ARC comes to county to look around

Published 9:49 am Thursday, April 21, 2011

Officials laud local leaders for teamwork, success

SOUTH POINT — It was a chance for the investors to check out the returns on their money.

That’s what happened when the Earl Gohl and Guy Land, the two top officials of the Appalachian Regional Commission, came to Lawrence County to look around.

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It’s the ARC that has poured millions into the county; one of the most visible is The Point industrial park, once an abandoned industrial site, whose backers want to turn it into a intermodal transport facility with the capability to reach out globally via river and rail.

“There are local communities up and down Appalachia who have used the commission to make investments in their communities to make dreams come true,” Earl Gohl, ARC federal co-chair, told a roundtable of county leaders who met at the Greater Lawrence Chamber of Commerce headquarters Wednesday.

“Here in South Point you have this incredible asset, this land that you were able to clean up and prepare it,” Gohl said. “Doing this is a testament to your leadership. The potential you have laid out is absolutely incredible. That is what ARC was established to do. We are to be a resource for you, but we can’t be your only resource.”

Leading the discussion was Lawrence Economic and Development Corp. Director Bill Dingus who attributed the county’s success to the teamwork between the varied local economic development organizations.

“If you don’t have that cooperation to figure out things together to overcome barriers, you don’t have a project,” Gohl said. “Many communities in Appalachia, you can’t get to that point.”

The two ARC officials were given a verbal snapshot of future plans for economic development in the area including reaching out to China and South America as potential avenues for job creation.

Dingus noted that in the 1990s Japan began looking to the United States for venues for development by building manufacturing plants such as Toyota in West Virginia and Kentucky.

“I don’t think that China is far behind that philosophy,” Dingus said. “China is going to look at opportunities to get into our market.”

With job development comes the need for infrastructure advancements, Ralph Kline, assistant director at the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization, told the group.

“We have to be prepared for investors, to offer community amenities like education, medical programs,” Kline said.

The ARC has its roots in the President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and offers assistance to 13 states from southern New York to northern Mississippi.

Governors of those states offer a laundry list of projects that they want funded by ARC with Gohl giving his final approval.

Since the funds provided by the ARC are channeled through each state, they can be matched by other federal dollars.

Recently President Barack Obama proposed a budget of $76 million for ARC, but Congress cut it by almost $8 million. Whether that hit will affect any upcoming local projects, Gohl couldn’t say since right now Gov. John Kasich has not submitted a list of projects seeking ARC funding.