PDT Staff Writer
New Steel executives were at the Ohio University-Southern campus in Ironton over the weekend to meet with Appalachian government officials. The meeting’s intention was to bring everyone up to speed on the steel production facilities proposed for Franklin Furnace. State Representative Terry Johnson arranged the session.
“He wanted to acquaint our Appalachian legislators with New Steel,” Lawrence County Economic Development Director Dr. Bill Dingus said. “It was important that the Appalachian legislators be informed. When you look at the state of Ohio and the projects coming and going, each of your large metropolitan areas, such as, Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, they have cohort of legislators who look at the picture of that community and the idea of having that Appalachian delegation that will do that as well in our region, I think is so very important.”
Dingus said, before term limits were passed in Ohio, southern Ohio was represented by people such as Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, Vernal G. Riffe, II, Senator Oakley Collins and Senator Myrl Shoemaker.
“They really thought rural. They really thought Appalachian,” Dingus said. “But as time goes on, we do not always have the priorities given on a small individual basis, with our senators and representatives throughout the Appalachian counties. They can have a significant impact on the philosophies, the directions, the total procedures that government is moving in Ohio. So I felt that Representative Johnson’s uniting of that effort was equally important to sharing with the Appalachian rehabilitation opportunities available through New Steel.”
State Senator for Ohio’s 14th District Joe Uecker was also in attendance.
“I was glad that Representative Johnson put this meeting together and also that he invited me to attend,” Uecker said. “It was a very interesting meeting with the leadership team from New Steel. I was very impressed with the technology of the project as well as the commitment the company has to get it started. I imagine there must be a great amount of stress to have been so close to implementation only to have something go wrong that acts to sidetrack the project. But again, their commitment speaks well to their leadership. This technology that can produce very high strength steel can move the United States closer to once again becoming the world leader in both steel and manufacturing in general. This project would be great in terms of jobs for an area that has been hit hard by the economy for a number of years now. I fully support it in every way possible.”
Dingus said proposed projects such as New Steel are part of the process of unifying all the communities along the Ohio River in Scioto and Lawrence counties.
“I think the important thing that we really have to look at here, is the fact that this is one of the important moves of trying to pull together the whole Appalachian delegation,” Dingus said. “When you talk about the number of legislators in Appalachia — senators and representatives — you have a pretty good body that truly can look about the rural resources. Most of Appalachia is within 30-40 miles of the Ohio River, so that becomes a major player.”
Recent development has been centered around the possibility of this area becoming an intermodal center, utilizing the river, rail, and highways.
“This is something we’ve got to make happen, and New Steel is one piece of it,” Dingus said. “That whole corridor (Wheelersburg to Hanging Rock) is just such an opportunity.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.