Port panel seeking assistance

WINTERSVILLE – The Jefferson County Port Authority will seek assistance for fundraising efforts and is preparing to advertise for an executive director for economic development.

The port authority made the decision to hire a fundraising staff person following an hour-long executive session called to discuss personnel.

Authority Chairman Jay Zatta said the organization has an initial list of 600 potential donors.

“It requires some hard work to make these contacts and ask for donations for the port authority,” Zatta said.

The authority’s board of directors also agreed Tuesday to review the job description for the economic development executive director position and prepare to advertise for the job following the start of the fundraising campaign.

Authority Secretary Debbie Venci said the initial fundraising efforts “have been very positive.”

“We received donations from several new port authority members who were not Progress Alliance Partners. So far we have raised $40,000 and we are continuing our efforts. We are allowing people to donate anywhere from $25 to $5,000. And we are continuing to reach out to the former Partners in Progress,” said Venci.

According to Zatta, the port authority open house last month “went very well, and I want to thank everyone who made the open house so successful.”

“We have been extremely busy and we are making very good progress on our fundraising efforts. And we continue to focus on the hiring of an economic development director,” said Zatta.

The board heard from Ed Looman of JobsOhio who said what Gov. John Kasich has done with JobsOhio “is working and it is more responsive to potential businesses looking at Ohio.”

“Since January 2011 to May 2013, we have seen 170,000 new jobs created in Ohio,” said Looman.

Donna Hrezo, real estate coordinator for the port authority, said the Jefferson County Farm Bureau has expressed interest in the port authority and requested representatives attend the next Farm Bureau meeting.

Hrezo also reported the Comcast cable system should be finalized in the Jefferson County Industrial Park next week.

“Once it is finished the business owners can then make arrangements to tie into the cable system,” she added.

The board agreed to a recommendation by board member Greg Nemeth to require an upfront fee when a letter of intent for future development at the industrial park is signed by the authority and a potential developer.

“That way we stop letting tire kickers express interest in the property and then tie it up with no development. We want serious developers who will proceed with their plans. I don’t think it is a deal breaker. If someone is sincere in their interest it’s not a problem,” Nemeth reported.

Authority Treasurer Ed Florak said the $5,000 grant donated to the organization earlier this year by the AEP Co., “is for the development of our website and any changes we may make to the website.”

The port authority also met for 55 minutes in executive session with legal counsel Bill Blake to discuss a possible covenant violation at the industrial park.

“We are taking our time and thoroughly exploring this issue before we make a final decision,” said Zatta after the meeting concluded.