Port authority: More heads equals ideas

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 14, 2004

If two heads are better than one, then 27 minds must be great.

The Ironton Port Authority, an independent group of five volunteers authorized by the city to focus on economic development projects, recently finalized its plans to take advantage of one of Ironton’s best assets: The people.

The port authority board confirmed the final makeup of a 22-member citizens advisory committee that includes local business owners, industry leaders, attorneys, retirees and private citizens and other civic-minded individuals.

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"We view this as an effort to be inclusive and solicit help from everyone in the community interested in helping to revitalize Ironton," board chairman Bill Dickens said of the committee that was created by nominations from the board. "The port authority needs to be a community effort."

Dickens emphasized that it would be nearly impossible to find a better group of individuals who are willing to do anything that is needed.

The group consists of Mark McCown, Rod Depriest, Kevin Waldo, Aaron Heighton, Oakie Ford, Bob Vaughn, William McCormick, Rick Jansen, John Lutz, Dan Bentley, Jim Meehan, Bob Clyse, Isaac Glover, Nancy Lewis, Mike Corn, Eva Christian, Don Thacker, Cecil Townsend, Dean Nance, Eugene Higgins, Mike Wirzfeld and Gary Chapman.

"We tried to make it representative of Ironton," Dickens said. "All are caring people who are concerned about the future of Ironton and willing to help make it a better place to live."

Attorney Mark McCown said he was excited about being a part of the group that will help give the community a voice and hopefully help generate some new ideas that maybe could not be reached otherwise.

"We have a good group of individuals from all facets of the Ironton community," he said. "Hopefully with some of our ideas we can get some group thought and create some synergy so that we can do some good things for Ironton."

Fellow committee member John Lutz agreed that the diverse group and community input should allow for some creative ideas.

"It is important that we create a situation where the community will get behind the ideas for improvement," he said.

Port authorities can conduct commercial, industrial, residential and recreational development projects, including property development, housing opportunities, marinas, railroad access, trucking terminals, warehouses, industrial buildings, piers and more. Powers include establishing a foreign trade zone, exercising eminent domain, buying, selling or renting property, hiring without competitive bidding in some cases, receiving federal grants and loans and much more.

Currently, the board is already working on at least three projects to bring tenants to the South Ironton Industrial Park as well as other opportunities throughout the city. In addition to Dickens, the board consists of vice chairman Rob Slagel, Jay Zornes, Walt Holbrook and Mike Haas. They are joined by Mayor John Elam and Katrina Keith.

Last week, the Lawrence County Commissioners announced plans to create the county’s own port authority but Chairman Dickens said he does not see it as a conflict at all.

"I certainly don’t see the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation or the new county port authority as competition," he said. "I think we are all working towards the same goal."

The next port authority meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. Monday in the Ironton City Center. The advisory committee will meet at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 6 in the new ODOT garage.