City fills economic position

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Starting Wednesday, Ironton will have something it has never had before - an economic development director whose sole focus will be to help the city thrive and grow.

After dozens of applications and several interviews, Mayor Bob Cleary found his favored candidate for the position in Lawrence County native Matt Ward.

"I am really excited because this will be the first time Ironton has had someone full-time to work towards nothing but economic development," Cleary said. "I think (Ward) brings a lot to the table for us.

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"He has worked for John Carey and Clyde Evans. He has worked in Columbus since he got out of college. He has a lot of contacts up there and has been behind the scenes making it all happen."

Ward, 24, graduated from Fairland High School in 1996 and received a bachelor's degree from Ohio University in 2000. He has worked in the House of Representatives with Carey and Evans ever since.

"I have always wanted to be in public service," he said by phone. "I have a love for it and I have a love for southern Ohio. I look forward to trying to bring in jobs."

Although he cannot release any names, Ward said he plans to get a quick start and already has a few potential clients interested in locating

in Ironton.

Ward married his wife, Carol, two years ago and the couple had a baby boy, Maxwell, in December. The new father said he is happy to bring his family back to Lawrence County.

"It feels good to be coming home," Ward said. "I think it is a great opportunity for myself, but I also think it is a good time to be working for the city of Ironton."

Cleary announced the hire during Monday's Finance Committee meeting and said Ward will attend Thursday's Ironton City Council meeting to be formally introduced. Most, if not all, of council have met him during one of his three face-to-face interviews.

"We have a good person," Cleary said. "He is very sharp, very bright."

The mayor said he is putting together a job description that will total five or six pages when completed. With a salary set at $41,000 plus benefits, future increases will probably be performance based, Cleary said.

One of Ward's most immediate objectives will be to catalogue all available properties, publicly owned and private, within the city. It would be ideal if he could work closely with the Lawrence County Courthouse and the Lawrence County Commissioners to have a complete listing of potential business locations, Cleary said.

In other business, the mayor said he will grant organizers of the Tri-State Mega Festival and Fair permission to use the Ironton Commerce Center as soon as the insurance is finalized later this week. The city will not require the group pay rent, but will set an undetermined security deposit.

Organizers Rick Clark and Casey Kerns have said they will donate $5,000 to the city out of the profits, as well as make donations to local food pantries and charities.

Cleary said he has signed off on the permits for controlled beer sales and fireworks displays, and that it is no different than giving any of the other festivals such as Ironmasters or the Regatta similar authorization.

"There seems to be a lot of community support for the event," he said. "They have jumped through every hoop I have put out there in the last eight months."

Council Chairman Jesse Roberts said he just wants to ensure that traffic and congestion does not encroach on the Liebert Corp. or the Woodland Cemetery. Councilman Brent Pyles expressed concerns regarding keeping people off of the 8.6 acres that the Ohio Department of Transporta-tion bought from the city.