Port authority focuses on sites for development

Since its inception, and most certainly over the past year, the Southeastern Ohio Port Authority Board and staff have been hard at work trying to determine what efforts will most impact our region for the better by way of economic development. What has emerged over the last year from strategic planning sessions, economic development conferences, and countless conversations are a simple but staggering need … sites for development.

More specifically, 30 or more acres of graded land with water, sewer, electric, gas supply and fiber optic already on the property so a prospective business can acquire and construct in a short time frame.

I realize this is of little consequence to many people reading, why should they care if we have sites for development in the region. Isn’t that the responsibility of the business coming in to get all that due diligence done?

Unfortunately for us here in the Mid-Ohio Valley, and the countless other communities of stagnant wage and population growth, the game changed. The days of businesses targeting the area for its livability and community niceties are gone, the competitive playing field leveled on a global scale. Today corporate governing boards in lands not close to here make strategic decisions based on balance sheets and site selection reports. In most cases the decision usually comes down to site readiness, ease of acquisition, and financial incentives. The facts are that too many other markets are offering incentives and newer constructs while we idly hope for a miracle. We must be agents in our own future, and this we feel is best done in developing sites for new industry.

Former Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth (APEG) President and current Appalachian Partnership Institute President John Molinaro said, in our 23 county APEG Region, “much of our stock of building sites in the region is like a 1970s era Soviet grocery store. What is on the shelves is old and not wanted, and the things that are of interest to the shopper, aren’t labeled and come with many questions.” These are tough words, but they don’t make them any less true.

That is what we at the Port Authority are tasked with. How can we help generate some high-quality shovel ready sites in our county? If the next great businesses are to come to Washington County, we must have somewhere to put them.

Over the last four months, staff and committees have been scouring the county looking at properties that have high potential for development and have begun initiating conversations with land-owners to discuss the possibility of partnership. Like everyone else around here, we don’t have the money to make a significant land purchase. What we do have is enough to make major infrastructure investments (the sewer, water, gas, fiber service essentials I spoke of earlier). What is needed is an area partner who shares a desire to see our county grow its economic base, has an eye for future returns over immediate payout, and most importantly is willing to showcase to the international development community our spirit of public-private partnership to enhance our business climate.

If you or someone you know would like to entertain a conversation about how local acreage could be developed to house the next great business in Washington County, do give us a call at 740.568.1958 or email andy@seohioport.com.

The next Port Authority board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 26, at the Barlow Public Library. The Barlow-Vincent community is encouraged to attend.

Andy Kuhn,

Executive Director

Southeastern

Ohio Port Authority

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