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It’s about the “ecosystem.”
The term was interspersed in conversations at an open house for the innovation district headquarters Thursday evening. Representatives from the city of Canton and business and development groups gathered on the second floor at 309 Court Ave. NW — where JumpStart Inc., the Economic Community Development Institute and Three 30 Group already have offices.
“There’s a lot of things happening in the district, and they’re happening at different paces, and we thought it was important to tell everybody this is open for business,” said Nick Worner, senior manager of communications for JumpStart.
The Cleveland-based nonprofit supports entrepreneurs and has committed $52,000 and another $99,000 through the state’s Third Frontier network for innovation district operations. The city will supply $75,000 from the comprehensive development fund, and the Stark Community Foundation will provide $40,000 a year.
The Canton Community Improvement Corp. is responsible for administering the funding and contracted with JumpStart for services. An advisory board will oversee innovation district, and Agile Networks is establishing high-speed internet through the Ohio Academic Resources Network.Linda Hale, hired by JumpStart in November as the district community manager, eventually will be joined by an intern. She expects to spend most of her time traversing Stark County.“I’ll be meeting with entrepreneurs where they are,” she said.JumpStart will host local events, such as pitch nights and value proposition seminars, as well as an intensive 12-week Impact Program for all types of entrepreneurs. Hale said the technology incubator, an innovation district requirement, can accommodate nearly seven businesses in the same Court Avenue NW space.“We don’t want to keep them in here forever,” she said. “We want them to grow to a certain level, and then let them fly away.”
JumpStart’s presence is partly why Three 30 Group moved to Canton this week from the Tuscarawas County Business Factory incubator in Dover.
“We’ve been doing business a few years, but we’re looking to go to the new level,” said President Brian Harr.
It’s also a geographically smart move, he said. The company’s roughly half dozen employees live a good distance from Dover, and Harr said most software consultants and developers he interviewed lived around Canton or Akron.
Three 30 Group handles sales, marketing and business process management and automation software. Harr said they helps clients establish software such as Salesforce.com and Zoho CRM.
The Economic Community Development Institute (ECDI) also is operating at the downtown headquarters. Canton gave the statewide lender $100,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding for a microenterprise loan program.
Chris Faircloth, an ECDI lending manager for the Akron-Canton area, said he’ll be in Canton several days a week. The city tasked ECDI with providing six loans to Canton-based businesses in a year.
“My role here, really, will be to facilitate small business lending within the city of Canton with the loan fund that we have,” Faircloth said.
Overall, the Canton hub should benefit the entire county, said Ray Hexamer, president of the Stark Development Board. Collaboration made the district possible, and he hopes business connections between those inside and outside the 12-block innovation district “boost the whole ecosystem” of Stark County.