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County wants to reach out to international corporations



SOUTH POINT — It’s all a part of positioning Lawrence County to play on the international economic field.

That’s the logic behind work to get an EB-5 classification for Lawrence and surrounding counties from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“We are focusing on southern Ohio in its entirety,” said Viviane Vallance, associate executive director of Lawrence Economic Development Corp. “It opens up the opportunity for foreign investment. There is a minimum requirement on how much to invest and how many jobs they have to create.”

If an international company meets that requirement, with the classification the company can be offered a complimentary visa for a member of an executive’s family or some one in the company.

“A lot of times a privately owned foreign business may want a child to go to college,” Dr. Bill Dingus, executive director of the LEDC, said. “If they have a visa, that would qualify to come. That is one of the biggest utilization so that a foreign company would decide to put a company in the U.S. … It’s an international incentive to create jobs.”

County development leaders hope to apply for the EB-5 in June with the goal that the classification be applicable to a number of counties in the southeastern part of the state.

“We are doing a study on what southern counties can be put into a regional center,” Vallance said.

The amount of investment required from the foreign company is determined by the economic classification of the county where the business is to be located. For “distressed” counties that minimum is half-million dollars. However for “at risk,” the minimum investment is $1 million.

“That has to be a cash investment,” Vallance said. “It cannot be an investment on borrowed money.”

Lawrence County’s status has been upgraded to “at risk,” but most of the Appalachian region remains listed as “distressed.”

“Lawrence County is slowly moving out of the ‘at risk’ category,” Vallance said. “With our location in southern Ohio on the Ohio River there are so many logistics and distribution opportunities. This is an added incentive for that company to locate in this specific area.”