New year will bring countless oppurtunities

Published 11:00 pm Saturday, January 9, 2010

As we begin a new year, I would like to briefly summarize the challenges and the opportunities facing Lawrence County in 2010.

In spite of an ever demanding general fund budget, the County Commissioners continue to work to improve the efficiency of county government, preserve vital public safety services, and concentrate on the economic development of Lawrence County.

Like never before, county governments across Ohio are struggling to make ends meet. Although not as dramatic as some of our neighboring counties, Lawrence County has its own budget concerns, both short and long term.

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Fortunately, in the short term, thanks to the county officeholders continued cooperation, and thanks to several tough decisions which have improved efficiency we are starting to see some stabilization of the county finances.

The most significant indicator of this financial improvement is that the General Fund carryover from 2009 was more than it has been in several years.

Unfortunately, there are still long term budget concerns especially in the area of public safety. Public safety is by far the number one priority of Lawrence County’s government.

However, the combination of the increasing costs of combating crime and the decreasing revenues received from the state of Ohio continues to place enormous financial pressure on the county budget.

This continuing financial pressure puts the long term sustainability of the current levels of public safety in jeopardy. 2010 will provide an opportunity for all of us in Lawrence County to determine how much we value our public safety infrastructure and its financial wellbeing.

As we continue to confront the budgetary challenges head on, we also continue to concentrate on economic development opportunities throughout the county. Over the past decade or so, we have focused on several diverse economic development projects by attracting a broad range of small to midsize businesses to our county and helping our local companies expand as well.

This approach to economic development is working because we continue to weather the national economic downturn much better than other counties in Ohio. Lawrence County’s unemployment rate has consistently been among the best in the state for many years and currently has the fourth best rate in Ohio.

Although 2009 was not a good year for the national economy, this past year, Lawrence County has been preparing the ground and planting the seeds of growth locally. Both up and down the river there are potential areas of growth in 2010.

Some of the projects anticipated include: industrial developments near Hanging Rock and South Point, healthcare and housing developments in Ironton and near Proctorville, and infrastructure improvements throughout the entire county.

Thanks to a lot of hard work by a lot of people, there is a broad spectrum of diverse economic development potential in Lawrence County that is very exciting.

As you can see, 2010 promises to be a very busy year full of challenges and opportunities. Let’s all work to make 2010 a very successful year for all of Lawrence County.

May you and your family enjoy a safe and happy New Year!

Jason C. Stephens is a certified financial planner and president of the Lawrence County Board of Commissioners.