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A Renaissance Revolution in Progress

October 6, 2010 - Alex Marshall
Editor's note: The following remarks were delivered to the 102nd annual dinner meeting of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce last week.

Thank you Susan Hershey for that wonderful introduction.

And THANK YOU for your outstanding work this past year. Your dedication, determination, enthusiasm and leadership of our chamber of commerce is making a real difference in our community.

Under your direction, the chamber's 102nd year could arguably be one of the best in its long history of serving area businesses. More investors, more programs and initiatives and a lot more fun, too.

And, for those of you keeping score, no mortgage, no line of credit, no debt AND money in the bank. And that money in the bank, well, we're going to wisely re-invest it in membership services that help you stay competitive- AND we're going to invest it in worthwhile community projects that will promote a stronger local economy and quality of life.

Now I recently participated in a local agency's strategic plan survey where the question was asked; name 3 influential women in your community. I don't have to tell you who was number 1 on my list. It was of course, your president, Susan Hershey.

Please help me recognize and thank this talented lady for her outstanding work this year, our president, Sue Hershey. (Applause)

I would be remiss if I didn't also recognize Father Terry and Franciscan University our most gracious and divine hosts this evening.

Father Terry, when I was growing up I served in the Episcopal Church as an acolyte - or altar boy if you will at Sunday services. Now I was pretty mischievous as a young lad (imagine that!), and my mother used to tell me, Alex your acolyte service to God on Sunday is your redemption and quite possibly the closest you'll ever get to heaven.

Well, as it turns out time has proven my mother wrong. When Iím on this beautiful campus surrounded by the faithful here I always feel a little bit closer to heaven.

On behalf of our guests here this evening, thank you Father Terry for sharing this little Slice of Heaven with all of us.

I'd also like to extend my personal welcome to our distinguished guest and keynote speaker, Iron Mike Ditka. We are honored to have you here and we look forward to your remarks later this evening.

But first I would like to ask you what your record was against our beloved Steelers. (Winning or losing)

Well, coach, chalk up a win as your appearance here tonight tops last year's Jerome Bettis' Bus Stop attendance mark by a mere field goal.

While looking over your impressive resume, one thing caught my attention; that Coors beer commercial you cut a few years back - well that won't fly here in Jefferson County.

You may have noticed the table favors this evening. You now have your very own Ditka koozie to put in your cooler for your next tailgate gig. And, you'll note that the king of beers - Budweiser, is the beer of choice for the Ditka koozie, and I might add most discriminating Jefferson County taste buds as well.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you'll please stand and raise your Ditka koozie in a toast - coach, welcome to Jefferson County - THIS BUD'S FOR YOU!

The anticipation of the announcement of this year's Chamber of Commerce annual awards recipients is just moments away. But first I'd like to share some thoughts with you on the state of your chamber and community.

Is it me, or is there the beginning of a renaissance revolution occurring right here under our noses in Jefferson County?

Words like a new beginning, resurgence, revitalization, recovery all come to mind.

Now don't trust me, I'm still an outsider who only gets to visit here each day for work. I don't get to live and play in this wonderful community. And, I can say with all sincerity - that I'm green with envy that all of you do.

What would you call the rebuilding of highways and bridges? The massive $8 million dollar Washington street project that connects downtown to midtown and beyond is a prime example of a resurgence in infrastructure.

State route 7 is slated for a facelift in 2012. Sunset Blvd further west is undergoing upgrades including resurfacing right now.

The market street bridge, never mind theyíre painting it blue and gold (we'll take care of that little matter on the football field), but when it reopens it will provide a boost to our local economy.

Hardly proof of A renaissance revolution in Jefferson County you say?

The recent construction of a new city building in downtown Steubenville is a source of pride and convenience for our citizens and visitors; and what a wonderful complement to our magnificent county courthouse.

Today's announcement of a downtown plaza is icing on the cake for those two government entities and all of downtown.

In the important area of education, which everyone knows is so critical to attracting new business; new schools dot the landscape throughout Jefferson County meeting the needs of our children now and in the future.

A special salute to Steubenville City Schools for hosting last weekend's Rally in Death Valley, which placed our community in the national spotlight. Mike McVey, superintendent was right when he said, and I quote "this is a great opportunity not only for the city and our school system but the entire Ohio Valley."

Our institutions of higher learning, Franciscan University of Steubenville and Eastern Gateway Community College continue to enjoy phenomenal growth, and are among our most important community assets.

A new social security complex at the rejuvenated Ft Steuben Mall will soon have me, and by the looks of a few of you here tonight, as clients in the near future.

A shuttered St Johns Arena is OPEN again thanks to Trinity and a partnership with the YMCA. Between the two organizations a state of the art health and fitness facility is a reality today, and is fast approaching 1000 members.

More than a million dollars in real estate sold recently in downtown Steubenville that offers more office and retail opportunities in the future to go along with many new shops that have already opened this past year.

Lots of facelifts and restoration investments are being made in our community as well like work on University Blvd and Franciscan's heavenly new entrance. And that's just phase one! If Father Terry has his way we'll have a drive-thru at Heavenly Grounds in the near future.

Teramana Enterprise's streetscape improvements at Hollywood Center are noteworthy; and the ground-breaking of Walgreen's is finally underway as midtown continues to grow. CVS will soon have a new store in midtown as well.

You're starting to believe in my renaissance revolution theory aren't you?

The recent Meet in the Middle beautification project sponsored by this chamber drew dozens of workers to Market Street for a sprucing up. We all know that taking pride in one's community is the first step to economic recovery.

As the saying goes - Be Jefferson County Proud!

I don't know about you, but I feel safer in our community with the construction of a new guard house or lookout post at Historic Fort Steuben this past year. And, I certainly don't need to tell you the economic impact and quality of life that Fort Steuben and the Berkman amphitheater have provided this community.

And, isn't it interesting that Fort Steuben way back when in 1787 played an integral role in opening this territory for western development, and here, 200 years later it again serves as a centerpiece for today's renaissance revolution as well.

Scott Dressel's Save the Grand Theater efforts remind us of the importance of the arts and cultural activities to a community and the positive impact it can have on the local economy as well.

Trails and greenways, a chamber initiative will soon see phase 1 of a county-wide effort become a reality with last week's vacating of old route 7 by the county.

The Community Investment Plan, another chamber led effort is currently in the implementation stages.

Go Green America Recycling Center in Mingo Junction will bring the promise of new jobs in the near future.

DPS PENN (Gold Sponsor) and Cheasapeake Energy are bringing employment and income opportunities to our community right now through the rich gas reserves of the Marcellus Shale.

Wintersville's new bus service and Knollís project is filling the needs of businesses and residents alike in that bedroom community as it's poised for more growth in the years ahead.

The Jefferson County Airpark is experiencing a growth in traffic and fuel sales. An airplane maintenance facility may become a reality sparking additional growth. A flight school has opened, and yes Phil Bender I'm still interested in learning to fly someday.

Property owners are coming together to utilize Brownfield grant money to ready their land for future development.

A BHJ Freight study next year will identify the importance of our roads and river to future economic development.

Toronto's road improvements along with Bulldog Rack's new location in the Hancock Manufacturing building and Kwik King's expansion into Weirton are all positives for the Gem City and our county.

Once thought impossible due to costs, work has begun in connecting our county to the world with the installation of ultra-high speed internet service - a critical component in attracting new business and keeping existing ones competitive.

And while on the topic of communications; our communities are blessed with great media support, cooperation and local coverage. In no particular order, except for the fact of their generous Gold Sponsorship tonight - Thank you Tim McCoy and WTOV . Thank you Kristin Cantrell, Froggy 103.7; thank you Judy Vavrek, WEIR and The River; thank you Roger Lyons, WTRF.

Let's see, did I miss anyone? Oh yeah, thank you Ross Gallabrese and the Herald-Star.

Ok, so I had you at hello on this renaissance revolution thing. Right?

Now, I don't believe for one minute that your chamber of commerce is responsible for all of this activity. Many of you are, though.

But what I do know is that one of our jobs as a chamber of commerce is to foster, facilitate and advocate an environment that promotes business and business opportunity in our county.

And guess what, with your help this past year, I think we're doing a damn good job at it.

With the renaissance revolution in high gear, we may want to think about a new door mat at the front entrance into our city and county that welcomes visitors and leaves no doubt to the 13,000 daily passersby that weíre OPEN FOR BUSINESS.

Your chamber, as it should, is leading that effort and has recently hired VEBH Architects to conduct a study and provide concepts of an entrance that reflects a proud 200-year-old city and county that is indeed, OPEN FOR BUSINESS.

Now I've heard some talk recently in our community that the lines between agencies and organizations have become blurred and efforts duplicated. While we certainly want to avoid the inefficiency of duplication, I see it differently.

I prefer to think that the blur you may be seeing is actually cooperation and sharing of resources for the common good of our county.

We don't recognize it as such because itís been a long time since we've seen this level of cooperation among all the organizations, agencies, gov't entities and the private sector.

To that point, and perhaps most important from my perspective, is that for the first time in years ALL or most of the major players are at the table for one common purpose - the betterment of Jefferson County.

The county, the city of Steubenville and other municipalities, Progress Alliance, BHJ, the Planning Commission, business, labor and of course your Chamber of Commerce are all now working together in a unified manner.

Now I'm willing to bet by this time next year, with the continued support, cooperation and leadership of these key players - along with your Chamber of Commerce, we will see a new Jefferson County emerge and begin to prosper and grow once again.

Thank you for listening - you've been a great audience. Enjoy the rest of your evening.

 
 

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Blog Photos

Guest of honor, Iron Mike Ditka