Champaign County economic group won’t share space for now

Food council proposal under consideration.

The Champaign Economic Partnership will not share office space with other business organizations — including the chamber of commerce — at least not in the immediate future, board members said Wednesday morning.

The CEP is in charge of economic development for Champaign County, and has office space in the Security Bank Building in downtown Urbana. When the organization was initially founded, it intended to share office space with the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations and serve as a one-stop shop for business services in the area.

But board members raised concerns about sharing office space with other agencies Wednesday, at least for now. Instead, CEP board members voted to hold off on the discussion until it becomes more necessary for both organizations until and the CEP becomes more established.

“I don’t think it’s going to negatively affect either organization,” said board member Dan Kaffenbarger on the decision to wait and re-evaluate sharing office space until later.

Board members also appointed Steve Hess, Champaign County commissioner, to serve as a representative to the Champaign County Local Food Council. The food council sought help from the CEP as part of a plan to develop a shared-use commercial kitchen in a former fire station in St. Paris. If approved, the kitchen could be shared among several small area businesses, who need a licensed, inspected facility to process or prepare food products for sale to the public.

However, CEP board members raised concerns that the CEP could be held liable if a problem arose with the kitchen. The food council is not legally recognized by Ohio, and that group will seek to become a limited liability company to allow the project to move forward.

“The site in St. Paris is ideal and the food council has been working on this for quite some time,” said Marcia Bailey, economic development coordinator for the CEP. “Steve (Hess) will be meeting with the food council to work on establishing the LLC so we can move forward with further collaboration such as owning the equipment and leasing back to the food council.”

CEP members also briefly discussed a proposed $10,000 study on whether commercial and residential development on the east side of Urbana is feasible. However, board members pointed to a proposal by Memorial Health of Marysville to build a 23,000 square foot outpatient facility on the east side of the city. In addition, Urbana City Schools has announced plans to build a new K-8 building in the area.

CEP board members voted to hold off on the study for because both of those projects would significantly impact the study’s results.

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