Canton Officially Launches Downtown Innovation District, Announces Support From JumpStart

Cleveland Venture Development Organization Will Open an Office in the District to Serve Stark County Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners

The City of Canton is taking the final steps toward the launch of its innovation district, designed to attract and facilitate growth of technology-oriented businesses in Stark County.

In regular session on October 1, Canton City Council approved legislation that funds the district and finalized the necessary agreements with Canton-based Agile Networks to create and manage its 100-gigabyte-per-second broadband network. The City also finalized a partnership with JumpStart Inc., the Cleveland-based venture development organization that will help fund the Innovation District and put boots on the ground in Stark County, opening an office in the district headquarters—the former “Frank’s Produce” building at 309 Court Ave. JumpStart will also hire a Community Manager to organize programming and technical assistance for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

“This Innovation District is not only a first for our city, it’s the first of its kind in the state of Ohio,” said Canton Mayor Thomas M. Bernabei. “It also promises to be an important step forward in increasing the diversity of Canton’s economy via a greater focus on assisting and supporting ambitious entrepreneurs from the entire community.”

“We are excited to be part of the Canton Innovation District,” added JumpStart CEO Ray Leach. “We look forward to helping Stark County entrepreneurs grow their businesses and deepening their connection to the entire Northeast Ohio Startup Network.”

The idea behind the 12-block Canton Innovation District began in 2016, with the passage of state legislation that enabled cities to set up geographical centers for redevelopment and innovation. The Canton plan is the first in the state to set up an overlapping redevelopment and innovation district—combining the rehabilitation of historic buildings with new access to high-speed broadband and business support resources for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

“We are very proud to be part of this project,” said Agile Networks Founder & CEO Kyle Quillen. “Access to this kind of broadband connectivity, mixed with resources to help entrepreneurs, is something that can transform Downtown Canton. As a company headquartered right in the middle of this innovation district, we are heavily invested in its success.”

Funding for the Innovation District comes from Canton’s comprehensive development fund, JumpStart (with support from the Ohio Third Frontier’s Entrepreneurial Services Program) and the Stark Community Foundation. An advisory board overseeing the district will consist of Canton’s mayor, one council member, one tech business representative, one banking representative, one representative from the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce, one representative from the Stark Community Foundation, one representative from the Stark Economic Development Board and four other members, appointed at the board’s discretion.

“Combining affordable, historic real-estate with modern infrastructure and business support resources in a centralized urban location is an attractive proposition, to both innovative companies and the type of employees they seek to hire,” said Stark Economic Development Board President Ray Hexamer. “This Innovation District will put Downtown Cantonamongst the best places in Ohio to set up shop.”

“Over two years ago, our organization, along with the City of Canton and Agile Networks, identified a Downtown Redevelopment District and a corresponding Innovation District as a major part of our strategy to revitalize and strengthen the urban core,” added Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Dennis Saunier. “We want to thank State Representative Kirk Schuring for introducing the legislation, Canton Mayor Tom Bernabei for acting on it, and JumpStart, Stark Economic Development Board and the Stark Community Foundation for their support in bringing this project to fruition.”

About The Canton Innovation & Redevelopment District
The District encompasses 12 blocks of downtown Canton real estate and will combine infrastructure rehabilitation with a 100-gigabytee-per-second broadband network to encourage new development, attract new business and create a hub of innovation for Stark County entrepreneurs and small business owners.

About JumpStart Inc.
JumpStart unlocks the full potential of diverse and ambitious entrepreneurs to economically transform entire communities. For more information, follow @JumpStartInc on Twitter.