• 68°

EZ funds approved

Friday, the Senate passed a lengthy bill which included a wide range of projects from the space program to community development.

Saturday, October 16, 1999

Friday, the Senate passed a lengthy bill which included a wide range of projects from the space program to community development. The bill included a $3.7 million allotment for the Huntington, W.Va.-Ironton Empowerment Zone for the 2000 fiscal year.

And once the money is divided between the two areas, Ironton’s third will be about $1 million – an amount that comes as a disappointment, said Pat Clonch, Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce executive director.

"The appropriations are done annually," Mrs. Clonch said. "$3.7 million is more than what we got last year – we got $3 million last year. But it is not a sufficient amount when you consider the needs and the long-term neglect of the area."

Ironton Mayor Bob Cleary said $3.7 million is a disappointing figure when area officials hoped to receive the full $10 million, but the funding will allow the current projects to move forward.

"It’s obviously not as good as getting the full $10 million, but I was happy to get the $3.7 million," Cleary said. "When you think of it in terms of the fact that there would be no money like this without the Empowerment Zone, it starts to look a whole lot better, especially when you consider the number of projects that will keep moving forward because of this year’s additional funding."

Any projects scheduled for the county, though, are likely to see delays due to the decreased amount, Mrs. Clonch said.

But, county officials are used to working with limited resources and will try to get the most out of any funding they receive, she added.

"A lot of our problems are significant and not alleviated because the federal government denies resources to us that are needed," she said. "If we were permitted to gain ground and get to a place where we could actually work, then we’d be in an area where we could truly move forward."

Whether or not the full amount is ever received by the area, the money coming into the county will eventually allow for job creation as well as the much-needed improvements to facilitate new industry. And these benefits are welcome additions to the county, Cleary said.

"We’ve been able to secure additional grants in using Empowerment Zone funding as matching dollars," Cleary said. "In the coming months, residents are going to continue reaping the benefits that this grant is providing for our area."

No one knows for certain what the future will bring concerning the Empowerment Zone, but chamber officials said they hope their allotment will continue to increase, Mrs. Clonch said.

"We had hoped for $10 million this year, we have $3.7 million," she said. "That’s better than having nothing. Over the next eight years, we’ll find out how much we get on an annual appropriation."

Sen. George Voinovich’s rejection of the proposed budget was expected, however, and chamber officials harbor no ill feelings, Mrs. Clonch said.

"Former governor and now senator Voinovich explained to us that if the money came out of the penchant, or social security, it would be wrong," she said. "He made that very clear."