Matt French wants to go big.
It's not enough that the vice president and general manager for AMETEK's Kent division is moving about 90 employees from Lake Street to downtown, thus serving as one of the original catalysts for downtown Kent's redevelopment.
It's not enough he'll hand the keys for the Lake Street complex over to the city — for a steal — for future redevelopment, thus contributing further to the expansion of the city's income tax base.
French wants to go bigger.
Thursday his firm will turn the past few years of economic development fireworks into the real thing with a huge pyrotechnic show following the home football opener at Kent State University.
"If you want to say business times are really tough right now, you can find every excuse in the world why you're not doing good," French said. "There's tremendous opportunity if you want to work hard. That's what this is about. We've accomplished an unbelievably monumental task of having government work with university, work with private (industry) all ... in concert together to see a bigger vision."
AMETEK is partnering with the university, United Way of Portage County and Fairmount Properties, the Cleveland developer building the company's new downtown home, on the fireworks show, which will be preceded by a large tailgating party prior to the game against Towson University.
French said the tailgating and fireworks, planned around the university, are meant to celebrate the synergy that's taking place between the city, university, county and private developers all involved in redeveloping downtown.
Tailgating starts at 1 p.m. Thursday in the lot outside Dix Stadium. On the field, a pregame ceremony will have Fairmount officials hand over the keys to AMETEK's new building downtown. Fireworks will follow the 7 p.m. football game.
French said the United Way will get a portion of each ticket sold.
"It started out as, I had a brainchild idea of let's make Kent into a big-town school for one day," he said. "So, Fairmount and us got together and we decided one way we can get everybody is let's put on the greatest fireworks show Portage County has ever seen."
French wouldn't say how much is being spent on the fireworks display, but he said it will be more than $25,000 — three times the cost of the annual show at the end of the Kent Heritage Festival. He said his goal is to put on the largest fireworks display ever in Portage County.
"I can't imagine in the past they've done what we're going to try to do with pyrotechnics," he said.
The fireworks, game and other elements are timed to coincide with AMETEK's move downtown, as the firm is moving in over Labor Day weekend and officially opens on Sept. 4.
AMETEK's relocation comes just weeks after the downtown project's other major corporate tenant, the Davey Resource Group, moved into its new downtown offices.
And in the weeks following AMETEK's relocation a dozen or so new retail and restaurant businesses will open in the ground floor of both firms' new buildings.
Kent Economic Development Director Dan Smith said the overall downtown investments add up to $106 million when combined with the new Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center and PARTA's transit center and Acorn Alley.
"The Kent revitalization project has been in the planning process for over five years and under construction since last summer," Smith said in a press release. "The corporate anchor tenants occupying the site represent a major milestone and the transition of construction jobs to permanent new jobs to the district."
For every $8 west-side bleacher ticket sold $3 will go to the United Way.
To buy tickets, call Liz at the United Way at: 330-297-1424 ext. 113, or Mary Jo at AMETEK at 330-677-3714.