Belpre town hall meeting Thursday night

BELPRE – For several months, Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs has been working with Belpre officials and the Belpre community to conduct a study on economic development for the Belpre area.

Voinovich School representatives will present the plan to the community during a town hall meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Belpre Senior Center on Washington Blvd. The meeting is open to all Belpre area residents.

The project is the result of a joint effort initiated by the Belpre Area Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Committee and the city of Belpre to provide a “road map” for the future of economic development in Belpre and surrounding areas.

The Chamber requested the Voinovich School study the Belpre area and produce a strategic plan for its economic future. The work began last November and ran for seven months. Demographic data, economic data, and population trends were among the many sources of information reviewed by the Voinovich School as it studied the Belpre area.

Faculty, staff and graduate students comprised the Voinovich School team who completed the project. As the study progressed, the team conducted visits to the area, numerous individual interviews with local businesses leaders and residents, and meetings with Chamber representatives and Belpre officials.

Karen Waller, the Belpre Chamber’s executive director, said the Chamber began the process because it believed there was a need for new information for use in business development, city planning and support of the current business community. Through the process, she said the study looked at “what our strengths and weaknesses are, what our capacities are, what the voids are and try to put all that together into some information for us to use about currently where we are” and to provide recommendations for future action.

“What it will do is give us direction. What’s the first thing to do? What do we need to do next? What plans of action do we need to develop down the road?” she said.

“What we’re expecting is a couple of hard recommendations about where to start. What we know is one of the things is to continue to help small businesses stay strong. We know that and that’s kind of been our focus here anyway,” Waller said.