LCC focuses on development in closed session

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 3, 2004

Economic development was the main focus of Thursday's Lawrence County Commission meeting, with commissioners approving plans for a port authority and privately discussing ventures they hope will come to fruition in the next 12-18 months.

Lawrence County Commission President Doug Malone said he was "very hopeful" after a closed-door meeting Thursday that centered on several potential projects involving several different companies in different locations throughout the county.

By state law, governing bodies are allowed to conduct closed-door meetings for specific purposes, among them: personnel matters, contract negotiations and real estate matters. Commissioners said Thursday's meeting was to discuss "real estate acquisition." None would give specifics, saying they did not want to ruin the chances for new development by saying too much too soon.

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The meeting included

Lawrence Economic Development Corporation Executive Director, Dr. Bill Dingus, Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization Executive Director of Development Ralph Kline and Doug Cade, manager of E.L. Robinson's Ironton office.

"We should know something, really about some of these things in the next few months," Malone said. "We should know how things are going to go. We don't want to build people's hopes up because none of them could go. But if half of them do, we will be doing pretty well."

"We've got opportunity, absolutely," Commissioner George Patterson said. "It would be unreal."

Also Thursday, the commission approved a resolution creating a county-wide port authority.

Lawrence Economic Development Corporation Executive Director, Dr. Bill Dingus said the creation of a port authority was imperative to establishing a foreign trade zone at The Point industrial park, something that has been discussed for the last couple of years.

Dingus said efforts a few years ago to create a foreign trade zone connected to Rickenbacker Airport in Columbus failed because of the distance between Lawrence County and Columbus.

Plans now call for the Lawrence County FTZ to be tied to the U.S. Department of Customs Office in Charleston, W.Va., which is closer in distance. Foreign trade zones must be affiliated with a U.S. Customs Office within a ninety-mile drive of that zone.

Dingus said that in Ohio, all foreign trade zones have been created under port authorities.

The port authority would consist of five members who would be appointed by the county commission. Such a port authority would co-exist with the LEDC and the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization.

"We're trying to link the CAO and the LEDC and the port authority together," Dingus said. "My thing is, when one wins we all win together."

The county's port authority excludes the City of Ironton, which has its own. Dingus said if the Ironton Port Authority chose to do so, it could join the county-wide entity.

County Commissioner Jason Stephens hailed the creation of the port authority as a step in the right direction. "One of the indicators of where we are as a county is the port authority," Stephens said.

"The world's economy is a lot different and we are changing the way we approach economic development. We're trying to be a bit more sophisticated, we're looking for potential development for the 21st century."