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Transportation keys to progress

SOUTH POINT – Focusing Lawrence County’s energy toward the river could bring about improvements needed to attract more industries to the area.

Saturday, October 16, 1999

SOUTH POINT – Focusing Lawrence County’s energy toward the river could bring about improvements needed to attract more industries to the area.

Before that can happen, however, county leaders need to discover where they are lagging behind other communities and what they can do to catch up.

Members of the Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce met Friday to discuss the trade possibilities the Ohio River offers the area.

"We are always looking for ways to improve the viability of our area and increase the livability of our community," said Bob Dalton, chairman of the chamber’s transportation committee. "The Ohio River is the greatest aspect of our community. It made it possible for all sorts of industry in the past. But we haven’t used it to its full potential. We also haven’t used the railroad to its full potential. We need to use them together to their fullest potential."

Working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could help the county develop ports and alternate modes of transportation for foreign trade to make the area look more appealing to an industrial entrepreneur, Dalton said.

The Corps already is helping the county’s neighbor, Huntington, W.Va., realize just this type of infrastructure improvement, said Richard Drum, a community planner in the Corps’ plan formulation branch.

"We realized that more industries are getting into international trade – intermodal transportation," Drum said. "Intermodal transportation is different because it deals with the packaging of products and how they are moved. The concept is that once it is loaded in a container, it is not tampered with or reloaded until it arrives at its destination."

To compete in this type of global marketplace, the American economy, and Lawrence County, must respond quickly and efficiently to transportation needs, Drum added.

"America is trading with all the people in the world, and worker productivity is up," he said. "Our transportation system has to catch up. That means our railways, highways and waterways have to catch up. We have to get all the pieces of the puzzle together and do it quicker and cheaper if we are going to compete."

The area’s proximity to the Ohio River can allow Lawrence County to compete in this fashion, Drum said.

West Virginia Public Port Authority Executive Director Wilfred Jackson also addressed chamber members Friday. He briefed attendees on West Virginia’s progress toward developing a central airport.

A regional airport with direct access to I-64 and U.S. 52 would increase Lawrence County’s transportation possibilities, Dalton said.

Currently, the port authority is looking into the financial feasibility of building a $370 million airport, Jackson said.

If all goes well, the area could have an airport in Lincoln County, W.Va., within the next five to seven years, he said.