Solon city officials are switching gears when it comes to plans for an Innovation Center, targeting a partnership with the local library instead of seeking an industrial district location.

Mayor Edward H. Kraus said last week that he met with representatives of the Solon Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library on the possibility of locating an innovation center in that building. The city owns the library building and land, but the branch is operated by the county system.

Mayor Kraus said housing the center in a private building on Bainbridge Road, as initially proposed, would not have worked. “There were financial issues and ownership issues of the building,” the mayor said.

As a result, the city, in partnership with the Solon Chamber of Commerce, began exploring the opportunity of using a facility the city already owns.

The goal of creating Solon’s first innovation center is to give entrepreneurs space to cultivate ideas and possibly launch products or businesses.

The mayor characterized the meeting with library officials as positive with both sides discussing the possibility of an expansion of the east end of the existing building. Financing such a project has not been determined, he said, adding that it could be a city-library partnership or private venture.

“We’re not there yet,” the mayor said.

The next step is that the library is looking at the possibility of doing some mock-up drawings of an expansion.

Mayor Kraus said innovation centers are housed in libraries in communities like Garfield Heights, Mayfield Heights and Parma. “We’re exploring that,” he said.

He said housing it in the Solon library would be unique in that the city has one of the top school systems, and its students regularly access and utilize the library. Perhaps people with home-based businesses would be interested in using the library space, Mayor Kraus added.

The center would be sort of a “think box,” the mayor continued.

“We will use it as a launching pad for people to bring ideas on various products,” Mayor Kraus said. “It will be a great space for entrepreneurs.” 

The goal is to launch the center by 2020, the mayor said, but that would take a partnership with the Solon Chamber of Commerce overseeing the operation.

“This is all still in the works,” he said, but the thought is the chamber would create a Limited Liability Company to oversee the operation.

“It really is just attracting talent to the community and keeping good talent,” Mayor Kraus said of the center’s purpose.

For the last decade, Sue Reid has covered the government, business climate and residents of Solon. A Times reporter for 22 years, Ms. Reid has earned commendations from the Ohio Newspaper Association and Cleveland Press Association.

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