Jobs top mayor’s plans for new year

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 11, 2000

Ironton Mayor Bob Cleary looks to the coming year as one of changes for the City of Ironton.

Tuesday, January 11, 2000

Ironton Mayor Bob Cleary looks to the coming year as one of changes for the City of Ironton. Among the most important priorities are finding new ways to bring industry, jobs and revenue into the city.

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Following a Thursday afternoon meeting in Columbus with Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Pat Clonch and Michael Jackson, an industrial recruitment specialist in the state’s Department of Development, Cleary said he has hope for the city –  that it will recover and become even stronger.

This week, he plans to meet with the community to discuss that future.

"The events of the past year have brought us, as a city, challenges to face," he said. "Part of tonight’s meeting at Ohio University Southern Campus is to join together as a unified community and find a way to meet those challenges together."

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.

Although the Empowerment Zone grant promises federal funding and financial assistance for parts of the city and the South Point Ethanol Plant property, additional areas of Ironton should not be overlooked. In fact, Cleary said he hopes to see them included as a peripheral addition to the grant’s highlighted areas.

"With the Empowerment Zone, we need to market more than just the South Point Ethanol Plant," he said. "I would like to see the property at AlliedSignal brought into the Empowerment Zone as an additional location that is marketed with the same incentives for potential employers."

In addition to Empowerment Zone funding, Cleary said he hopes state legislators will understand that this is a community worth fighting for –  and that they will aid in the battle by providing assistance and incentives to attract industry and employers.

"There are programs available for areas, like Ironton, that have lost a tremendous amount of industrial and other jobs," Cleary said. "These programs would allow us to offer additional tax incentives."

Rather than turning away from Ironton, Cleary said he believes the state should think of locating outsourced jobs in this city as it has in other cities.

"There are many state jobs that are not located in Columbus but rather in other cities, as in Portsmouth where an FBI office is located," he said. "There are other examples of state jobs that have been outsourced to other locations across the state and I think Ironton should also be considered for these."

Not only have jobs been affected, but the city’s grant applications –  such as the matching funds necessary for completing the approved riverfront improvement project grant –  should be re-evaluated, Cleary added.

"We are planning to ask the state to give us a dispensation on these grants and to waive the matching funds necessary," he said. "There are programs that would allow us to apply for these grants without requiring the matching funds for a period of a few years and then for our situation to be evaluated again in two or three years. It is designed to allow us to remain competitive for grant money while we regain our footing economically."

Finding a way to balance the city budget without hundreds of thousands of dollars in income tax revenue will be another challenge the city will face. But, pursuing state and federal aid programs, both for the displaced workers and for the city, will ease the burden.

"It is a time for action and for making positive things happen for the City of Ironton and all the citizens in our community," he said. "This is an extremely unfortunate situation and all of us are behind the families who have been drastically affected by these closures. But, by coming together as a community and presenting a united front to the state and federal leaders who can provide us with the help we need, we are showing that we are willing to work to find and keep jobs in Ironton."

With plans to market every asset Ironton has to offer, from the Cabletron building to local commercial properties and other vacant buildings, the city also will market its people and the community, Cleary said.

"This will be a year of challenges, but also, a year of growth," he said. "We have a trained, skilled and professional workforce, a good community. I believe we can move forward, and that we will, because of the strength and character of our community. What we have facing us this year is the opportunity to make things stronger and even better for future generations in Ironton."