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State grants incentive for plant

HANGING ROCK — A significant step was made Monday in negotiations to bring a steel plant to Hanging Rock.

Chatham Steel Corp., of Savannah, Ga., was granted a Job Creation Tax Credit by the Ohio Department of Development, according to Ralph Kline, executive director of the Ironton-Lawrence County Area Community Action Organization.

The company is considering a plant at a parcel near Rumpke in the Hanging Rock corridor that would employ about 60 people and could be built and ready for operation as early as the fall of this year.

Chatham is a wholesale distributor of carbon and stainless steel. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Los Angeles-based Reliant Steel and Aluminum.

Monday’s meeting was attended by Bill Dingus, executive director of the Lawrence County Economic Development Corp., Bob Spell, a representative of Chatham Steel Corp., and state officials.

“(The Job Creation Tax Credit) is basically an incentive tool the state provides to companies that (are considering) alternative sites outside the state,” said Kline, who said the environmental permit process must also be undertaken. “The company has made their commitment to the site pending certain things and what happened today was one of those key pieces. We still have some other pieces — like the community block grant — and within 60 days we hope to have all those pieces together.”

The county will seek community block grant funds to build a rail spur to the property.

Dingus said the Tri-State is a stragetic location for Chatham.

“This particular line of business is to bring steel in by rail and to distribute it within a one-day’s drive,” he said. “They would distribute throughout the state of Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky and also Pennsylvania and Indiana.”

Bert Tenenbaum, a spokesman for Chatham Steel Corp., said nothing has been finalized and there is still a long way to go, but the company is considering the Hanging Rock site and locations in West Virginia and Kentucky.

“We’re in the process of trying to identify some property in the general area of Huntington and Ironton and into Kentucky as well,” Tenenbaum said. “We’re running daily service out of Durham (N.C.) into that area.”

Dingus said the 50 to 60 jobs that would be created are quality jobs.

“They’re the kind of jobs that average 23 or 24 dollars an hour with wonderful benefits packages,” Dingus said. “These are the kinds of jobs that allow someone to support a family.”

Kline said if the development becomes a reality the benefits will go beyond the job creation.

“Not only would they create jobs, they would also make available an affordable resource that other businesses could take advantage of,” Kline said. “It’s a good sign that we have businesses and industries looking into the area, especially in times when the national economy isn’t doing so well.”

Lawrence County Commissioner Jason Stephens said the plant would be a welcomed addition.

“Those are the types of companies that diversify our economy and make our county stronger,” he said. “When one part of the county succeeds it’s good for the whole county.”

A public hearing is set for Tuesday, May 6 at the Lawrence County Courthouse.