The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

April 11, 2012

Brown backs Geneva’s business incubator

Funding could help build wine and culinary center

HARPERSFIELD TOWNSHIP — Geneva’s wine and culinary business incubator may get a little help from some federal friends, Sen. Sherrod Brown said Wednesday, as the state takes a hard look at the business of job creation through entrepreneurship.

“Business incubators provide assistance that helps turn viable ideas into viable businesses,” Brown said in a press conference at Ferrante Winery and Ristorante.

The press conference focused on the state’s support of business incubators across Ohio as Brown championed the Business Incubator Promotion Act, which would help economically stressed communities with funds to support business incubators.

“Two-thirds of new jobs are created through small businesses,” Brown said. “We also know those small businesses face challenges getting off the ground. That’s why business incubators are so important.”

While thinking state-wide, Brown focused on Ashtabula County’s own proposed business incubator — Pairings.

The proposed 38,000-square-foot, non-profit business incubator will include restaurant and banquet facilities, cooking classes, wine-making demonstrations, incubator facilities for start-up wineries, educational culinary demonstrations, office space and a gift shop.

Officials hope to hold the groundbreaking for the facility, to be built on Park Street on the former Geneva Elementary property in late 2013.

Pairings will also serve as the home base for Kent State University’s degrees in viticulture and wine making.

These classes will be held online as well as in-house and will be available to aspiring winemakers across the country, Kent State Ashtabula Dean Susan Stocker said.

“We are very much looking forward to being an integral part of the wine and culinary center, Pairings,” she said.

Pairings backers are in the middle of a capital campaign, Geneva City Manager Jim Pearson said, to get the project from renderings to groundbreaking.

Funding sources include federal grants, corporate sponsors and philanthropic gifts.

“We want to grow the local wine industry and create new businesses and new jobs,” he said. “Hopefully because a large percentage of the building is a wine industry incubator, eventually we could see some federal funding.”

Executive Director of the Ashtabula County Convention and Visitors Bureau Mark Winchell called Pairings, “a one-of-a-kind effort.”

Ferrante sales manager Jim Arbaczewski said Pairings could launch the Ohio wine industry into the stratosphere.

“When people think of wine, they often think of California,” he said. “Because we are a cold weather state, it just isn’t as romantic to think of wine in Ohio. It isn’t as romantic now, but it could be. Hopefully, Pairings will bring more people from out of state to try our wines and really help get the word out about what we do here.”

Brown said he has seen incubators making big differences in struggling communities, including Youngstown and Zainesville.

“Any incubator sends a message — if you have an idea and you want to be entrepreneur, it’s possible and there is federal help out there to make it happen,” he said. “People have ideas and they want opportunity.”

Brown said the Business Incubator Promotion Act would provide competitive grants to help regions introduce new businesses and expand existing ones.

“This legislation is aimed at helping these regions create higher-skill, higher-wage jobs, meaning that more Ohio communities could support homegrown entrepreneurship,” he said.

For more information on Pairings visit pairingsohio.com.

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