Jefferson port hears of successes

STEUBENVILLE – Investors in the Jefferson County Port Authority heard success stories from Ed Rice of Signs Limited and Ed Looman of the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth during the Wednesday morning quarterly authority investors meeting at East Gateway Community College.

Rice told the investors he plans to build a 3,000- to 4,000-square-foot addition to his existing business in the Jefferson County Industrial Park and add one to two more employees. “The reason we have been successful is our employees. The employees have either attended local high schools or trade schools and colleges. Eastern Gateway Community College has been tremendous in offering classes for our employees. We have partnered with different local companies for different projects and have partnered with subcontractors who have gone through the IBEW training program,” said Rice.

“The supply chain in Jefferson County is excellent. We tell our customers we do the design, manufacturing, installation and service. Our customer base includes New Martinsville, the Robinson Town Center in Pittsburgh, the Youngstown mall area, New Philadelphia, St. Clairsville, which is a hot bed of activity, and the Highlands area, which is exploding,” Rice noted.

Rice started his business on a part-time basis in 1983. “We were a mom-and-pop operation. At the time, I was working at Weirton Steel Corp. and I retired in 2000. Since we moved to the industrial park I have had people stop and ask about available sites there. We are really not on the map. The port authority may want to consider a sign on state Route 43 announcing the industrial park, because I have seen growing traffic in the area,” continued Rice. “The key to our expansion was three years ago when the Internet was made available in the park,” remarked Rice.

Looman told the local investors, “site inventory is key to economic development.” “Jefferson County has worked hard to build its site inventory. There is a lot of interest in large buildings and shovel-ready land. And the state is very big on Ohio River development,” said Looman. “I anticipate on Jefferson County project will close this quarter. The cracker plant in Belmont County will really open up the area to future economic development. And we have six to eight key sites on the Ohio River that can be developed. Two sites in Jefferson County will be part of future development,” cited Looman.

Evan Scurti, executive director of the port authority, reported the first half of 2015 was devoted to negotiations with the Houston-based Plains Energy for a new oil distribution terminal north of Toronto. “The Plains project proved the port authority is ready to compete for corporate investments. Utilizing Jefferson County’s competitive tax and operating cost environment, coupled with strategic incentive decisions, means there are great opportunities ahead. There are currently three large industrial capital investment prospects in our pipeline,” announced Scurti.

“We are working with Steubenville officials to market development sites including the central business district, the former Grant School lot and Franciscan Square. We have talked to Mingo Junction officials about a community reinvestment area and we facilitated the creation of the Knox Township Enterprise Zone,” stated Scurti.

“We are currently working with the city of Toronto and APEG on a small business development as well as an industrial redevelopment opportunity. We have launched an exploratory committee to research the feasibility of local commercial permitting through the authority. And, we have focused on clear communications with utility directors around the county to discuss the modern site selection process,” said Scurti.

“In 2016 we are planning for additional outreach around the county. We plan to focus on the Mingo Junction mill site as well as large development zones or additional industrial park settings in the county for future prospects. We will also look at the future of fossil fuel or renewable energy in Jefferson County and continue to make improvements to our Website,” Scurti said. Scurti said the port authority is planning for its annual meeting, to be held in December.

From Weirton Daily Times  |  September 3, 2015