PDT Staff Writer
Local business leaders have contributed $200,000 to make a feasibility study for the proposed Franklin Furnace New Steel project possible. Because of contributions, business leaders have now raised enough money for the Hatch Study that basically says the project is viable, giving credibility to the proposed project. Investment bankers and equity investors rely heavily on that study to determine whether to invest in a project or not.
“That’s cash to make this happen,” local developer Jeff Albrecht said. “It is a long shot, and even if it does pay off, it’s not going to pay dividends for a long time. But the people in the community have opened up their hearts and their wallets to try to make this thing happen. The union has come through, and they have contributed almost $75,000 toward the project. And I think that’s wonderful that all the parties can come together in our community to try to make this thing happen.”
Albrecht said another source of the funding has come from people who were born here, but no longer live here.
“These are people who have since moved away, and after reading this story in your (Times) news articles, have called Andy (Glockner) and Rick (Morgan) and said, ‘what can I do? I want to help make this happen also.’” Albrecht said. “I just think that’s great. And to think that these people still keep in touch with their town through reading the articles in the Daily Times on the Internet. I’ll bet as many people read the paper via the Internet as those who read it locally. It’s heartwarming to me. It’s just a great, great thing.”
Glockner said he has personally experienced a large interest from people who have moved away.
“I have three friends from out of town who read the articles that you’ve (Times) written in the paper and didn’t know anything about it,” Glockner said. “One lives in Cincinnati. One’s in Pittsburgh, and another one in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Two of them have already committed to invest their money, and they don’t even know anything about this project, they just said, ‘we want to do something to give back to the community where we grew up.’ They remember how vibrant this community was when they grew up and would like to see a revitalization of the economic vitality of this community.”
“Lawrence County Commissioners, Lawrence County business people, Scioto County government, Scioto County business people, local residents participating in this; local labor - Donnie Criner has been a huge part. They (the unions) got skin in the game,” Glockner said. “The Scioto Area Foundation has set up a special fund for anybody who wants to invest back into the community. If they want to give money to this cause in any amount, of course they will get a tax deduction, those monies will flow through these economic development opportunities.”
Morgan said, if the project, which would produce a new, stronger and lighter steel, comes to fruition, it would be the biggest thing to happen in this area since the A-plant boom of the mid-’50s.
“It’s totally within Scioto County this time instead of Pike County, but this is really big for Scioto County and Lawrence County, across the river (Kentucky), and other surrounding communities,” Morgan said. “It’s not only a ton of construction jobs, but obviously there’s got to be people to operate this facility and maintain it. And as most people would know, who have seen these things happen, there are businesses that spring up around these. It’s just incredible, and the increase in economics in these areas is huge. Even the taxes that are paid into it affect the economy. It’s just a win-win for us.”
Morgan reiterated though that the project is a long shot.
“But as long as we continue to move forward, overcoming these obstacles and hurdles, we’re going to keep digging. We’re going to keep fighting for it,” Morgan said. “When I talk to people, I just call it an investment in our community, nothing more. We have all lived here all our lives, and we’ve all done well, and our families have done well, and the people we employ as well. We’re just wanting to see Portsmouth revitalized, a renaissance of what this town used to be.”
Morgan said Ohio Governor John Kasich is now fully involved in the process.
“We have visited with the governor twice,” Morgan said. “I think the first shock was the first time they went that we weren’t asking for money, we were just asking for an opportunity to help us get the door open to do this.”
Morgan said John Schultes, CEO for New Steel, will be traveling to Germany in the next several weeks.
“He’ll be talking up some partnerships, and meeting with some suppliers about some equipment that would go into this plant,” Morgan said. “And he will take that study that Andy (Glockner) was talking about, which basically proves, if it says what we believe it to say, it’s a viable product. They can make the product. They’ve got their margins. They can build it. They’ve got buyers for it. There’s a market for the steel, so that’s a real good appraisal of what New Steel is able to do with that plant.”
Glockner said he considers the situation unprecedented.
“Even if we don’t get this project, I think we’ve proven that we can work together,” Glockner said. “There’s no party lines. There’s no county lines. It’s, ‘lets do something for the good of the whole southeastern Ohio and northern Kentucky region.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at firstname.lastname@example.org