Foundation will aid development

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 6, 2000

A community foundation is in the process of being formed to help underwrite marketing strategies for Ironton, said Dr.

Thursday, January 06, 2000

A community foundation is in the process of being formed to help underwrite marketing strategies for Ironton, said Dr. Bill Dingus, chairman of the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) and dean of the Ohio University Southern Campus (OUSC).

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Dingus made the announcement Wednesday at a meeting of the Ironton Rotary Club.

After the meeting, he said the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization has pledged an initial $2,500 to help fund the foundation, adding that OUSC will match the funds.

"This (economic development) is a complex issue and will require lots of efforts from a lot of people," Dingus said. "One of the areas will be a major marketing effort for Ironton."

If local donations to the foundation reach $12,000 to $15,000, the state will be asked to provide matching dollars, he added.

In turn, those funds can be used to help advertise in other markets as the city seeks to bring in new business and industry.

"I am glad they are having the meeting next Tuesday night," Dingus said, referring to the town meeting on Jan. 11 at 7:30 p.m. in Bowman Auditorium at OUSC. "We really need everybody’s ideas. Of course, we need to use resources from the federal and state government, but if we succeed, it will be because we did it for ourselves."

During the Jan. 11 town meeting, Dingus said he has asked Pat Clonch, executive director of the Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce, to display copies of ads and marketing campaigns that have been used to date in promoting Ironton and Lawrence County as industrial sites.

However, the key element, he stressed, is community unity.

"I have a sense that people are trying to identify a villain, such as certain companies, unions, development agencies or city government," Dingus said. "The truth is that some situations are so complex that we only hurt the situation by aggressively pursuing a villain.

"Venting is important, but the concern I have has been the lack of good, open communication. In the lack of good communication, rumor usually rules. We need a process of communication and trust where ideas can be put forth. We need everybody to get their ideas to the table."

Community residents must band together and determine what they can do together, he stressed.

"This (economic development) is not just a matter of getting a grant. We must take charge of where we want to be and then ask the state to help fill in where we can’t. We need a true, committed effort on the part of the community."

He attributed a similar community spirit and cohesiveness with the reopening of Ironton Iron in the mid-1980s, which gave the plant an additional decade of jobs and economic contributions to the area.

"This community truly saved that plant," Dingus said while recalling the widespread effort and sacrifices that brought together individuals as well as businesses and industries. "There even was a day of prayer coordinated by area churches. We need to turn again to that Higher Power as we work together."

Dingus offered the full support and cooperation of OUSC and the LEDC while dispelling rumors that the university still has plans to purchase the former Cabletron building.

"That simply is not the case," he said. "The timing before was unfortunate because many Cabletron employees felt the university was taking advantage of their misfortune. I sincerely believed then and now that we could have put hundreds of jobs in half of that building."

Those plans previously included using half of the building for a day care center and cafeteria. LEDC officials also had worked with River Valley Health System to explore the possibility of using another portion of the facility for a wellness center.

The $6 million that would have been used to purchase the Cabletron building have been reallocated, Dingus said.

The day care facility will be housed in the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 1508 S. Ninth St. OUSC has agreed that church members will be permitted to continue holding Sunday services there for up to a year while they relocate.

"We will be adding onto the building for a child development center," he explained, adding that a walking trail will be constructed between the OUSC campus and the facility.

Also planned is a new technical building on the Heplar Street side of the OUSC campus, Dingus said. The project will go out for bids this month.

"The university is committed to doing everything we can to help (with marketing Ironton)," he stressed. "This will range from training to marketing. We want to be a partner with the community."