WOODMERE — With development sprouting all around the eastern suburbs, Mayor Ben Holbert recently expressed concerns over attempts to poach businesses from the village.

He referred to the anti-poaching agreement that most communities in Cuyahoga County signed in 2013 and renewed in 2016.

“I want to emphasize that we are trying to build up the region together,” Mayor Holbert said. “If someone or entity wants someone to move to another location, it needs to be the decision of the business and not someone trying to encourage, lure or entice someone to come to another community.”

Since October of 2018, Mayor Holbert said that multiple business owners and developers in Woodmere informed him that they were solicited, sometimes aggressively, to move out of the village to a neighboring location.

Poaching occurs when special incentives, such as low leasing costs, are dangled in front of business owners in an effort to lure them to a nearby location, he said.

Mayor Holbert said that the businesses did not share details such as if the solicitations came in person, phone or email. The complainants said that they did not have any information on the person or group who encouraged them to move, such as their name or affiliated agency.

Woodmere Village is home to more than 300 businesses, including B Spot, Trader Joe’s, Tiffany & Co., the Apple Store and Barnes & Noble.

Mayor Holbert said that he wants businesses in Woodmere to know that he is aware that some of them may have been approached and that he is working to resolve the issue.

Since the businesses are not sure who is approaching them, Mayor Holbert said that the village does not have any documented proof of these incidents. Therefore, village officials are urging businesses who have been approached to provide the village with more information, including the name of the person or agency, and the date, time and nature of the solicitation.

Mayor Holbert said that he will address this concern with municipal neighbors. Several other shopping centers with some new development in the eastern suburbs include Legacy Village in Lyndhurst, La Place in Beachwood, Pinecrest in Orange Village and the Van Aken District in Shaker Heights.

“We want to do all we can to build the region,” he said. “But we want to make sure it’s not done at our expense or any of the other communities. We won’t sit here and watch that happen.”

A number of Woodmere residents have inquired about the space at Village Square that was vacated by Whole Foods, according to Mayor Holbert, which moved to Pinecrest in 2018.

“We have an area where a significant tenant is no longer there,” he said. “We’re working to see what we can do to help that landlord address it.”

Orange Village Mayor Kathy Mulcahy said that the village also signed the anti-poaching protocol. While planning the $240 million Pinecrest shopping center that opened last year, the village required developers to recruit 65 percent of the businesses from outside a 20 mile radius of Orange. Citing her prior experience as a board member on the Northeast Ohio Area Coordinating Agency, Mayor Mulcahy said that she does not want to move businesses from one side of town to another.

“Orange Village has never given any incentives. We will uphold the poaching agreement and that 65 percent rule ought to be commended and set a model for the future,” she said.

Ted Carter, chief economic development and business officer for Cuyahoga County, said that the county discourages poaching.

“We would not invest in a project where poaching occurred,” Mr. Carter said. “That’s discouraged in northeast Ohio.”

He said that he and County Executive Armond Budish are working to keep companies in Cuyahoga County, although there is no way to enforce the poaching agreement.

Julie Hullett has been a reporter for the Chagrin Valley Times since August of 2018 and covers Gates Mills, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike and Woodmere. She graduated from John Carroll University with a journalism degree in 2018.

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