Port authority focus for Toronto chamber

TORONTO – The Jefferson County Port Authority and its economic development plan were discussed during the city chamber’s Thursday luncheon meeting at the North River Avenue Christian Church.

Evan Scurti, director of economic development for the authority, told chamber members although the authority still is in its early stages, plans are being made to develop the business advocacy organization. Scurti began by telling chamber members he is from the area.

“I grew up in Wintersville and Jefferson County,” said Scurti, adding he graduated from the Franciscan University of Steubenville. “My wife and I just bought a new house (in the area).”

Scurti, the son of attorney Adam Scurti, recently was named director of economic development after serving in a similar context in Ashland County, Ohio. He added the county’s port authority was very new and unique to this area, and “I’m starting to hit the road. Economic development can be defined in several ways.”

Scurti said development includes having a finger on the pulse of everything from preparing sites for development, readying the work force to seeking expansion opportunities.

“It’s a complex process,” said Scurti, adding the authority also is a political subdivision as well and must follow state laws and procedures as defined in Ohio Revised Code. (Around 60 counties in Ohio) now have port authorities, even ones that don’t have (a body of water).”

Scurti said a nine-member board consisting of members chosen by Steubenville, the county and regional planning commission, oversees the authority’s duties.

“That’s my boss,” said Scurti of the board.

He also said the authority has accepted donations from, so far, 32 private investors, and the organization will become the “go to” place for attracting industrial businesses to the area. Scurti said the authority currently is cataloging sites in the county ripe for industrial businesses and putting the information on its website.

“We want as much data on that website as possible,” he said, adding the address was www.jcport.com.

Scurti said the website isn’t flashy but is meant to give businesses an overview of advantages of locating to Jefferson County. He mentioned the former Kaul Clay near Toronto as one of the sites being looked at for possible development.

The authority also manages the county’s industrial park as well. Scurti said said there’s not much room for development at the site, but the authority also promotes job and business retention for those already in Jefferson County. He added the authority also has power to keep business negotiations from becoming public record as well as able to negotiate tax abatements.

In other business;

Chamber member Mike Biasi said the Mike Shuma Healthy Heart Walk/Run is scheduled for July 5, the same day as Gem City Day and the city’s fireworks display. Registration begins at 7 a.m. with the race to begin at 8:30 a.m. Biasi said organizers still was seeking volunteers. To volunteer, call (740) 537-2152.

It was announced Erin Taggart and Lindsay Bodnar had been awarded the chamber scholarships.

It was announced plans are under way for the all high school reunion Labor Day weekend.

There will be no chamber meeting in July.