BEACHWOOD, Ohio — City Council, on Monday (Aug. 30), passed three pieces of legislation that will welcome to the city the company GE Current, a move city leaders believe will transform the stale Commerce Park industrial park. The coming of GE Current fills 42,000 square feet in the vacant, northern portion of the mammoth, 116,000-square-foot former Jo-Ann Fabrics building at 23550 Commerce Park.
The large southern portion of the building, which faces Mercantile Road, houses Beachwood’s public service department. The Solon firm Industrial Commercial Property (ICP) bought the northern portion of the building from the city earlier this year for $2.7 million with the intention of filling the huge space. GE Current will use about 32,000 square feet of the space it will lease from ICP as its corporate headquarter offices, and the remaining 10,000 square feet as laboratory space.
Mayor Martin Horwitz is thrilled by the coming of GE Current. “Current carries the legacy of one of the world’s most recognized business names and has an international reputation as a leader in lighting and controls,” Horwitz said before council voted on the legislation. “In the true spirit of economic development our team has repurposed a municipal building with limited tax value into one that will now welcome hundreds of new employees and brighten the tax base of our city and schools for years to come.”
Beachwood has granted GE Current, which will move from its current facility at Nela Park in East Cleveland, a 10-year, 50-percent tax abatement on its payroll. Economic development consultant James Heller, who along with Building Commissioner William Griswold and Councilwoman June Taylor led the city team that worked four months putting together the deal, said that if GE Current has an annual payroll of $15 million, that abatement would equate to about $150,000 per year, based on the city’s 2-percent income tax rate.
GE Current COO Joseph Cenin, who attended Monday’s meeting, said that conservative plans call for 115 employees moving to Beachwood. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, those employees have been, and will continue for the foreseeable future, to work two days per week at home, two days at the office, and, on Fridays, have the choice of working in the office or at home. It has yet to be worked out in the courts how much municipalities will receive in income taxes in Ohio because so many workers have been working from home. Heller said that it is now estimated that GE Current will have a $14-million payroll, a figure that could change as the pandemic continues to unfold.
After Monday’s meeting, Horwitz called the coming of GE Current from what is thought to be the country’s first industrial park, Nela Park (built between 1911-24), to Beachwood’s new “innovation park,” will be “transformational” for Beachwood.
Horwitz said that GE Current could result in more high tech company’s deciding to relocate or open in Beachwood.
“This can spur, this can invigorate the whole Commerce Park area,” added Heller. “There is no vacant space (in Commerce Park now), but the building’s have not changed in 40-some years. This is going to be a fresh-looking building.” He said that other building and business owners may be prompted to make improvements or additions after seeing what is done at what is the largest Commerce Park building.
Heller told council that he devised a slogan for the addition of GE Current: “GE Current brings light and brilliance to Beachwood.”
Heller noted that GE Current, a Daintree Company, has plants in North Carolina, Texas and Mexico, and does business around the world. “They may bring these people in (to Beachwood) and they’ll be staying at our hotels and eating at our restaurants,” he said.
“If they need a shirt, or something else, they’ll go to Beachwood Place (mall),” Horwitz said. “For our businesses and economy this is very good news.”
Cenin said that GE Current provides commercial lighting. “We serve large spaces — municipal centers, streets — whereas the lighting division (which will remain at Neal Park) sells lighting for households.” GE Current was sold by General Electric in 2019.
GE Current, Cenin said, looked at locations for its headquarters in other states, including North Carolina, and in other Northeast Ohio communities before deciding upon Beachwood.
Speaking to council, Cenin said, “Together we can build something great. And I’m looking forward to making Beachwood our next world headquarters.”
ICP will be doing the construction work. Its owner/founder, Christopher Semarjian, told council, “We’re basically going to tear the entire facade off this facility and rebuild it to a world-class local standard.” The site will be landscaped and the parking lot and curbs around the building will be new.
He said he hopes to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the building for GE Current’s opening next spring or early summer.
Semarjian, whose son, Austin Semarjian, worked out the Beachwood/GE Current deal, said that the remaining approximately 74,000 square feet at the building could be occupied within 12 months. ICP owns 44 million square feet of industrial properties throughout the Midwest.
Council President James Pasch, who has been a council member eight years, expressed his pleasure with the project by stating, “For a very long time, for many years, many councils and administrations have talked about the need to revitalize Commerce Park, to start to transform it. To me, this marks the beginning of us not talking about it, and us doing it. And I could not be more thrilled that we are doing it with GE Current.”
As an added bonus, GE Current has offered to work with and advise the city on its planned project to install street lighting along Green Road, and perhaps other parts of Beachwood.
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