Local Foundations Purchase Stark County Farm for $2.25 Million

Area foundations take on major role in Stark County economic development

Six local foundations recently pooled their resources to purchase the Stark County Farm, a 327-acre farm located in the village of Navarre and Perry Township for $2.25 million. Their intent is to develop the land into a Class A Industrial Park, generating economic growth and job creation for our community.

The public-private partnership is being funded by Stark Board of Trade, LLC, a nonprofit created by Stark Community Foundation, Hoover Foundation, Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Massillon Development Foundation, DeHoff Family Foundation and Gessner Family Foundation.

Stark County Farm, also known as Prospect Industrial Park, was previously owned by local businessman Gaetano “Guy” Cecchini. He purchased the land from Stark County commissioners at public auction in 2008 with the hope of enticing Fiat to establish a U.S. presence.

“As an investor of economic development in our community, I’m excited that we have a shared vision for this property to stimulate our economy,” said Cecchini.

Forming a Partnership
This piece of land has been on real estate developer DeHoff Development’s radar for quite some time.

“In Northeast Ohio it’s a challenge to find large sites on which to build,” said Robert “Bob” DeHoff, chairman of DeHoff Development Company. “We (DeHoff Development Company) recognized that this land had the potential to be the perfect property for an industrial park.”

Earlier this year, Bob DeHoff approached Stark Community Foundation and pitched the idea of local foundations making a long-term investment in Stark County real estate by creating a business model similar to Mills Business Park. Located in Canton, the 140-acre business park is home to Medline Industries, G.E. Oil & Gas, Old Dominion Freightline and I²r Power Cable Company.

Stark Community Foundation President and CEO Mark J. Samolczyk felt this forward-thinking collaboration was an opportunity that local foundations would be interested in pursuing. Following his discussions with other foundations in addition to DeHoff Family Foundation, four additional foundations agreed to partner on this economic development initiative.

“The Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce Foundation is proud to join with area foundations on this endeavor,” said Dennis P. Saunier, president and CEO of Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce. “Since our founding over 100 years ago, the Chamber has been a major contributor and influencer of economic growth. It is our pleasure to be part of a collective effort to bring more jobs and investment to the region.”

Attracting Businesses and Jobs
The Stark Board of Trade, LCC was created in 2016 to help assist in attracting businesses to our community and generating opportunities for our residents, similar to the Canton Board of Trade some 130 years ago.

A group of community leaders came together in 1885 to establish the Canton Board of Trade, which brought businesses and jobs to Canton. These leaders attracted well-known and successful businesses to town including Timken Roller Bearing, Diebold Safe and Lock Company and Dueber Hampden Watchworks.

The board’s tireless efforts and sales strategy lured many large, promising businesses to select Canton as their new base of operations. Canton’s growth in population from 1809-1909 was undoubtedly due to the positive efforts of the Canton Board of Trade to bring many businesses and their workers to Canton.

“This public-private partnership is unique in that local foundations are coming together to drive economic growth in Stark County,” said Samolczyk. “Long term, this industrial economic development project will have a notable impact on the county’s job market, further improving the quality of life for the residents of our community.”

“If you can bring jobs to the area, people will want to live in the area,” said Bob Benson, mayor of the Village of Navarre. “The local foundations taking the lead on this initiative have that goal in mind.”

Tenants in the industrial park could be new businesses, businesses that want to expand their operation or businesses looking to relocate to the area.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for not only the greater Massillon area, but Stark County as a whole,” said Tim Seifert, president of Massillon Development Foundation’s Board. “Anytime a new or existing business decides to expand here in our community it can be considered a victory for the entire region.”

Funding for Class A Industrial Park
In addition to local foundations making a significant investment in the project, an Ohio Job Ready Site Grant of $1.1 million has been allocated for the development of the farm. An additional $2.4 million from the Roadway Development (629) Program was used for road and utility extensions, construction of a bridge that leads to the farm, site grading and construction of a water tower.

Representative Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) was instrumental in helping the $1.1 million grant remain active as it was nearing expiration in October. The grant will be used for infrastructure projects.

In addition, Stark Development Board has been involved in the due diligence on the property purchase and has been an important behind-the-scenes partner in this project.

“Chris Johnson, Stark Development Board’s vice president of site selection, is very familiar with the former Stark County Farm and was able to provide advice and assistance to Bob DeHoff and the DeHoff Development Company,” said Steve Paquette, president and CEO of the Stark Development Board.

Next Steps
In the near future, site preparation work will begin in addition to recruiting industrial businesses to the park.

“If it wasn’t for the foresight and generosity of local foundations, this project wouldn’t be possible,” said Daniel J. DeHoff, president of DeHoff Development Company. “We all share the collective vision of moving our community forward by attracting businesses to our community and creating jobs. Like my father always says, ‘Nothing raises the standards of living more than a good paying job in the community.’”

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