Athersys' proposed expansion could bring big bucks to Stow

Krista S. Kano
Akron Beacon Journal

The city of Stow may soon see an increase in its annual income taxes if a bio-technology company moves forward with plans to expand into one of the industrial spaces on Seasons Road. 

Earlier this month, the Ohio Tax Credit Authority approved a 2.484%, 10-year tax credit for Athersys Inc., a Cleveland-based company that develops therapeutic products, according to a press release issued by Gov. Mike DeWine. 

Athersys has also been involved in COVID-19 research, teaming up with University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center in May for a clinical trial to test a therapy for acute respiratory distress syndrome, a leading cause of death among COVID-19 patients. 

MORE: University Hospitals will oversee trial of therapy to fight leading cause of death in COVID-19 patients

Director of Corporate Communication Karen Hunady said that Athersys is happy to have received the tax incentive, but that the company has not yet solidified plans or made a public announcement. She anticipates a statement in the first quarter of 2021. 

Should plans move forward, Athersys would move into one of the large industrial buildings in Fogg Corporate Properties' Seasons Business Park near the Seasons Road and Route 8 interchange in the city's northwest industrial-zoned quadrant.

The credit would allow the company to expand to create 400 full-time positions, generating $34.8 million in new annual payroll while maintaining $10.8 million in existing payroll. 

"So $34.8 million with our 2% income tax. That's significant," Stow Director of Planning and Development Rob Kurtz said. 

The current largest industrial company in the city has a payroll of $12 million. 

"We've never experienced a business that could bring in this type of revenue. This is way out of our range and we're so, so excited about that," Stow Mayor John Pribonic said. 

"This is a long time coming," Kurtz said. "What we call the northwest quadrant, the industrial office area near Route 8, has been the most significant amount of vacant land since I started with the city about 20 years ago, and for a good part of that, there was no infrastructure." 

More:Seasons Road sees more development to west of state Route 8

In the last two decades, however, sewer and water lines have been extended, the interchange was constructed and Seasons Road was extended to Hudson Drive, paid for by Stow, Hudson, private industry, and state and federal grants. 

"So all of these elements gave Fogg the confidence to build there," Kurtz said. "Fogg at that time was building spec buildings, which isn't often done, but they saw the hole in the Northeast Ohio industrial market and they took a chance. They were building 135,000, 150,000 square-foot buildings on spec and they were confident they could lease them and they did." 

Fogg's spaces have high ceilings and open spaces that can be retrofitted for a variety of uses, and the Seasons Road properties' proximity to University of Akron and Kent State University were likely attractive to a bio-tech company like Athersys, he said. 

"You have to be ready to deliver. So if we didn't do the infrastructure, if Fogg didn't build, then Athersys wouldn't come," Kurtz said. "The end result is a home run."

The Athersys expansion was just one of 16 projects statewide approved by the TCA. Collectively, the projects are expected to create 4,183 new jobs and result in more than $240 million in new payroll. 

Reporter Krista S. Kano can be reached at 330-541-9416, kkano@thebeaconjournal.com or on Twitter @KristaKanoABJ.