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Port authority could be a breath of fresh air for Ironton

Recently, the Ironton City Council passed an ordinance creating a port authority for the city of Ironton.

While some recognize this move as a great step forward for our city, others have expressed concern about such an endeavor. While I can appreciate those views, it is my belief that there are those who fear what they do not understand. To dispel any unknowns, I would like to relay the benefits of having a port authority and how valuable this authority will be for economic development and the city of Ironton.

I applaud the efforts of Pat Clonch, the director of the Lawrence County Economic Development Corporation. For years, she has been educating the public and elected officials of the advantages of having a port authority for economic development. For some time now, my staff and I did our own research for this entity with actual visits and reports from many of these port authorities.

The definitive answer was the city needs to create one to work in conjunction with the city's economic development department to stimulate new economic growth at its optimum potential.

Currently, there are 30 port authorities in Ohio, with Toledo establishing Ohio's first. The closest port authorities are the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation in South Point and the Southern Ohio in Portsmouth. All 30 port authorities have distinct advantages they can use to attract businesses and in negotiations with these businesses that a municipality cannot.

A port authority is its own entity that behaves in ways similar to a business and works toward growth and development. They are not allowed to tax the city. This can only be done by the will of the people with voter approval on a levy.

A port authority can enter contracts just like a business and purchase, sell and lease property. Property can be acquired to promote economic development and housing. Furthermore, the port authority may hire security for its own policing of its own property. This would be typical in instances of industrial parks, airports and water fronts.

The structure of the city's port authority will consist of a five-member board of directors. The requirements for the board are written in the Ohio Revised Code. These board members must meet those requirements in order to serve.

The mayor and city council appoints the members of the board. Other port authorities throughout Ohio have typically appointed businessmen, lawyers and local leaders to serve. Once a board of directors is in place, they will adopt a set of bylaws by which to govern the authority. The board of directors would name an interim director for the port authority that would work on a voluntary basis without compensation until a budget is established and internal funds could cover that cost.

Several of the leaders from the surrounding communities have expressed interest in joining the city of Ironton's port authority. There are current efforts under way to address the concerns of all who would like to be involved.

Ironton can no longer afford to not be in control of its future. Proactive steps have been taken with the creation of the Department of Economic Development and now the establishment of the city's port authority to give the city of Ironton its full potential for economic growth.

Robert Cleary is mayor of the city of Ironton.