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Padgett likes what she sees in Lawrence County

Three years ago Joy Padgett, the newly named Director of the Governor's Office of Appalachia, visited Lawrence County to see what could be done to help an ailing area.

Padgett saw thousands of people in the

unemployment line -- all victims of recent plant closings. She saw the locked doors of

factories that stood idle.

Padgett spent Thursday touring the area again, and she said changes between then and now are obvious. For starters, there's the Liebert Corp. that wasn't a part of the Ironton landscape three years ago.

Padgett got a tour of that facility and others as a guest of the Greater Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce last week.

"I have a good feeling that things are moving in a positive manner here," Padgett told chamber members during the annual new officers installation banquet at the Grandview Inn in South Point. "It appears this county is right on track."

A native of Coshocton County, Padgett said her mission as the governor's point man for the 29 southeastern counties is to work on untapped opportunities.

She gave credit to local leaders for having a vision to turn around a bad situation. And she pledged Gov. Taft's continuing assistance in economic development, noting that in the last three years, monies funneled to Appalachia has doubled, thanks to state allocations that match $4.4 million in federal Appalachian Regional Commission monies.

"Our job is to create more tools and a bigger toolbox for you," she told chamber members. "We want you to dream and make goals and take action."

Outgoing Chamber of Commerce President Carl Darling agreed that things have changed in the last three years since Padgett first visited Lawrence County.

He spoke with pride of the examples of growth the county can now boast of -- the new Duke Energy Hanging Rock plant under construction in Hamilton Township, Liebert in Ironton, Three Gables Medical Clinic in Proctorville, the Dingus Center for Technology on the Ohio University Southern campus, and The Point industrial park in South Point.

"The industrial park is one of the most exciting things going," Darling said.

His successor, Dianne Clement, promised to continue the activities that have brought about the positive change. Among them, the Legislative Day at the state capitol -- a face-to-face discussion time between local and state leaders.

"This gives us an opportunity to talk with them on issues facing Lawrence County," Clement said. "When we go to Columbus, it keep us in sight of these people to say 'we're here, we're active.'"

Clement also promised her support for the chamber's Meet Your Legislator and Meet the Candidates events, as these gathering also promote interaction between local people who have ideas and state and federal lawmakers who have access to necessary funding.

Clement, only the second woman to take the reins as chamber of commerce president, said her new role "is going to be a challenge," and that she looks forward to working with local leaders to promote economic development in Lawrence County.

"My goal is to continue ongoing work and to look for new initiatives to make this a better place to live and work and raise a family," she said. Teresa Moore/The Ironton Tribune