WINTERSVILLE - During the first seven months of 2012, local leaders say job growth and tax collections are up significantly in Jefferson County.
The Community Improvement Corp. board and Progress Alliance Partners were told Tuesday that 1,053 more people were employed in Jefferson County in July than at the start of the year.
Likewise, the county's sales tax collections were up nearly $403,000 for the first six months of 2012 compared to the same six-month period a year earlier.
GIVEN UPDATE — Progress Alliance Executive Director Ed Looman, standing, updated members on the status of projects at the Jefferson County Industrial Park while Community Improvement Corp. board members, from left, Ken Perkins, Sue Hershey, John Cucarese and President Bob Chapman listened. - Linda Harris
"A thousand jobs in six months, that's huge," Commissioner Tom Gentile said after the CIC meeting, held this month at Apollo Pro Cleaning in Wintersville. "These companies could have gone to any of our surrounding counties, but they chose to come here to create those jobs. It's a really positive thing."
Gentile and Progress Alliance Executive Director Ed Looman said extending Drive B at the Jefferson County Industrial Park would continue that momentum, saying that opening access to 26 now-unusable acres on the far eastern side of the property has to be a top priority as the industrial park fills up.
"It's huge for us," Looman said. "Getting the road done helps us open up 26.5 (now unaccessable) acres we still have in the industrial park."
Looman said there's about 36 acres still available, with interest running high in that space. He added "the end goal is to bring jobs to the industrial park."
"Extending the drive is critical to the future of the industrial park," Gentile said. "There's a large chunk of land down there."
Looman said they've "made great strides over the last couple years," and credited the county commission with fostering a growth-friendly atmosphere.
Meanwhile, he said Cleveland-based Premier Pump has tendered a check for nearly $50,000 for a 4.8-acre site at the industrial park.
"We anticipate they will be breaking ground sometime soon, they'll start probably later in the fall," he said, adding the company could have as many as 25 people on the job within a couple years.
The board also rejected bids for construction of an office/warehouse building at the park.
The four bids, all from Jefferson County firms, came in well over the architect's $1.2 million estimate, ranging from a low of $1.78 million to a high of $2.6 million.
In extending the invitation to bid, the CIC reserved the right to reject any or all bids, totally or in part, for any reason.
"We're looking at the available options to move forward with the prospective tenant," he said.
The CIC board also discussed how best to work and interact with the newly formed Jefferson County Port Authority.
"I think building a consensus for the two groups working together is important," said Domenick Mucci, Steubenville mayor and regional planning director for Jefferson County. "I think in time it will work itself out, once we have an understanding."
Although anxious to get started on its work, he said the port authority needs to start by adopting a mission statement and goals.
"They're looking for a project right out of the gate, but that will come in time," he said.
Looman said that the two organizations "obviously will want to ... work together to make things happen in Jefferson County, and this is a good first step."
During the partners' meeting, host Tony Mougianis of Apollo Pro Cleaning said his company's growth and expansion "is an example of the good things that can happen in Jefferson County."
Apollo Pro has roughly 75 employees companywide, he said.
Immediate Past CIC President and board member Ken Perkins said they realized five new memberships at a partnership development steak fry, held recently on the grounds of Voto Sales, adding that it was fully funded through sponsorships rather than CIC funding.
"For the first time I can remember, we are more privately funded than publicly funded," he added.