By Wayne Allen
The mission of the Southern Ohio Port Authority (SOPA) is to promote economic development in Scioto County. SOPA officials say Scioto County is better positioned to compete for possible development projects than it ever has been. SOPA Executive Director Jason Kester said Scioto County has been really close in the last six months to landing some big economic development projects.
“Twelve to 15 months ago was the first time Scioto County started inputing data into the JobsOhio system. We uploaded pictures of all of our sites and buildings, that’s an ongoing process. We just added a couple of buildings this month and hope to add one yet this week,” Kester said. “We had not been trying to get jobs or respond to requests for information from Jobs Ohio before 12-15 months ago.”
Kester said in the last month Portsmouth has been in the final three of sites being considered in Oho for a couple different projects.
“In a year we’ve went from not even trying to now we are competitive and beating out other locations in Ohio,” Kester said. “We have not hit anything yet, but you can’t catch a fish unless your fishing.”
He said the process starts with a site selector sending out a request for information to a number of states.
“They will pick (for example) Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. JobsOhio and the Appalachian Partnership For Economic Growth will then send out data sheets asking communities if they meet the specifications or they will identify your community as meeting this criteria,” Kester said. “We’ve been identified by JobsOhio as meeting certain criteria. Then we have went through the competitive process and met the criteria.”
Kester said the community has moved out of the first stages of getting a company to locate to the area twice in the last month.
“One of those projects was (for) 100 folks and one of them was up to 750 folks. Either one of those would have been transformative for Scioto County,” Kester said.
Kester said about 90 days ago he was contacted by the state because they want to put an emphasis on developing river assets around the state.
“We started trying to get information together about our river assets and properties next to the river we have in Scioto County,” Kester said. “At least once a week we have responded to RFP’s (Request For Product) on our river assets.”
Kester said one of the RFP’s is a project Ohio is still trying to land.
“Generally speaking, the project was for southern Ohio valued at over a billion dollars and 800 jobs,” he said. “Everybody says there is nothing good happening here, there is good stuff happening it’s just going on behind the scenes.”
Kester said he could not say enough good things about the corporation that goes on in the area.
He said Pike County just got a new Economic Development Director. Kester said he has helped them out on a number of occasions and they have helped him. Kester said he’s experienced the same kind of cooperation from Lawrence County economic development officials.
“We basically just sent out an email saying, ‘hey I need help’. We’ve responded to requests for help and have received assistance on our request for help,” Kester said.
For more information about the Southern Ohio Port Authority visit them on Facebook.
Wayne Allen can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 1933 or on Twitter @WayneallenPDT