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City council dissolves IPA, county to take over

Ironton City Council gave third reading to an ordinance Thursday turning over the city’s economic development efforts to a new nine-member volunteer board.

The ordinance dissolving the Ironton Port Authority was amended to clarify language and passed 5-1 with councilman Dave Frazer wanting to table the ordinance. Council chairman Mike Lutz was absent.

The ordinance will go into effect June 30, giving the IPA time to transfer its assets to the Lawrence County Port Authority.

Paul Woods, chairman of the IPA, will be one of four members of the group who will join five other board members to form the expanded Lawrence County Port Authority. He said the merger would payoff for the city of Ironton in a big way.

“Some might think that the port authority has not moved as quickly as they would like to put our assets to work, however, economic conditions of the last few years have made it very difficult to bring employers into the area,” Woods said. “Rather than squander our scarce resources on small-time successes we choose to husband those resources for the future. That promises to pay off handsomely.”

Dr. Bill Dingus, executive director of the Lawrence Economic Development Corp. and executive secretary of the Lawrence County Port Authority agreed that the merger would only benefit the city and the county.

“As the LEDC, we’ve always felt a responsibility to Ironton anyway, as is seen with the medical center, Fruth Pharmacy, Liebert and other projects, so I see us just continuing to work toward that goal and kind of merging the resources,” Dingus said. “Ironton has been blessed with some tremendous volunteers who make things happen. And I think if you pool the resources there, and much of the work for our port authority is volunteer as well, it will benefit all.”

“We applaud all the efforts of the Ironton Port Authority and their accomplishments during the several years they were here,” said Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship. “They worked tirelessly and we appreciate that. In talking with the various entities, everybody was in agreement to move in this direction to benefit Lawrence County and the city of Ironton.”

The IPA was established in 2005 and brought in various grants to aid in the ongoing development of the Ironton riverfront, including more than $1,700,000 in Clean Ohio Grants, and five businesses were established in the southend industrial park (Mi-De-Con, Cooke’s Farm Center, Guy’s Floor Covering, Aluminastics and Swift Industries).

Bill Dickens, founding IPA board member and former economic development director for the city of Ironton, said the IPA’s two greatest accomplishments that stand out his mind were the development of the Bellemont Subdivision on the former Lawrence County General Hospital and the riverfront development.

“The subdivision started as an upscale subdivision to accommodate young couples in Ironton who will be raising children and keeping these people in Ironton,” Dickens said. “This means they will be paying city income tax and sending their kids to city schools.”

As for the riverfront development, Dickens said he hopes to see upscale housing in that area, which would increase the city’s tax base.

“I think we have done an outstanding job in laying the ground work for future development in Ironton,” Dickens said. “It’s just a lot of work that we have done in the form of these Clean Ohio Grants and being able to get a capital line item into the budget to acquire the riverfront property. We have laid the groundwork where the city of Ironton is now of interest to the Lawrence County Port Authority. And if we had not laid that groundwork, I doubt they would be interested in getting involved in Ironton.”

Dickess said he would not continue on as a board member of the joint port authority board, but said he would like to continue working with the board on the riverfront development.

As for the future of Ironton’s economic development, Dickens, Woods and Dingus all said a priority needed to be placed on the Ninth Street area.

“Hope to see the building of a hotel on Ninth,” Dickens said. “And the port authority played a key role there by acquiring the armory and the IPA owns one quarter of that project.”

“I look at this merger as being very important to bringing a hotel to Ironton,” Woods said. “I hope that there will be a positive announcement on that point in the not too distant future.”

Dingus said the new joint effort of the port authorities would be instrumental in the development of that area.

“We look forward to continue to try to help Ironton develop and grow and to bring the resources in,” Dingus said. “The Ironton Port Authority has done a wonderful job over the last decade in making this happen in Ironton. As a team we’ll all continue that same dedicated work.”