Port director search continues

WINTERSVILLE – The search for an executive director for the Jefferson County Port Authority has garnered 16 applicants.

Jay Zatta, chairman of the port’s board of directors, said the application process will remain open until Sept. 27, “and after that day the search committee will meet to evaluate the resumes before moving forward.”

Zatta made his comments during a three-and-a-half hour monthly board meeting at the Jefferson County Airpark Tuesday.

“We advertised in four primary agencies and I am pleased with the progress so far in the search process,” said Zatta.

Zatta also reported fundraising, “is slow at this point, but we are making some progress. We need to review our work and to continue our efforts. It is a slow process but we are making progress.”

The board heard an update on several economic development projects from Ed Looman of the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth, including a report regarding expansion plans at H&H Screen Printing of Steubenville.

“I met with the owner last week and he is hoping to double his work force by the spring. Their efforts at the former Rose building on Lovers Lane are going quite well,” said Looman.

Looman said efforts to attract an investor in the former RG Steel Mingo Junction plant are continuing.

Looman came under intense questioning after he announced that former port authority employee Kim Cline-DeLucca has been hired as a consultant by APEG to develop an inventory list of Ohio River properties for the state development office.

“This program is a high-priority mission for the state and the information will provide assistance to port authority Manager Donna Hrezo,” explained Looman.

“I don’t understand all these layers of economic and development agencies in the state. I don’t understand all these layers after we were told we would have a lean, mean and and streamlined private agency. If you ask the board members if we would run our organization like the state does the answer would be no,” said board member Rob D’Anniballe.

“Jefferson County is way ahead of the curve. Several of the Ohio River counties south of us are not where Jefferson County is as far as a property inventory,” responded Looman.

“Is there a process to reach the Ohio River property owners who may be interested in listing their properties on our inventory file?” asked board member Mark Teramana.

“What you are hearing today is our frustration for trying to obtain state funding to help secure an executive director and the hiring of a consultant who is going to do work in Jefferson County that is already done,” noted board member Michael Thomas.

“The governor should help fund our local organization and we would be a lot further along than we are now,” added board member Greg Nemeth.

In other business, board members agreed to consider a proposal offered Tuesday by Brian Hicks and Kevin Conroy of Hicks Partners/MAG Ventures.

According to Hicks, a 26-year-old program created by Congress allows foreign investors to invest $500,000 in an American business and create 10 jobs for Americans in return for a temporary green card.

“This looks like a very good group but we don’t know what else is out there. So, we can consider a decision at our next board meeting,” said Zatta.

The board met in an executive session for 65 minutes Tuesday to discuss the potential sale of property at the Jefferson County Industrial Park and a potential covenant violation.

“We are continuing to look at the sale of property at the industrial park and may have an announcement at our October port meeting, ” Zatta later said.

Hrezo said Comcast has completed construction that will bring their services to the industrial park.

The board declined to adopt a resolution supporting Ohio Senate Bill 134.

“I talked to the port authority director in Tuscarawas County who said this is an important piece of legislation because it would require all Ohio port authorities to be notified if financing is being proposed in their jurisdictions by an outside entity. The proposed bill states an Ohio port authority can issue the financing if it provides similar or better terms than the out-of-state entity,” explained Zatta.

“At this point, we aren’t ready to offer bond funding and I don’t think this applies to us,” said Zatta.