AKRON—If all goes according to plan, Smithers Group soon will move its headquarters and about 200 employees from its West Market Street site to a redeveloped Austen BioInnovation Institute campus in downtown Akron.
Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro detailed the plans Aug. 29, during her State of the County speech at the John S. Knight Center in Akron.
Shapiro said she intends to introduce legislation at the first Summit County Council in September that will allow the $16.9 million project, which will include a research and development facility, to become a reality.
The plan is part of a collaboration between the Smithers Group, the county, the city of Akron, the Development Finance Authority, Team NEO, JobsOhio, Akron Children's Hospital, FirstEnergy and the Welty Building Co., Shapiro said.
"The ABIA began as a unique collaboration of several anchor institutions in our community to capitalize on innovation and commercialization in the biomedical industry," Shapiro said in her speech.
At the time of the 2018 Crain's story, only one founding member, Akron Children's, remained, and ABIA, which had received some county support, said it was turning to three new sources of revenue: leasing out space in the building; offering 3D printing services; and commercializing two medical technologies.
"Despite the best intentions ... the dream of ABIA never fully materialized," Shapiro said in her speech.
It's unclear what will become of ABIA's operations, according to Greta Johnson, assistant chief of staff and public information officer for the county.
"All aspects of the ABIA business model are being taken into account as we move forward with the process," Johnson said.
Smithers Group, which has been in Akron since 1925 and describes itself as a multinational provider of testing, consulting, information, and compliance services, needed a new site for its growing business, Johnson said.
The company has operations in North America, Europe and Asia. It employs 800 worldwide, Johnson said, with about 200 employees in Akron at its headquarters and testing and research lab.
Describing the deal as complex, Johnson said the players hope to have all the agreements in place by the end of the year, and construction on the ABIA campus at 47 N. Main St. will commence right afterward. Welty will handle the project, she added.
Akron Children's will continue to lease the lower half of the building for training and simulation. Cleveland Clinic Akron General, which has research operations on site, also will remain. The Development Finance Authority of Summit County, which owns the building, will stay as well (the county is on the debt service), Johnson said.
The upper three floors will be renovated for Smithers, Johnson and Shapiro said. The project also includes the demolition of several surrounding buildings to make way for a new R&D facility, which will wrap around the existing ABIA building, and parking, Shapiro said.
"This project will continue the transformation of downtown Akron and will serve as a gateway welcoming those who enter downtown from the north," Shapiro said in her speech.
Smithers recognized the "tremendous collaborative spirit" on the project and recognized the city, county and state partners for their efforts in the deal.
"We are excited to begin the next phase of this transformational project that will bring together all our employees in Akron who perform vital functions for our clients and our company," said Michael Hochschwender, president and CEO of Smithers.