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Leaders eye Liebert for recovery

Workers filed out from under a carnival-like tent in August, joining Ironton residents gathered outside Liebert Corp.

Saturday, January 13, 2001

Workers filed out from under a carnival-like tent in August, joining Ironton residents gathered outside Liebert Corp.’s newly-leased manufacturing home for an official grand opening.

Corporate VIPs, city officials and county economic leaders tendered speeches. The hundreds of associates wore company logo T-shirts.

Ironton Mayor Bob Cleary, while presenting Liebert with a key to the city, called the company a blessing.

Now, some five months later, with city and Lawrence County budgets straining from tax revenue shortfalls brought on by job losses and slowing retail sales, the mayor’s words ring truer than ever, county commission president Paul Herrell said.

"I don’t know what we would have done if Liebert hadn’t come in," Herrell said.

County agencies took a 12 percent across the board budget cut this month – the economic effect of Ironton Iron, Cabletron, Honeywell and Ashland Inc.’s workforce reductions finally arriving, he said.

"Liebert is, and will be, a lifesaver to Lawrence Count," Herrell said.

Plant manager Bob Walters said the company, although not one that likes the spotlight, will shoulder that title, citing teamwork as crucial to the area’s rebirth.

"We may be looked at as the leader in the community but it also helps when the community is strong," Walters said. "And we only see this community getting stronger and stronger."

A possible Coke plant in neighboring Scioto County, a billion-dollar natural gas power plant in Hamilton Township, the county’s industrial park, The Point is all positive, county commission president Paul Herrell says.

Thursday, Liebert received another expansion nod when local governments approved the LEDC’s application for a state incentive loan that totals about $2 million. The plant will grow from about 120,000 square feet to 190,000 square feet, and from 400 to about 600 jobs if production continues at current levels, Walters said.

In addition, clients call the LEDC weekly to inquire about The Point’s 504 acres of industrial land, officials said. A $1.5 million loan application to the federal Economic Development Administration for site work there was filed Thursday, along with a county resolution.

"This is the type of thing we’ve been waiting for," Herrell said. "We’ve got to have the jobs, so the county has supported efforts in any way it can. Unfortunately, it won’t do anything for our current budget but it will help in the future."

Herrell and Walters predicts the work of the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation and the dedication of the area’s communities will lead to recovery.

"If it weren’t for the area, the people and the support, we wouldn’t be as successful," Walters said.

That’s what many industries across the country are missing out on in Lawrence County – skilled people and support, he added.

Associates hired at Liebert have "amazing commitment" to their work; it shows their attitude, Walters said.

"It’s the effort you see put forth; pulling together That’s what teamwork is all about," he said, adding industries like seeing that.

"I think you’re going to see this area continue to grow."