‘Transformative projects’

Published 5:52 pm Monday, May 6, 2024

DeWine announces $12.7 for development in Lawrence County

“Any day I get to be along the Ohio River is a good day,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said on Monday, to a crowd that was gathered at Lock 27 for a special announcement from his office.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine arrives for the event at Lock 27 in Rome Township announcing $12.7 million in funds to development projects in Lawrence County. (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

The announcement was one long in the making, coming out of news two years ago that the governor and the legislature were making a massive investment in the state’s 32 Appalachian counties.

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When DeWine signed that bill in 2022, dedicating $500 million to the region for development, he said the idea was for communities to “think big” and come up with projects that would encourage development.

“I said, ‘Let’s let those communities decide how to spend the money,’” he said.

DeWine said his stop this week in the county was to announce several projects that fulfilled that idea.

“We wanted something transformative,” DeWine said. “And I think Lawrence County came up with that.”

Altogether, DeWine announced $12.7 million for projects in the county, with the biggest news being the building of a marina complex at Lock 27.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine gives instructions for the group photo to Fairland High School students as they pose by the riverfront at Lock 27 in Rome Township on Monday. (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

A $5.2 million grant is being awarded for that project, a full-service facility, which DeWine said can accommodate up to 100 boats, kayaks and canoes.

“It will make this a go-to place,” DeWine said, stating it will boost tourism and draw visitors to the county. “Just look around you. It’s beautiful.”

Also receiving funds in today’s announcement was the city of Ironton, where $5.2 million will toward riverfront projects and the restoration of the Ro-Na Theater on South Third Street.

“We have so many of these amazing old theaters in Ohio,” DeWine said.

Two other municipalities are receiving funding, with South Point and Burlington awarded $1 million each for development of their riverfront parks.

The stop in Lawrence County was one of several DeWine made on Monday, with $150 million announced altogether for 21 projects in 12 cities in the Appalachian counties.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine makes an announcement at Lock 27 in Rome Township of $12.7 million in funds to projects in Lawrence County. (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

DeWine then turned the podium over to Lawrence County Commissioner DeAnna Holliday, of whom he said “there is no better champion for Lawrence County.”

Holliday said she had been excited since last night for the big announcement.

“It may be cloudy today, but what a beautiful day it is,” she began.

Holliday praised the work of Rick Jansen and Friends of Ironton for working to renovate the Ro-Na.

“They have helped keep this project alive,” she said.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, right, greets Autumn and Harrison Vallandingham on Monday, as Ironton council member Jacob Hock, left, and Ironton Mayor Sam Cramblit II look on. (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

Of the other projects, Holliday said they will help make full use of the Ohio River in the county.

“Our riverfront is a treasure and has been waiting to be utilized to its full potential,” she said.

Ohio Department of Development Director Lydia Mihalik said, in her work, they often announce projects that can help a family, business community or others, but Monday’s announcements were even more special.

“This has the potential to change the future for an entire region,” she said.

She praised the work of officials in Lawrence County who worked to submit plans to the state for approval.

“They didn’t just talk the talk, they rolled up their sleeves and took concrete steps toward a brighter tomorrow,” she said. “It’s an example of when passion meets purpose.”

She said the benefits of the projects announced would be seen by coming generations.

“To the youngsters, I say ‘stick around,’” she said. It’s going to get really good in the future.”

Funding for the first phase of the Appalachian investment came from the American Rescue Plan Act, a COVID-19 relief bill, passed by congressional Democrats and signed into law by President Joe Biden in 2021. The Ohio General Assembly has allocated more funds to the initiative.