Local leaders make annual trip to Columbus

Published 9:53 am Friday, May 18, 2012



COLUMBUS — Community leaders had a voice at the Statehouse in Columbus Thursday but also got to hear what Ohio’s chief has to say about a most important topic: jobs.

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Now in its 26th year, the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Day included about three dozen business officials, elected officials and students who made the more than two and a half hour trip to Columbus for a visit that was highlighted by Gov. John Kasich’s keynote speech during lunch.

Job creation in Ohio, particularly in southern Ohio, was the focus of the the Republican governor’s message. Kasich told the crowd why businesses are looking to invest in Ohio and touted the balanced budget that created a surplus in Ohio. Kasich said tax cuts, particularly the income tax, are two reasons for job growth.

“Businesses can be comfortable coming to Ohio. … ,” Kasich said. “I can tell businesses with great confidence to invest in Ohio.”

Ohio is the fifth in the nation in terms of job creation, Kasich said. When his administration took over, Ohio ranked 48th.

But Kasich is still targeting businesses for southern Ohio, a topic went along with one of the breakout sessions visitors participated in that focused on economic development.

“Southern Ohio is the ticket,” Kasich said. “You can go down to southern Ohio. You are going to meet the finest people that you can find in the state of Ohio or anywhere in the U.S.”

Despite the perception by some that leaders in Columbus forget about the southernmost part of Ohio, Kasich gave his endorsement to the region.

“You have a governor who wants to see southern Ohio rise,” Kasich said.

Lawrence County’s delegation met with Ohio Department of Development and Jobs Ohio officials to talk about a variety of projects including continued growth at The Point industrial park in South Point and New Steel in Scioto County.

County officials were surprised with the announcement that the Lawrence Economic Development Corp. will receive a $100,000 grant for international outreach.

“The state has been good to Lawrence County. Sure, we would love to have more, but we are appreciative,” Dr. Bill Dingus, executive director of the LEDC, told the development officials. “We feel a responsibility beyond just Lawrence County.  … We are trying to develop a regional philosophy.”

Officials from the chamber’s transportation committee met with some of the Ohio Department of Transportation’s leadership team to get updates on several major roadway and infrastructure projects.

Construction of the new Ironton-Russell Bridge is underway. The contract was awarded in January to Brayman Construction Co. based in Pennsylvania.

The project will cost approximately $81.3 million. The bridge is funded by ODOT’s Major Bridge Program and is the largest project awarded from the program this year.

The proposed structure will be a two-lane, twin tower, cable-stayed bridge. It will resemble the U.S. Grant Bridge in Portsmouth

The new bridge should be open in the fall of 2015. The final completion will take place in summer of 2016, when the old bridge will be demolished.

In addition to the Ironton-Russell Bridge, the 2012 construction season in Lawrence County consists of a sidewalk construction on Park, High and Washington streets in South Point; County Road 22 will have a bridge replacement over Storms Creek, just north of Ironton; State Route 93 will be resurfaced between Sand Hollow Road and Olive Branch Road; and U.S. 52 will have bench clearing at various locations between State Route 93 and Crabtree Hollow road.

The second major project is Phase Two of the Chesapeake Bypass. Stantec is completing the final design. The final document will be re-evaluated and approved in the Fall of 2012. The estimated cost is $94 million. There is no timetable for construction.

The Portsmouth Bypass, which would help create a stronger north-south highway system, was another point of interest. The Phase One design is completed. The designs for Phase Two and Three have been halted temporarily. The bypass will connect U.S. 23 near Lucasville to U.S. 52 near Sciotoville.

Senators Tom Niehaus and Bob Peterson and Representatives Terry Johnson and Ryan Smith also talked about the importance of continued partnerships and cooperation for the entire region to grow.