Collaborative development is sought
CAMBRIDGE — The Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth and the Appalachian Partnership Inc. held their annual meeting Tuesday in Cambridge, outlining economic development activities in Southeastern Ohio.
APEG represents 25 counties in Southeastern Ohio and API represents 32 counties, including Jefferson and Harrison.
APEG was formed seven years ago under the leadership of Joseph Hamrock, a Mingo Junction native, who at the time was AEP president, to promote a team of economic development specialists in the private and public sectors. Hamrock also was presented an award from API for being the founding chairperson of the APEG/API board, serving from 2011 through 2013.
One of the notable projects of APEG in 2018 was the startup of JSW USA mill in Mingo Junction. The electric-arc furnace at JSW, a $270 million project, will create 280 jobs. A short film about JSW was shown during the meeting.
The annual report showed 19 projects, with 1,046 job commitments, and a capital investment of $564 million. APEG is a nonprofit organization that contracts with JobsOhio to provide economic development incentives, talent development services, site selection and site readiness services across the region.
Mike Jacoby, APEG president and chief executive officer, said APEG was contacted by JSW about restarting the electric-arc furnace. Edward Looman, APEG project manager, worked closely with JSW on getting financial incentives.
Looman, during the JSW film, said he wanted to bring steelmaking back to the Ohio Valley. He said the ultimate goal of JSW is to have 1,000 workers at the Mingo Junction plant.
APEG also presented awards to several legislators, including state Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, and state Sen. Frank Hoagland, R-Mingo Junction, for working to get rural industrial park legislation introduced, which includes $25 million in funding. The legislation is pending and is part of the budget bill.
The keynote speaker at the meeting was J.P. Nauseef, who was appointed by Gov. Mike DeWine as JobsOhio president and chief investment officer. Nauseef said economic development is often misunderstood.
He said economic development is a job bringing the business, government and education sectors together to better life in communities.
APEG and JobsOhio since 2016 have been involved in 51 projects, offering $2 million in tax credits and $13 million in loans and grants. The work has resulted in 8,900 jobs being created or retained, with a payroll of $475 million.
Nauseef said he went on a 100 day listening tour throughout the state, talking to business and community leaders about economic development. He said some of the common themes were expanding the work force through training, investing more in site development, a statewide effort to increase international air service and investing in Ohio entrepreneurial innovation.
He said JobsOhio in the next several months will be developing a strategy, which will be implemented in the fall.
Jacoby and John Molinaro, API president and chief executive officer, presented the Prosperity Plan for APEG and API. The plan will be used to set an economic development vision, goals and strategies for the region.
A consultant was hired to assist in the development of the plan, Molinaro said.
Teams were established with members from the public and private sectors.
More than 36 work sessions were held involving 453 stakeholders and partners and 194 business leaders.
Molinaro said the work sessions were geared to give businesses more of a voice in economic development strategies.
The plan maps out strategic work on common priorities — priorities that grow quality jobs, enhance quality of life, to retain and attract talent and expand economic prosperity across the region.
“By working together, we maximize assets to ultimately change the data, the economic indicators that define our region’s economic prosperity. When we focus on moving the economic ‘needle’ upward, we shape a legacy that fosters prosperity for future generations. For decades, Appalachian Ohio has simply tried to survive. This plan is about working together to foster thriving private and public sectors,” the plan states.
Jacoby said the plan noted a shortage of sites and buildings ready for development. He said many small and medium businesses face financing gaps to move expansion forward.
Lack of high-speed Internet in the region was noted as a deterrent for growth.
He said APEG is focusing on cluster development, such as timbering and furniture construction, and continued development of the gas and oil industry.
Jacoby said all businesses and economic development specialists are aware of the “brain drain” in the region, and the difficulty of finding qualified workers. He said many young people don’t understand the opportunities available to them in the region.
APEG also is working on targeted business attraction, recruiting companies to settle in the region.
The plan has 29 teams across the region working on 13 strategic elements of the plan. There are 20 different organizations across the region working on the plan, Jacoby said.
“We think we are on the right path. If we work together as a team, more good things will happen,” he said.
Kimberly Hahn, Steubenville councilwoman at large, and Evan Scurti, Jefferson County Port Authority executive director, attended the meeting.
Hahn said she was excited about the plan. She agreed that business, government and education must work together for economic development.
“Economic development is a team sport, and I would like to know how Steubenville can be part of that team,” Hahn said.
Hahn said the Jefferson County Port Authority works on large projects, but she would like for Steubenville to have someone who would work on smaller projects in the downtown area, including the repurposing of the old city building into a market.
“We need the (Franciscan University of Steubenville), government and business to come together,” she said.
Scurti said he gives APEG credit for building a team approach to economic development plans, including getting businesses involved in the process. He said APEG has done a lot of good in the region, but it was time to take it to the next level with shared strategic steps.
Scurti said the region is diverse but shares a lot of similarities. He said there are a lot of small historic towns.
“We need APEG to be a regional voice to bring these small towns together,” he said.
Scurti said economic development is a team process, bringing together business, government and education. He said government can provide public finance tools and education can help with training an available work force.