Chamber, tourism leaders reflect on 2024 Legislative Day

Published 5:50 pm Sunday, June 9, 2024

By Terry L. Hapney, Jr.
The Ironton Tribune

Acquainting the people of Lawrence County with their legislators and giving them the opportunity to see the Ohio legislative process up close are objectives of the county’s annual “Legislative Day.”
Shirley Dyer, director of the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, said in addition to local business leaders, two students from each Lawrence County high school join Chamber members in making the yearly trek from South Point to Columbus.
“If we have a bill (legislators are) working on it allows (citizens) to know how to go and work the system,” Dyer said.
The Chamber leases a bus for the day-long trip, which usually entails two breakout sessions—one on transportation and another on economic development. This year tourism was added to the mix.
Marty Conley, director of the Lawrence County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the sessions provide an opportunity for legislators and other government officials to join Lawrence Countians in a discussion about projects underway in the county.
“It’s really bringing them up to par on what Lawrence County is doing, where we’re going, what we’re looking to do and maybe what we need help with,” Conley said.
Ohio’s assistant director of development participated in the breakout sessions. During those, Lawrence Economic Development Corporation’s Associate Director Jeremy Clay, Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization Associate Director Jessica Keeton and Conley led a discussion focused on economic development.
Ironton-Lawrence County CAO Director Ralph Kline, Lawrence County Engineer Patrick Leighty and Ohio Department of Transportation Deputy Director of District 9 Mike Dombrowski facilitated a discussion on transportation.
“Following the breakouts during the lunch discussion everybody got a little bit of an idea of what was going on in the county,” Conley said.
Ohio Director of Development Lydia Mihalik served as keynote speaker during lunch, touching on her recent visit to Lawrence County. The Legislative Day trip came on the heels of Lawrence County receiving $12.7 million in funding allocated by the state for development projects, including a marina complex at Lock 27, Ironton riverfront work and restoration of the Ro-Na Theater and development of riverfront parks in South Point and Burlington.
“Obviously, there’s excitement,” Conley said. “We were there sharing from the community aspect of it the joys of things that are coming.”
Conley said during Ohio tourism day at the Statehouse, Mihalik stopped by, along with John Carey from the Governor’s Office of Appalachia.
“It’s the face time,” Conley said. “When Director Mihalik came over, I said, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ She said, ‘There are my people!’ She knew Lawrence County. It’s a great networking opportunity.”
“Probably one of the best,” Dyer said. “It’s very effective. When the people at the Statehouse see this huge bus pull in with 40 people, it’s very impressive.”
Dyer said a complete tour of the Statehouse allows young people from Lawrence County to learn about their state by experiencing in Columbus what they learn about in the classroom.
Ohio Speaker of the House Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) also spoke during the event, which is the 30th year that Lawrence County has taken a group to the Statehouse.
“People look forward to it,” Dyer said. “It’s a nice event. They get to have one-on-one time with their government. Most of the senators who stop in to eat sit at the tables with Lawrence Countians.”
The next Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce Annual Legislative Day is scheduled for May 14, 2025.
“Mark your calendar for that day,” Dyer said.

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