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City plans for future after Cabletron

Six months after Cabletron Systems Inc.

Sunday, September 26, 1999

Six months after Cabletron Systems Inc. announced it would begin outsourcing manufacturing operations and leave more than 300 area workers jobless, residents, officials and former workers are still waiting for any encouraging sign.

But, with the Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Pat Clonch and other leaders, who are responsible for bringing new business and industry into the county, keeping a tight lid on any news –  encouraging or otherwise – hope could be a long way off.

Mrs. Clonch recently declined to comment on the Cabletron issue, saying she had "no public comment on that, no comment at all."

Cabletron’s absence, combined with job losses from Ashland Inc. and AlliedSignal, have already had an impact on Ironton’s budget.

The downturn in income tax revenue has city leaders tightening their belts with budget cuts in several departments that are reflected in the general fund.

Ironton City Council will hear first reading and possibly even adopt the proposed budget amendments at Thursday’s regular meeting.

Finances and the job situation will not improve, however, until the city takes matters into its own hands, councilman and finance committee chairman Joe Black said.

And that includes finding a way to fulfill the city’s promise of a private industrial recruiter for Ironton, he said.

"Obviously, the budget restraints we are operating under are going to make it difficult to fund almost anything new, whether it be equipment needs, personnel or any additional services," Black said. "But my personal feeling is that we, as a city, have to invest in our own future because we cannot depend upon Columbus or Washington, D.C. to help promote our local economy, or even to help us maintain what we’ve got."

Until the city takes a proactive, aggressive approach to the economy, nothing substantial will change, Black added.

"We can hope for this and wish for that, but we are the ones who have to take control and jumpstart our own economy," Black said. "We’ve got a lot of positive things happening, such as a new fire truck, the new fire station on the way, a wonderful paving project and, of course, the Empowerment Zone. But this alone is not enough."

Before Ironton, and the displaced workers, can begin to recover financially, city leaders have to take responsibility for the city’s economic well-being, even if that means taking a risk, Black added.

"It’s not going to improve on its own. And, until we plant the seed, we’re not going to see the harvest," he said. "So, while there may be different views and pros and cons, I feel the city needs to seriously consider funding that position for at least one year, and let’s see if we can’t make enough positive changes that we can continue funding the position after that time."

With the building still occupied by Cabletron, regrettably no one, not even a proposed city recruiter, can aggressively market the space, Ironton Mayor Bob Cleary said.

"I have weekly conversations with the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) board members about any progress on the Cabletron facility," Cleary said. "But, the way I understand it is, there are still Cabletron employees working toward the shutdown. And although efforts have been made to advertise the building, it’s almost impossible to put an effective marketing plan in place while Cabletron is still meeting the terms of their lease."

Cleary, too, hopes to see enough improvements in the city’s proposed amended budget by the year’s end to make real progress toward hiring an industrial recruiter. The recruiter would be charged not only with filling the Cabletron building, but more importantly, building the city’s industrial and economic bases, ultimately putting the displaced workers from all the recent job cuts back to work, he said.

"We have to be extremely careful going into the end of the year that we don’t fund something we can’t keep as a continuing program," he said. "But, our budget is doing better, and by the end of the year we may even advertise for the position so we could get it in next year’s budget."

Maintaining current city services and keeping those who still have jobs gainfully employed has to be the first priority, however, he added.

"If we are able to maintain the services in the city with the current budget we’ve put in place, then the new budget will accurately reflect how much funding we might have available for an industrial recruiter," he said. "We’ve worked hard the last few months to get a good job description put in place, and there have been several people placed on the committee to get it to this point. This is a job that is needed, and my plans are to see this position filled in the next budget – and with the support of council, we’ll be able to do so."