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Port Authority making headway

At a glance

¯ Southeastern Ohio Port Authority working to find natural gas solution.

¯ Working with Belpre on economic development strategy.

¯ Fixes for brown fields and gas lines are being worked on.

Source: Southeastern Ohio Port Authority.

The Southeastern Ohio Port Authority is making headway on plans for economic development around the county.

Jesse Roush, executive director, said they have worked hard to find a solution to a natural gas issue at the Muskingum River Industrial Park in Waterford.

“We’re a mile from three very large interstate suppliers. We’ve been facing kind of what felt like an insurmountable hurdle,” Roush said. “We’ve finally been able to break some things loose.”

He said the property will probably get sold in the next couple of years as they are still doing remediation at the former AEP plant.

It isn’t about just finding industries for the Waterford property, but on other properties around the county.

“It’s taking a look at spotting a particular type of business in a particular location. It’s about taking a broader look at the county,” Roush explained. “OK, where do you have available land? How is it zoned? What’s the infrastructure like?”

Not only will businesses who move onto the Waterford property need natural gas and the rail line, but they’ll need the right person to talk to, he added. Through the work SEOPA has done, they’ve closed 75 percent of the gap from “we’d like to do this” to “we’re going to do this.”

One natural gas supplier has been identified, along with one possible supplier. Still, it could be 18 to 24 months for the pipeline to be ready.

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The port authority is working with the City of Belpre on an economic development strategy.

“The next step is to get a community development improvement organization,” Roush said.

He told the Belpre City Council in March that among the issues identified in the plan are affordable housing, creating a community investment program, workforce development and quality of life issues like recreation.

They are also taking a broader look at the county, zoning and code enforcement. Roush said there are a half-dozen brown fields and an old junkyard they weren’t aware of within city limits.

“There are some environmental hurdles to overcome,” he said. “We’ll assess the properties as there is funding available.”

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Roush has been to recent meetings of the Washington County Board of Commissioners to discuss his projects.

Commissioner Jamie Booth said he’s very happy with what the port authority has done in a short amount of time at the Muskingum River Industrial Park.

“Jesse has the knowledge to make things happen,” Booth said. “He’s fully invested in not just the port authority, but the county.”

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.

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