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Joliet addresses controversy surrounding Innovation Pavilion

Megann Horstead, Reporter – news@thetimesweekly.com | 6/13/2018, 9 a.m.
The City of Joliet may be looking to reevaluate its commitment to Innovation Pavilion and its plans to operate a ...
The Joliet City Council Photo by Brock A. Stein

The City of Joliet may be looking to reevaluate its commitment to Innovation Pavilion and its plans to operate a high-tech business incubator in downtown.

At the recent Joliet City Council meeting, officials were briefed on the controversy surrounding Innovation Pavilion CEO Vic Ahmed.

He stepped down from his post recently and is facing accusations for sexually harassing or assaulting at least three ex-coworkers. In addition, a former employee filed a lawsuit against Ahmed, accusing him of sexual assault.

City Manager David Hales described the news out of Colorado as “disturbing.”

Ahmed founded the Denver campus in 2011. Since then, the company has generated proposals to set up additional incubators in several communities.

“We have had a telephone conversation with a number of members of the Innovation Pavilion staff,” Hales said. “We have asked them for some detailed information on how [Ahmed’s departure] could impact the financial ability of Innovation Pavilion to continue their scope of work that was a part of an agreement about a year ago.”

City staff has invited Innovation Pavilion’s interim CEO to meet up for discussion.

Hales commented that he continues to see a lack of progress with the development and said they have failed to get community stakeholders involved.

“I raise that [concern] with you because we’re almost one year into a three-year plan,” he said.

When the city reached an agreement with Innovation Pavilion last year, a deal equipped with incentives was on the table.

To date, the city has not spent any money toward the campus or its development.

Corporation Counsel Marty Shanahan said the company failed to meet the requirements to receive incentives.

In order for Innovation Pavilion to put the city’s incentive package to use, the firm must apply for building permits. The agreement stipulates that the firm has the opportunity to be reimbursed for up to $200,000, or 50 percent—whichever is less, to pay for start-up costs.

The city intends to hold the firm to its promises.

Hales said the city has heard of who might serve as the local developer/partner, but it’s nothing concrete at this point, which is another concern.

When asked if Joliet would consider backing out of its deal with Innovation Pavilion, Shanahan said it’s a possibility and that “we’d take appropriate actions.”