by Jeremy Nobile | Reporter
Stow — City officials are hopeful that rising occupancy rates in Stow’s industrial sector indicate upward-trending economic activity throughout the city.
Planning and Development Director Rob Kurtz released data this month on the city’s occupancy/vacancy rates for industrial businesses, and numbers for the Commerce Drive corridor have Kurtz and other officials particularly excited.
Kurtz said occupancy on Commerce Drive — which contains Stow’s largest concentration of commercial and industrial properties and features the city’s largest private employer, adhesives company MACtac — is just shy of 93 percent full.
Of more than 30 buildings down that strip, only two are entirely vacant, and four others have partial vacancies.
In September 2010, Commerce Drive was slightly more than 80 percent occupied.
Kurtz has said the vacancies on Commerce are the “lowest I’ve ever seen” since beginning work with the city in the early 2000s.
Mayor Sara Drew said she’s not sure if space on Commerce has ever been 100 percent occupied.
“Things are getting slowly better in the manufacturing sector. This is the best we’ve seen [down Commerce] in several years, and we want to get to 100 percent, or at least as close as we can,” she said.
Regarding filling those empty spaces, Drew said some “interested parties have come in and taken a look, but no one’s committed yet.”
Drew said industrial jobs are substantial because they tend to be sustainable, skilled positions with higher salaries, which bolster income-tax collections.
Finance Director John Baranek said income tax is a significant component in city finances as that revenue comprises roughly 53 percent of the city’s $25 million operating budget.
 “While it is always better to have the industrial or manufacturing jobs, they are somewhat rare.  It is still very important to have the supporting industries and commercial/retail jobs, too,” said Baranek. “We have always had a good mixture of small industrial/manufacturing companies along with commercial, professional and retail jobs to help support the city’s revenues.”
While the numbers on Commerce Drive are promising, Drew said the big picture is how those occupancy levels are reflective of an overall “uptick” in general economic activity.
About four years ago when the economy began to tank, Drew, who was serving on City Council at the time, said conversations would be about dwindling economic development and not growth.
“This is a good economic indicator of how Stow is doing,” she said. “You can instinctively feel that things are picking up a little bit.”
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