand their tax base.

The city of Lorain is also in the hunt for new industry after big job losses at the Ford Motor Co.’s Lorain Assembly Plant a few years ago and the more recent sale of USS/Kobe Steel Corp. The city and port authority are working together on a number of new industrial development initiatives.

Jim Vickers ([email protected]) is an associate editor at SBN.