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Officials present Ironton Iron plan

Local economic development leaders brainstormed with state and federal officials in Columbus Tuesday, outlining short-term and long-term options to recover from Ironton’s loss of 1,000 industrial jobs this year.

Wednesday, December 22, 1999

Local economic development leaders brainstormed with state and federal officials in Columbus Tuesday, outlining short-term and long-term options to recover from Ironton’s loss of 1,000 industrial jobs this year.

"We’re not going to leave today with answers to all this," Lawrence Economic Development Corp. executive director Pat Clonch said before the trip.

"We’ve got all the partners at the table and we will have a candid work session," Mrs. Clonch said. "The state will sit down to see exactly what it can do, then they will come into the local community to meet with elected officials."

The group that traveled to Columbus included LEDC representatives, Ironton Mayor Bob Cleary, Lawrence County commissioner George Patterson and others.

They met with representatives from the Appalachian Regional Commission, Ohio Department of Development, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of Commerce, Community Development Block Grant officials, Gov. Bob Taft’s regional economic development representative T.J. Justice, U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, state Sen. Mike Shoemaker, state Reps. Bill Ogg and John Carey and others.

Meeting Tuesday morning, the LEDC listed job recovery options in a seven-page action plan summary.

Key to the plan is reliance upon the state’s First Frontier marketing group.

"If we come up with a (marketing) plan that’s agreeable to them, then they will fund it up to 50 percent," Mrs. Clonch said.

Human services agencies and other government funding sources have picked up remaining costs in the past, and LEDC could seek similar partnerships, she said.

The LEDC will seek a utility cost comparison at the Ironton Iron plant, where such costs have been more than at other Intermet foundries, the company claims, Mrs. Clonch said.

"In addition, after we sit down with the state, they’ll have plans and ideas we don’t have," she said.

The LEDC action plan includes:

Short term

– At this point, officials from Intermet have not disclosed long-term plans for the sale of the facility or the re-use potential. Economic development professionals should schedule meetings with Intermet to discuss marketing of the facility, potential resale/reuse of the buildings and equipment and the company’s plans for closure.

– Funds for property evaluation/assessment would be requested from the state and/or federal government to analyze the facility, equipment and inventory.

– Funds are needed to provide a utility cost comparison and to develop a short- and long- term marketing plan as applicable.

– Proper closure of the facility (shutdown of equipment, etc.) would be essential to future operations as a foundry.

– Marketing the available, reliable skilled labor force is just as imperative as marketing the available sites and buildings.

– The community should establish a media clearinghouse for greater accuracy and information exchange.

– Our situation requires assistance from state and federal governments to help displaced employees with job search, job re-training, unemployment benefits, counseling, etc.

– The local workforce development resource center is currently preparing for the volume of unemployed workers who will require assistance once the facility closes. Currently, plans include a Rapid Response Team that will be sent in from Columbus. In addition, a transition center is being organized by a group of union leaders and local officials. Also a Labor Adjustment Committee is being formed to discuss strategies to identify resources and service-providing agencies.

– The immediate financial and social needs of the displaced employees must also be addressed, including housing, unemployment benefits, employment opportunities and/or retraining for alternative employment, financial counseling/management, adjustment counseling, etc.

Long term

– Local economic development representatives will continue to work with clients already interested in the area sites and/or buildings, while promoting economic sustainability and diversity.

– We should continue to market the South Point Industrial Park site, the Allied site, which has been cleaned to residential standards, and the Hanging Rock Industrial Site.

– In conjunction with our economic partners, US Army Corps of Engineers, the Ohio Department of Development, the Ohio Department of Transportation, Gallia and Scioto Counties in Ohio, Cabell and Wayne Counties in West Virginia, and the Port Authority of West Virginia, we are in the process of creating an inland river port. Through such economic partnerships, local agencies will be brought together for common job creation goals.

– To achieve economic sustainability, we must seek full federal funding for the ten-year, $100,000,000 Huntington, WV – Ironton, OH Empowerment Zone Grant. In addition, we must request gap financing to compensate for reduced HUD funding in years one and two of the EZ Grant. Continuation of state leveraging for future EZ funded projects is critical, especially for economic development industrial projects.

– Our efforts will continue to focus on the retention and expansion of existing businesses while actively recruiting new industrial and commercial businesses.

– On behalf of the grantee, we hereby request forgiveness of the Cabletron job creation grants in order to provide a vehicle whereby we can better negotiate price.

– We will implement a comprehensive, community-wide, long-term job creation strategy.