Fort, area business to receive EODA awards

STEUBENVILLE – Jefferson County’s C.A. Joseph Co. and Historic Fort Steuben will be recognized by the 13-county Eastern Ohio Development Alliance Friday for their extraordinary contributions to the local economy.

Ed Looman, Eastern Ohio project manager for the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth and formerly the executive director of the now-defunct Progress Alliance, said he consulted with Jefferson County Port Authority staffers before nominating C.A. Joseph for emerging business winner and the fort for the EODA Tourism Award.

“As past economic development director in Jefferson County, I think it’s really significant,” he said. “This is the third year in a row that a Jefferson County business and/or organization has been honored by EODA. Bully (was recognized) in 2011, Cryogenic last year. I think that speaks volumes as to the types of business we have here – they’re unique, they’re growing, they’ve found niche markets and continue to explore those niche markets and succeed in them.”

C.A. Joseph, in the mausoleum supply industry for more than 30 years, has been branching out, diversifying its operations to include warehousing, plate processing and industrial vacuum processing. The company has operations in Irondale as well as a machine shop in Calcutta.

“I’ve always felt very strongly about diversifying the company,” said Chris Joseph, son of founder Chuck Joseph. “We’ve been very lucky. We’ve been in business for more than 30 years and we’ve done nothing but grow.”

The company is currently clearing land for a rail line extension that will open C.A. Joseph’s market and “open the door for more customers, more opportunities,” he said.

“We can go after (customers) we couldn’t consider before because we didn’t have rail service,” he said, adding that once the rail work is done they’ll be adding 150 feet in warehouse space. Later this year they’ll also be adding at least one new process, he said.

“We’ve never really had a major layoff, even when times were really bad six or seven years ago,” he said.

Judy Bratten, executive director of Historic Fort Steuben, said their award is “a testimony to the fact that the people who reconstructed Fort Steuben had a vision that not only would make history more accessible to people, but also use tourism as part of economic development. This affirms their initial belief.”

Some 6,000-8,000 people visit the fort’s visitors center over the course of a year, she said, “either to see the fort, exhibits and programs or the land office.”

Bratten said Historic Fort Steuben is truly a community project, pointing out they’ve received state and federal funding “and support from the mayors and different organizations” over the years.

“A lot of the initial work was done by volunteers … who’d come down in their spare time and work on buildings,” she said. “We’re so grateful to all the volunteers, all the organization in Steubenville, all our members who’ve helped us.

“I think so many people, at the very beginning, said it couldn’t be done or figured what’s the point. Now, everybody can see it can be done and see the value. I think it’s inspired other groups – the restoration of the Grand Theater, for instance. The people working on that understand it takes time, but if they persevere and do what they know is right and it will come to pass,” she said.

Looman said from a development perspective, C.A. Joseph Co. is “first and foremost one of the leading suppliers to the mausoleum industry in the nation.”

“It’s been a stable business, and now they’re getting into new areas, they’re growing and expanding,” he said. “They’re getting a track extension and rail spur that will help them grow … (It’s) one of those gems in Jefferson County that not a lot of people know about, but they continue to grow and be stable employers.”

He said EODA “covers a wide territory, there are a lot of counties involved, and to have a Jefferson County business recognized for its growth is significant, it’s a real tribute to Chris Joseph and the Joseph family for continuing to grow their business in Jefferson County.”

Likewise, he said the fort is “a real example of what can happen in this area when a community pulls together. Look back at history, at how they that got built and all the folks that worked countless hours to provide funding and give our town a tourist attraction,” he said. “I don’t think a lot of people in town realize what a tourist attraction it is. And when you add to that all they do for the community – there’s the summer concert series, which is outstanding, and the educational programs, all the other things they do for the community.”

And with so many counties involved in tourism activities, “they deserve a lot of credit for all they’ve done over the years to make (the fort) what it is today.”