The City of Canton today announced a collaboration with the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce (CRCC) to spark new investment and economic development activity in the Canton Innovation District. Under its existing contract with the city for economic development services, the CRCC will take the lead role in efforts to attract developers and technology-oriented businesses to invest and locate in the Innovation District and encourage the revitalization of historic properties in the 12-block area in downtown Canton.

“Canton was among the first cities in Ohio to create an innovation district, and we believe this tool holds the potential to produce real economic benefit for our community,” said Canton Mayor Thomas M. Bernabei. “The Chamber has the ability and experience to lead our efforts to position Canton as a great place for innovators and technology companies to invest and thrive.”

“Mayor Bernabei and City Council deserve considerable credit for realizing the potential of innovation districts to benefit downtown development and becoming an early-adopter,” said Dennis P. Saunier, CRCC President and CEO. “We are confident there is considerable opportunity to build on the work completed to date by the city, and to translate that into measurable economic impact. Our goal is to build interest in the Canton Innovation District with developers and businesses, bringing new investment and technology jobs to downtown.

Created in 2017, the Canton Innovation District encompasses a 12-block zone of downtown, bordered by Tuscarawas Avenue to the south, 6th Street to the north, Cleveland Avenue to the west, and Piedmont Avenue to the east. Using incentives available through an underlying Downtown Redevelopment District (DRD) and the establishment of a high-speed broadband network with 100-gigabit-per-second connectivity, the goals of the Innovation District are to encourage the attraction, retention and expansion of technology-oriented businesses and spur the revitalization of historic buildings in downtown Canton.

Through the DRD, property owners can benefit from a tax exemption of up to 70 percent of the value of improvements to parcels within the district for 10 years (up to 30 years with school district approval).
The Innovation District HQ, which opened in 2019 at 309 Court Avenue NW, includes incubator space for technology start-ups and serves as the hub for business services, coaching and entrepreneurial support provided by JumpStart Inc., a Cleveland-based venture-development organization.

Jeff Dafler, CRCC Vice President of Economic Development and Public Policy and President of the Downtown Canton Land Bank, will oversee the Chamber’s work in the Innovation District. “Through the work completed to date, we have a great start on building a culture of innovation and extending high-speed broadband access in downtown Canton,” said Dafler. “Our task now is to continue developing these assets with a focus that leads directly to tangible economic gains for the community. We look forward to collaborating with the City of Canton, JumpStart, Stark Community Foundation, Stark Economic Development Board and other partners as we lead this initiative forward.”