Empowerment Zone budget targets growth

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 23, 2000

Huntington, W.

Tuesday, May 23, 2000

Huntington, W.Va.,-Ironton Empowerment Zone budget monies will target visible development this year, zone officials said. The zone’s board of directors approved its $3.38 million budget May 9, executive director Kathy Burns said.

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The budget runs from July 1 to June 30, with money appropriated annually by Congress for the 10-year, $100 million Empowerment Zone grant.

The majority of the funds will be used for actual development of industrial sites in the two states to create new jobs, Mrs. Burns said.

"The emphasis is still on projects to create new jobs," she said.

At Ohio’s South Point Industrial Park, this year’s budget money will help local officials move from the planning stage into the acquisition and development stage.

About $600,000 of the zone budget was approved to help with the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation’s purchase of the site, Mrs. Burns said.

The LEDC already has an option to buy the property, with the first payment scheduled for December.

Also, the Zone will file for another grant and loan for that site, Mrs. Burns said.

In Huntington, $1 million has been budgeted for development of a technology park.

Also, Zone plans include a "technology incubator," or a building that existing businesses and entrepreneurs can use to get companies off the ground, Mrs. Burns said.

Sharing space, communication facilities and some office staff can help new companies keep startup costs low, which means they survive and grow, she said.

The Zone’s budget sets aside $100,000 for an architect to design the technology incubator space.

Both Ohio and West Virginia’s economic development agencies will receive job creation funds, courtesy of the Empowerment Zone.

The Huntington Area Development Council will receive $200,000, while the LEDC will receive $135,000, Mrs. Burns said.

The money can be granted or loaned, for example, to help existing companies develop new jobs, she said.

"But a company can’t use those funds to entice someone from Cincinnati to move to Ironton or something, unless it’s opening a new branch or division."

This year’s Empowerment Zone budget also contains more money for Ironton infrastructure improvements, mainly street and sidewalk improvement dollars.

The first year of the Empowerment Zone brought work by architects, engineers, planners – mostly on paper, Mrs. Burns said.

"Now, we’re going to start seeing actual ownership (at South Point), which is an important step when showing the site," she said.

And there will be physical construction in both areas, she added.