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‘Something happening’ in county

Looman says outlook very good for growth

November 2, 2012
By JESS LOOMAN - Staff correspondent , The Herald-Star

WINTERSVILLE - Ed Looman, executive director of Progress Alliance, made his quarterly visit to Village Council on Thursday and presented a report verifying there is "something happening here."

Looman said the public-private economic development organization continues to meet with out-of-town prospects and tour various available properties in the county. Just this week, he pointed out, three companies visited the agency to gather additional information on sites.

"It's safe to say our county continues to be seen as a prime location for service companies related to the shale industry," Looman added. "More and more companies are understanding why Jefferson County, because of its location, is the right place to be."

Council also learned that Heavy Duty Industrial Services, which has an operation in Wintersville, now has more than 100 employees, all from the area, and its work force will continue to grow as the year moves forward. The firm, operating on Kragel Road, is Jefferson County's top shale-related industry employer.

Looman offered what he termed "encouraging news" about Jefferson County's employment rates.

"At end of September, our county had 1,000 more people working than it did at the end of January," he reported. "We still have a long way to go, but the important issue is we are making progress."

He also told council that now, nine companies related to the shale industry have job orders posted with Jefferson County Connections. In addition, he said Connections is planning an oil and gas job expo for early December inside the Fort Steuben Mall.

Looman also provided details on sales tax collections rising during 2012 in Jefferson and other shale counties in the state. The increased revenue, he added, is helping to offset some of the loss of local government funding from the state.

Finally, he pointed out the work of his organization would not be possible with the support it receives from both the public and private sectors.

"I've said it before and I will say again, collaboration and cooperation have played major roles in the ability of our organization to achieve its mission," he said. "I can't thank you enough for the support we have received from the village of Wintersville. Also, I want to point out that your village administrator, Walt Ziemba, has been a valuable asset to us."

Following Looman's presentation, which included reference to the newly formed Jefferson County Port Authority, Mayor Bob Gale discussed his concerns regarding the village's funding of Progress Alliance in 2013. He noted Wintersville has been a long-time financial supporter of the organization.

"This in no way is any reflection of how we feel about the work you and the staff at Progress Alliance have performed over the past few years," he told Looman. "We are very impressed with your work and continued dedication to the county. However, we will need to see how the port authority will benefit Wintersville in the long-run before we make a financial commitment to Progress Alliance again. We need to see where Wintersville's money will lie in port authority decisions."

Gale voiced further concern regarding village representation on the port authority board.

"Currently, the village has a voice with Progress Alliance," he noted. "The village has no representation on the port authority."

The board then heard from Ziemba, who updated members on Phases 1 and 2 of the waste water treatment plant.

"We will need the contract signed for Phase 1 so that I can present the information to Quicksall on Monday," he told council. "We will set the pre-construction shortly after next week.

"We are currently in the process of applying for a low-interest loan through the (state Division of Environmental and Financial Assistance) for Phase 2, which is due Nov. 8," he explained. "We are hoping to bid for Phase 2 by late spring depending on available funding."

He then told council the second public hearing regarding the Gumps Lane water line replacement was held Thursday.

"The total project is $511,915 and we are hoping to get $223,600 from a Community Development Block Grant and $244,999 from an OPWC grant," he stated, adding "$38,316 will be the cost of the local share. We still need to complete half of the income surveys, and we should know by late spring if we receive the funding."

In other business:

Ziemba told council AEP crews will trim trees, cut brush, chip and use herbicides on trees in the village at some point in 2013.

Council heard from Tera Manor resident Donna McCart regarding paving of the cul-de-sac. Gale told McCart that "Tera Manor is first on the list for next year and it will depend on funding."

Councilman Robbie Martin thanked those who attended the Halloween party held Wednesday night. "We had a great turnout and it turned out to be a big success," he said. Gale also thanked the police and fire departments for their presence during trick-or-treat Wednesday.

The next council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Nov. 15.

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