STOW: Two years ago, one-fifth of the city’s industrial corridor along Commerce Drive was vacant.
During his 15 years with the city, Planning and Development Director Rob Kurtz said he doesn’t believe Commerce Drive was ever greater than 85 percent filled.
But Stow is starting 2013 with a 93 percent occupancy rate in its largest concentration of commercial and industrial properties.
“It’s definitely the highest I’ve ever seen,” Kurtz said.
There are more than 30 buildings on the drive, of which only one is completely vacant. Four others are partially filled. And the vacant one has generated recent interest, Mayor Sara Drew said.
Officials give credit to an improving economy.
“I think the economy is getting better, particularly in the manufacturing area,” Kurtz said.
But manufacturers are not so quick to build new, he said, and that benefits locations like Commerce Drive.
“I think they’re afraid of the cost or afraid of investing in new buildings, so they’re looking for existing buildings,” Kurtz said.
Small local efforts might also play a role, he said. The new Seasons Road interchange at state Route 8 gives the area access to the highway, and the city’s “business-friendly atmosphere” coupled with small grants and abatements could have helped, he said.
Commerce Drive’s biggest employer has been and remains MACtac, with about 290 employees. The adhesive products company has been in the area since the 1960s.
In 2011, Anderson International took up residence. The heavy equipment manufacturer serving synthetic rubber, vegetable oil and animal feed processing industries employs about 90 people.
Last year, GOJO moved in a department for packaging of decorative displays for their products, employing 46 people.
Kurtz said he can’t put a dollar figure on the benefit to the city, but “the obvious benefit is the payroll tax. You know if it’s filling up, then the city is getting more.”
Mayor Drew said seeing activity on Commerce is also a “great morale booster.”
“Anytime you have a visible sign that something is doing well, that’s a good thing,” she said. “It says people are hiring and moving into the city.”
And as Commerce Drive fills up, she said, “it will spur commercial development elsewhere in the city.”
She said it’s too early to share details, but the city has been speaking with a developer who indicated the activity on Commerce has him eyeing other property in the city for new construction.