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Village gives business a hand

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Last week it looked like Yellow Springs might lose another of its small but growing businesses to a neighboring community. But due to creative thinking and swift action from the Village, e-Health Data Solutions now has a chance at leasing a bigger space and remaining inside the village.

E-Health is a national health care data management company that has grown too big for its MillWorks location and needs about 5,000 square feet of professional office space to move into. Creative Memories has 20,000 square feet of office space at its Dayton Street facility, but dividing it would cost the company, according to a statement last week from Mark Lerud, vice-president of operations at Creative Memories. And though e-Health doesn’t want to leave Yellow Springs, the business has an option on a space in downtown Springfield that is move-in ready and less expensive than the Creative Memories space, e-Health President John Sheridan said last week.

So going along with an idea proposed last week by Village Economic Sustainability Coordinator Sarah Wildman, Village Council members agreed to loan Creative Memories $30,000 to divide the office facility to suit the needs of e-Health. That amount plus a private grant of $15,000 from the recently established Yellow Springs Economic Development Assistance Fund was “an amount that made some sense to Creative Memories,” according to Bruce Cornett, who helped to create the assistance fund. While Creative Memories is considering the Village loan and private grant, its leaders and e-Health agreed that a lease contract must be signed by July 13 to allow e-Health time to move before its current lease terminates at the end of August.

Local resident Roi Qualls, one of e-Health’s three principal owners, said this week that he is “cautiously optimistic” that a final lease agreement can be reached.

“We’re definitely coming up from behind on this one,” he said. “We were down love–40, then we got to deuce, and it’s advantage Yellow Springs right now.”

Lerud could not be reached for comment this week.

The Village authorized the loan at its regular meeting on Tuesday, July 5, in a resolution which states that “public support for economic sustainability is a valid public purpose necessary for the growth of job opportunities in the village and tax revenues for the village.” Though the amount of the loan is roughly equivalent to the resources that remain in the Village Economic Development Revolving Loan Fund, the loan will come from the Village General Fund, which, according to Wildman, allows the Village to work quickly and avoid some of the time and contractual constraints of the revolving fund. The loan has a 3.5 percent interest rate and a three-year payback time, and it may be forgiven if Creative Memories is able to facilitate the creation of a certain number of jobs at its rehabilitated site, according to Wildman. Though Council Member Karen Wintrow stated during the Council meeting that she would be willing to remove any of the loan terms because she doesn’t want to risk losing e-Health.

E-Health currently employs 12 people, at least seven of whom are local residents, at its office space in town. The business had been looking for a bigger space in town for several years, and Creative Memories offered the only professional space that met its needs for handicapped accessibility, HIPAA-proof storage space and move-in-ready, professional facilities. E-Health also needed the space to be competitive with Springfield’s offer of $10 per square foot. According to Qualls, the business owners did not want the cost or hassle of redesigning a building that wasn’t theirs. But none of them is really interested in moving out of Yellow Springs to Springfield, he said. The grant and the loan from the Village responds not only to e-Health’s needs, but also allows Creative Memories to serve other businesses that may want to lease a smaller space there. Creative Memories’ office space has been mostly empty since 2008, when the bookplate part of the business closed.

“Council’s done a wise thing and put the money where there’s a need that could serve not just us, but also two or three more businesses,” Qualls said. “The Village has taken a huge step both publicly and privately, and Sarah had the creativity and put in a lot of elbow grease” to make an agreement possible.

Wildman was pleased that the Village was able to act fast, even over a holiday weekend, to serve a need that “benefits everyone” in the village, including many existing and future businesses, employees and village citizens.

“This lets everyone know that we’re open for business…and that we can be aggressive in helping partnerships to evolve between government and private industry,” she said. “I also want to say that Creative Memories has also been a great business partner to work with, and clearly are willing to think outside the box on what they can do.”

The assistance fund was organized just last week by Cornett, whose business Servlet Internet Services serves e-Health. Cornett has been involved in economic development efforts around the state for many decades and saw that e-Health needed immediate assistance. So he tapped a few small business owners in the village to gather what resources were available, he said. The check is available to Creative Memories when the lease is signed, he said.

If a lease is signed by July 13, e-Health hopes to move into Creative Memories before the end of August, according to Qualls.


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