BARBERTON: The closing of the AAA Ohio Auto Club location here ended up being good news for an agency that aims to boost the city’s economy.
After unsuccessfully trying to sell its building on East Tuscarawas Street, the auto club decided to donate the facility to the Barberton Community Development Corp., known locally as BCDC.
For the first time, BCDC has its own building and is not paying rent to a landlord.
“It’s always been a goal of BCDC to have its own office,” said Scott Wagner, executive director.
The Barberton Community Development Corp. was founded in 1985 as the city reeled from manufacturing job losses.
The nonprofit group uses federal grants and works on local loan programs to attract new businesses and retain existing employers.
The group moved into the former AAA building at 139 E. Tuscarawas St. late last year. The concrete-and-brick building is at the corner of North Van Buren Avenue.
AAA Ohio Auto Club moved from the building in late 2011, consolidating operations at a site in the Wadsworth Crossings shopping center off Interstate 76 in Wadsworth.
Kimberly Schwind, manager of public relations for the AAA Ohio Auto Club, said the auto club “wanted to give back to the city. ... We know the Barberton Community Development Corp. does great work for the city.
AAA Ohio officials will visit Barberton on Wednesday to celebrate the donation of the building.
The former AAA building was appraised at more than $150,000 for tax purposes and has about 3,300 square feet of space.
That makes it about twice the size of the economic development agency’s old location.
“The savings in lease payments more than offset our increase in utility expenses,” Wagner said.
The agency previously rented space in a storefront on West Tuscarawas Street.
Last year, the agency launched one of its most ambitious projects, creating an affiliate to buy the sprawling former Seiberling Tire & Rubber Co. factory and office complex.
The affiliate paid $700,000 for the largely vacant facility, buying it from the privately owned B&C Industries. All told, the complex boasts about 400,000 square feet of space.
Wagner is marketing the complex and said he has found tenants to occupy roughly 110,000 square feet, including one who will absorb more than 50,000 square feet.
Wagner said that tenant has not yet moved in and is waiting until then to be identified.
Last year, the economic development group was among only two nonprofits in Ohio and 20 nationwide to be awarded $1 million through the Small Business Administration. BCDC is using the money for low-interest loans to small businesses in Barberton, Norton and New Franklin.
Businesses can use the loan money — up to $200,000 per deal — to buy property, materials, supplies or equipment, or for working capital.
So far, two area companies, both in Norton, have received loans.
Barberton Community Development Corp. has three employees and a 20-member board that meets monthly.
For more information, call the agency at 330-745-3070 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or email@example.com.