Industrial park now in LEDC hands

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 16, 2000

The 504-acre industrial park in South Point closed Friday, so to speak.

Saturday, December 16, 2000

The 504-acre industrial park in South Point closed Friday, so to speak.

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Lawrence Economic Development Corporation leaders signed real estate closing documents with Ashland Inc. that allow the LEDC to take possession and proceed with work on The Point – soon to be Southern Ohio’s premier commercial park.

"We really expect to get in there and hit the ground running now," said Pat Clonch, LEDC executive director. "The only thing that could hurt us is the weather. But we’re committed to creating the jobs so needed in our community."

At the same time, Congress cleared more than $450 billion in spending, the last remaining piece of this year’s $1.8 trillion federal budget. The House voted 292-60 to approve the bill, so thick it stood well over a foot tall, while the Senate passed it by voice.

Included within the budget, according to U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland’s office, is the full $10 million funding next year for the Ironton-Huntington, W.Va., Empowerment Zone, which targets The Point as Ohio’s lead project.

The federal government promised that amount each year for 10 years when it first designated the two cities as an Empowerment Zone. The area received only about $3 million per year until now.

Mrs. Clonch called it exciting news for the Zone’s board of directors, adding that full funding might speed up development at The Point.

The board had already written its budget based on an expected $5 million, but an additional $5 million means Ironton’s portion for city infrastructure and industrial park improvements will increase.

The lion’s share could go to the South Point park.

"I think that would be a responsible use of the funds," Mrs. Clonch said.

Strickland, who has campaigned for full funding in Congress during the last three years, should receive acknowledgement for his work, she said.

What it all means – the real estate closing on the industrial park and Congress’ $10 million – will ultimately be measured by jobs.

The LEDC’s industrial park manager, Roger Haley, who Mrs. Clonch called the person with the expertise to make The Point a premier commercial center, said the park has already attracted job creators.

The LEDC is negotiating price and other matters with at least two companies now, Haley said.

"There are a couple of others that have the opportunity to grow into some pretty good operations that we’re talking with," he said.

Officials have conservatively estimated that The Point will provide about 10 jobs per acre in the future – or about 5,000 overall, Mrs. Clonch said.

"It’s a one of a kind site with everything going for us," she said.

The park has access to river, railroad and highway and the LEDC plans to make it state-of-the-art, she added.

Phase one development calls for a central roadway, changing utility services into the LEDC’s name and expanding some services, demolishing some old structures, conducting archeological surveys and engineering work, Haley said.

Millions more are needed to complete the park, but officials anticipate help from the state, especially on incentive packages. It has already poured hundreds of thousands into purchase of the industrial site.

The LEDC would love to see a plant open up at The Point soon but the park’s development will take time, and the timeline depends on the funding, Haley added.

When development occurs, the LEDC will be watching carefully, Mrs. Clonch said.

Attorney Tom Klein will provide legal assistance and the board will be selective, she said.

The LEDC wants to create jobs while bringing in users of the industrial park that are compatible with the site and long-term clients, Mrs. Clonch said.

The remaining 76 acres in the park are being developed by Biomass, an electric co-generation company. And, Calgon uses part of the site for a transfer station.

Honeywell will begin some environmental cleanup work in the park this spring.