Port authority takes a major step forward

WINTERSVILLE – The Jefferson County Port Authority took a major step forward Tuesday and heard an update on several economic development projects.

“Today is a new day for the port authority. We now have funding. We now have an office and we have employees. And we have a telephone. We need to get our focus back on economic development, and that feels good. We are open for business and ready to grow economic development in Jefferson County,” announced authority Chairman Jay Zatta.

Zatta also said the port authority can start to solicit private donations.

“I have been told by the Bricker & Eckler law firm that we are a political subdivision. We can solicit tax deductible donations. That decision sets the stage for fundraising for the port authority,” said Zatta.

Debbie Venci, chairperson of the fundraising committee, said she plans to send a letter to all former members of Progress Alliance “asking for their continued support of economic development in Jefferson County.”

“We also plan to approach members of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce seeking support,” said Venci.

Zatta’s enthusiasm continued later in the meeting when the board of directors heard office business Manager Kim Cline-DeLuca list 13 oil and gas related and eight non-oil and gas related businesses now being considered for development in the county.

Cline-DeLuca said several companies and developers are looking at property sites in Jefferson County and potential jobs in the future.

According to Ed Looman, former Progress Alliance executive director and currently Eastern Ohio project manager for JobsOhio, “economic development activity in Jefferson County has never stopped.”

“We are so far ahead in Jefferson County because of the property inventory developed by Progress Alliance. That inventory will be a key ingredient for the port authority as you go forward,” cited Looman during the two-hour monthly meeting.

Donna Hrezo, real estate coordinator for the port authority, said the Jefferson County commissioners approved the transfer of management of the county industrial park to the port authority.

“We have a company that is very interested in a 26-acre site at the industrial park. We have another company that has shown a strong interest in a 9.7-acre site in the park and another firm is interested in an 8-acre site. There has also been some interest in the 3.66-acre site in the industrial park,” said Hrezo.

“There is a lot of interest in our park and you will need to look down the road for what we will do once the park is filled,” Hrezo added.

Jefferson County Commissioner Dave Maple said county Engineer James Branagan has recommended updating design plans for a new road in the industrial park.

“We will probably have that completed within the next two weeks,” said Maple.

And Zatta said the port puthority needs to continue the industrial park committee originally formed under the Jefferson County Community Improvement Corp.

“That committee consisted of tenants in the park. We now have two potential tenants ready to go. Both tenants have to submit their plans to the committee. It is important we reappoint the committee members and get them active,” said Zatta.

“We also need to discuss future plans for the industrial park. We looked at a state grant and loan that was issued to the CIC and at their final closure meeting the CIC transferred that grant and loan to us. But it doesn’t look like that will work for John Riley’s project he has planned for the industrial park,” explained Zatta.

In other business, Zatta said the port authority signed a temporary office lease with the airport authority.

“We have had some office furniture donated to us. And as the CIC was winding up their business they approached us about accepting the remainder of their contract with Comcast. So we were able to keep the Progress Alliance phone number and the website. That saves us an enormous amount of time and money. Thanks to the CIC for working with us to make this happen,” continued Zatta.

Cline-DeLuca said the telephones in the authority’s office at the Jefferson County Airpark will be turned on next week.

The directors also discussed plans to hold an open house event in the spring.