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MAKING PLANS FOR 2010

Development. New businesses. An improved downtown Ironton.

These are just some of the items that made the list of things Lawrence County and Ironton officials are looking forward to in 2010.

Though the year will be frugal, the Lawrence County Commission still hopes to bring in new small businesses to the area, Commissioner Les Boggs said.

Boggs said the commission hopes to implement an incentive and benefit plan for people who start small businesses in the area.

“According to statistics, 90 percent of people work for small businesses in this state,” Boggs said, adding that he considers small businesses to be those with 250 employees or fewer. “Financially, it’s the backbone of America, small businesses.”

Boggs also noted that the county cut much of the “fat” from its budget in 2009.

In early 2009, the county had almost $500,000 in unpaid bills but was able to become current on bills even while having a decrease in revenue by $600,000.

“I think we made some progress,” he said. “I do believe the people will appreciate that.”

For Commissioner Jason Stephens, the many different projects in the works such as a medical facility on State Route 141 and the continued development of The Point in South Point are all positive steps.

Stephens’ comments were echoed by Dr. Bill Dingus, executive director of the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation.

“If you really look at the county from east to west, we’re talking about good development,” he said,

Stephens is hopeful but not counting on the county recovering from the economic down turn.

“We’re planning to work with what we’ve got and make adjustments as necessary to keep the county in the black,” Stephens said.

Officials from the City of Ironton, too, are positive about the new year.

“We’re excited about 2010 and making more progress with promoting Ironton for development and businesses,” Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship said. “And promoting a positive attitude that Ironton does have a lot to offer.”

The past year has seen many accomplishments for the city including the beginning of a sewer relining project, the demolition of 58 dilapidated structures, a new water tank, the purchase of new equipment for city employees and the paving of several streets.

Construction is scheduled to begin in the next few weeks for a skateboard park at the park at Fourth and Etna streets.

Overall the city will continue to clean up the city, enforcing litter ordinances and “sprucing up” the city, Blankenship said.

“I think we made some progress in 2008 and 2009 and I look forward to 2010,” he said. “With the financial constraints that we are currently in, we are doing the best (we can) with what we have. I think if you look around and see the number of employees, there’s not too many of us so we’re working on a skeleton crew basically. They do a pretty good job with what we have.”

Some current development projects include the former Big Lots building that is being refurbished into a dialysis center. Talks are also in progress to bring attract retailers to the building, Bill Dickens, economic development director for the city, said.

The city is also seeking grant money for the refurbishment of the Ro-Na Theatre. Work to replace the roof on the theatre should be completed by the end of January.

Officials are evaluating the riverfront property between Center Street and Etna Street for Brownfield grants.

At the Ironton Industrial Park, a firm is considering putting in a 5,000 square feet building that would house a business with 8-10 employees, Paul Woods, chair of the Ironton Port Authority, said.

“We’re very hopeful that that will take place in the very near future,” he said.

A few apartment projects in the downtown area are also in the works. Woods hopes that the apartments will bring in new people to the city.

“I’m hopeful that if we get some really nice apartments like the Guy’s Flooring building that overlook the river and have a beautiful view, we might be able to attract some of the people in some of the posh apartments back in Ashland to come over here,” Woods said.

“They can get away from some of the personal property taxes in Kentucky and bring their dollars over here. Anything we can do to keep people from crossing the bridge is considered to be a plus from our side.”

Through a trying economy, Blankenship is hopeful that the city will be able to continue to improve.

“I feel that we have a lot of positive projects in the works and things will turn around,” Blankenship said. “We’ve seen progress for the last two years and we’ll be seeing more for the future. I think we’ve got a good working team and everybody works hard to achieve the same goal and that’s to make Ironton better.”