Aurora -- Ways the city is promoting economic development were the focus of a forum Sept. 26 sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.
Speakers such as Jack Burge, the city's director of economic and entrepreneurial development, Mayor James Fisher and A. Ray Dalton, president and chief executive officer of PartsSource, touted some of the positives the city has to offer local businesses which want to expand or those which may want to move here.
City officials, Chamber members, real estate professionals and candidates running for city offices in November attended the forum at Doogan's.
"Aurora's in the crosswalk of economic development," said Burge. "We're making it easier for businesses to get plans for new facilities approved, we've removed restrictions on lot coverage in the southern industrial zone and we're working on a new sign code that will be less restrictive."
Burge said several industrial firms have opened here recently, and others are expanding and/or adding jobs. The retail sector is growing, too, with only a few vacant spaces available at Aurora Farms Premium Outlets, Barrington Town Square and Aurora Commons.
Burge cited Eaton Corp., Custom Pultrusions, Rovisys, TCP, Midwest Distributors and PartsSource as being some of the growing companies.
New retail and service businesses which have opened in recent months include an optometrist, bakery, Dunkin Donuts and the Latest Scoop, plus the Aurora Inn's reopening.
He noted businesses such as the Aurora School of Music and Mad Jack's are doing well.
Burge said there's a lot of space in the southern industrial zone remaining, and he encouraged real estate professionals who attended the gathering to recommend that space to their clients.
Jeff Browsky, who owns CardPak, a new business at Route 43 and East Mennonite Road that features custom engineered packaging designs and solutions for merchandising strategies, told the crowd how the city helped him with his new location.
Mike Curtis of Curtis-Layer Design/Build, which has built many of the industrial structures in Aurora, said about 50 acres of open space exists in the southern industrial zone. He said the city "has come a long way" to make building projects easier to carry out.
PORTAGE Development Board President Brad Ehrhart spoke briefly about how Aurora has been proactive in bringing economic development to Portage County, and mentioned some of the firms here that are growing.
"Aurora is open for business" is the sort of slogan the city has adopted for its economic development efforts, said Mayor James Fisher. He also emphasized how the city is making things easier for businesses, but added "we're not compromising our standards to do it."
He touted the naming of Burge to head the development efforts and the establishment of a development website and printing of a new brochure as important tools. "We're working hard at this, and I believe we're doing it the right way," he said.
Fisher listed several positives in attracting new businesses: the city is becoming more business friendly; it's a geographically desirable area, offers good services such as parks, water and sewer lines; and has a favorable residential tax base, attractive housing, nationally ranked schools and Kent State University as a nearby resource.
And he cited Ohio Magazine's designation of Aurora as a "best hometown" for 1013.
Dalton stressed that good partnerships with their communities is important for businesses, and his business has a good one with Aurora.
PartsSource is a $125 million a year business in a building on Lena Drive near Page Road, which supplies replacement parts for hospital imaging and biomedical equipment. It has grown from 40 to 200 employees, and is planning to add more jobs. It is one of seven businesses Dalton has headed in his successful career.
Dalton stressed people want to live and work in Aurora and nearby communities because the cost of living is low, and that's a major attraction.
Dalton has earned many business awards over the years, including Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year in 2004, and is the author of a book titled "Proceed with Confidence: Lessons Learned from a Serial Entrepreneur."
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