Incentives package presented

Incentives would reward businesses for upgrading vacant buildings.
WARREN -- A downtown revitalization group has presented city council with an economic incentives package that the group's members believe will help attract businesses to downtown Warren and maintain them.
Members of Warren G.R.O.W.s (Grassroots Revitalization of Warren) and the Warren Redevelopment and Planning Corporation presented council members with the package of reimbursements, tax credits and discounts at a meeting of council's downtown revitalization committee Thursday.
Five key incentives are the heart of the plan, said Anthony Iannucci Jr., WRAP executive director. The incentives are property tax reimbursements, a tax credit based on profits, discounts for building permits and discounts for sewer and water tap-ins.
The incentives will be awarded based on certain criteria including how many employees each business has, and how much owners have invested in the property. Businesses occupying a building that has been vacant for at least three months will receive greater incentives, Iannucci said.
In addition, the plan calls for the city to offer grants and loans for facade improvements, and tax abatements. The city would have a fund for the grants of 5,000 per business; the maximum amount of grants the city could offer would be 75,000 annually.
Mayor Michael J. O'Brien said the package will greatly enhance Warren's chances of attracting new businesses to downtown.
"We can boast of the beauty of our downtown and talk about our historic locations," he said. "But the most beautiful item to potential owners will be this incentives package."
Related matter
Economic growth is also a key to Warren G.R.O.W.s' goal of making downtown a nationally recognized historic center.
Last month, Warren G.R.O.W.s filed an application with Downtown Ohio Inc. to become a Main Street Community. Through Downtown Ohio, the city will also be able to seek certification as a National Main Street Center from the National Trust.
Through financial grants and strategic planning, the Main Street program helps Ohio communities preserve historic sites while bringing new businesses into the community.
The Main Street Community requires that communities have a comprehensive plan to bring and maintain businesses in the downtown business district, Iannucci said. The city should know by mid-December if it has been accepted into the Main Street program.
The next step for the incentives package is for council to pass them as an ordinance, Iannucci said.
All four council members on the revitalization committee -- Robert Holmes, D-4th; Andrew Barkley, D-3rd; Vincent Flask, D-5th; and Robert L. Dean Jr., D-at large, -- said they were eager to co-sponsor the legislation.
"We rarely agree on anything, so for us to agree on this amazing," Dean said to several volunteers who drafted the incentives packages. "This is our way of giving you a big 'Thank You.'"

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