Officials: New Year basically good year for growthPublished 12:27am Tuesday, January 1, 2013
`Community leaders see the New Year as a mixed bag of growth and economic challenges as a lot of Lawrence County’s advancements whether business or social service-directed may depend on what happens first on the national scene.
“I think we are going to continue to have several successes and still some challenges,” said Ralph Kline of the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization. “I see with government and with our organization and others we have experienced budget cuts in the past and who knows if we go over the fiscal cliff, there may be more cuts.”
The Sybene Senior Center was the victim of some of those cuts as the CAO shut down its senior center operation at Burlington in the summer of 2012 moving the daily congregate meals to the Ironton site. Recently, the CAO announced plans for the building where the county board of developmental disabilities will use it for part of their training program.
However, Kline says opening it back up for some senior activities is possible as the CAO uses the center for multiple purposes.
“When we have been challenged, we find more ways to become more efficient,” he said, “We find more ways to reinvent ourselves. We are working with the DD board to find more ways to utilize that facility and offset the cost. Then we can hopefully offer more services, more things for seniors.”
Kline also sees growing interest in downtown Ironton, especially at the Ninth Street Project site, where economic leaders would like to see a new hotel and restaurant.
“We are looking at a continuation of (that) project,” he said. “I think we have a bright spot as long as the national economy doesn’t tank. I think all the hard work the community has done over the past years is continuing to benefit and gives us the ability to continue to grow.”
Dr. Bill Dingus, executive director of the Lawrence Economic Development Corp., also sees the Ninth Street project taking off.
“I personally think 2013 will be the year for some major accomplishments on the Ninth Street property,” he said. “I think we will see some significant announcement going toward retail development.”
If Lawrence County Commissioner Bill Pratt has his way, the county will start the process of buying the Ironton Board of Education office, which could be the first step to revamping the cramped county jail.
However, no new projects will be initiated until the county sees how strong its stream of revenue is.
“I think (2013) is going to be a kind of wait and see year on account of how the revenues might come,” Pratt said. “If you look at our revenue, $8.1 million of our available money to spend is from sales tax revenue. We have to be very careful because we don’t know what the economy is going to do in the next year, particularly what the new tax rates might be and what the Affordable Care Act will do to local companies and their health insurance costs.
“We have to be very careful with the taxpayers’ money and wait and see how those tax revenues come in before we can take on any big projects.”
As far as the manufacturing sector, Dingus says the end of January will mark the opening of Intermountain Electronics, a Utah-based electronics manufacturer, at The Point industrial park in South Point. Later this year FedEx is expected to open its distribution facility at the park and a third, so far unnamed business, will also come to The Point at the same time.
“We are seeing some continued positive things right now,” he said. “When you look at Lawrence County unemployment, we are below the national average of 6.5 percent. If you look at Lawrence County over the last three or four years compared to the rest of the state or nation, we have held our own. We have done very well.”