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Port authority to focus on grants

STEUBENVILLE — The Jefferson County Port Authority on Wednesday was informed by its Executive Director Evan Scurti he will be persuing an $800,000 grant which will allow Eastern Gateway Community College to purchase equipment to train workers for industrial jobs.

Scurti said the federal government has a pool of $45 million in grants available to help communities impacted by a loss of jobs in the coal-mining industry. Scurti said the community college will operate the training program. Scurti said he is in the process of getting letters of support from local industry, including JSW steel.

Port Authority President Edward Florak said he was pleased to hear EGCC is getting back into training students for employment in industry. Florak, who is a former president of the community college, said not everyone goes to a four-year college.

“It is a great opportunity for the community college and us to partner,” Scurti said.

Scurti said he is working to get the grant proposal ready for an April 10 submission.

He noted the grant application will be the first in Eastern Ohio since the federal grant program began in 2015.

Scurti also updated the port authority on efforts to get JobsOhio incentives for an expansion of the FeX Processing site in Mingo Junction. FeX purchased the former site of the Mingo Junction football stadium, and is currently planning to expand operations into the stadium site.

In June 2018, the Ohio Rail Development Commission received a $16.25 million grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation Infrastructure for Rebuilding America program to be used toward Norfolk Southern mainline improvements as well as rail yard investments at Mingo Junction. The project proposal included a significant match of $14.5 million from Norfolk Southern, illustrating the company’s commitment to our area’s industrial future, Scurti said.

Scurti said new rail spurs will be built into the FeX site.

“We are encouraged by the investment in rail infrastructure in the Ohio Valley. This demonstrates the State of Ohio is forward thinking and pro-business. FeX chose the Mingo Junction area for significant investment in developing an expanded scrap yard for this reason,” said Doug Schaefer, FeX Processing’s vice president and chief financial officer, in a release about the rail improvements last week.

Scurti said he will be working on tax abatements for StorSystem USA, which has purchased 4.8 acres of land at the industrial park for $91,000.

Certwood Limited of England, doing business in this country as StorSystem, has had a distribution center at the industrial park for two years, but will construct a 15,000 square foot manufacturing and distribution building. About 15 new jobs will be created. The company currently has nine workers.

Scurti said money already obtained through a federal grant will be used to do an asbestos survey at the old Steubenville city building. City Council has discussed turning the building in part into a market for fruit and produce now that the police department.

Scurti said he will be applying for up to an additional $350,000 for remediation work on the removal of old fuel tanks on South Third Street. Ohio Motor Group purchased the property without knowledge of the tanks, he said.

The Ohio Development Services Agency has a pool of grant money available for such projects. The port authority already received $250,000 for the work.

Scurti said 10 tanks were removed in January, more than what was thought to be on the property. He said the tanks were very large, with one being bigger than a school bus.

The additional grant money will be used to fill the holes back in, he said. The state sets a cap of $600,000 being spent on one tank-removal project, Scurti added.

Scurti said an informational brochure is being developed to let businesses, government officials and residents know what is available through the port authority. He said it will focus on marketing programs, finance tools and partnerships available to local governments and the business community.

Scurti said he is currently consulting with two local firms who are searching for new building construction sites in the county.

City Councilwoman at Large Kimberly Hahn asked the port authority for help in securing additional money to extend a water line to the city marina.

She said the city has received a $100,000 state grant, but there is still a need for an additional $192,000. She said the other funding has to be in place by February or the $100,000 grant will be lost.

The port authority approved its general fund budget in the amount of $238,872. The Jefferson County commissioners donate $140,000 and the city supplies $25,000.

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