PDT Staff Writer
Four counties in southern Ohio are banding together to focus their combined resources on improving the area’s business climate leading to more jobs and a higher quality of life in the Appalachian region. The leaders of economic development programs in Scioto, Jackson, Pike and Ross counties Friday announced a $126,000 capital contribution to the Joint Economic Development Initiative of Southern Ohio (JEDISO) from the Fluor B&W Portsmouth Community Commitment Fund. The grant will be used to fund a slate of activities developed by the new association to promote economic development in the area.
“We will be marketing the assets of the four counties as one economic region to create jobs and new wealth,” said Chris Manegold, spokesman for the group. “Our goal is to position southern Ohio as the location of choice for resident companies to prosper as well as for prospective new companies to pursue their growth objectives. Initiative partners will continue to focus on support and services for existing businesses to retain and expand employment while the Fluor B&W grant provides the impetus for an aggressive business attraction effort to bring new quality jobs to the region.”
Manegold, who is Chief Executive Officer of the Ross County-based Economic Development Alliance of Southern Ohio (EDASO), is one of four economic development professionals and four county leaders comprising the JEDISO board of directors.
Representing Scioto County are Todd Book, Southern Ohio Port Authority (SOPA) Chairman, and Scioto Commissioner Mike Crabtree. Representing Ross County in addition to Manegold is EDASO Board Chairman Bill Beatty. Other JEDISO board members include Jennifer Jacobs, Executive Director of the Jackson County Economic Development Board (JCEDB), and JCEDB Chairman Tim Wojdacz; Chris Ervin, Director of Pike County Community and Economic Development, and Pike Commissioner Harry Rider.
“JEDISO does not replace any existing economic development offices,” Manegold said. “But with limited resources and the national trend towards regional collaboration, we felt we would benefit more by working together than as separate counties.”
JEDISO has organized as an unincorporated not-for-profit association to “advance, encourage and promote the industrial, economic, commercial and civic development” of the four counties, according to the charter signed by its members in December 2012. The public announcement was planned after Phase 1 funding was obtained from Fluor B&W.
Manegold said Phase 1 goals include developing and maintaining a website to market available sites and buildings, a consultant’s analysis of target industries and related facility requirements, professional development costs, and operating costs to complete the Phase 1 goals. All but the consultant services were included in the initial $126,000 grant. The search is underway for advisory services to complete Phase 1 objectives and to prepare Phase 2 plans.
The fund was established in 2010 to implement actions described in the Fluor B&W Community Commitment Plan (CCP), which is part of the company’s Decontamination and Decommissioning (D&D) Contract for the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant owned by the US Department of Energy (DOE) near Piketon.
“Fluor-B&W is committed to JEDISO’s plans to market the region collaboratively,” Bob Nichols, the Fluor-B&W fund’s Steering Group chairman, said. “We are excited at seeing their plans and look forward to assisting them throughout the duration of our Contract.”
The CCP details the company’s dedication to the growth and economic stabilization of the four-county region that is most impacted by operations at the Portsmouth Plant. The four main components of the plan are educational outreach, regional purchasing, community support and economic development. Since October 2010 Fluor-B&W has invested more than 5 percent of its award fee in the four-county region, allocating 80 percent of that to economic development.
With Friday’s grant, Fluor-B&W has contributed more than $346,000 directly to economic development programs and projects in the four counties since 2011. JEDISO has also received facilitation and technical support from the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission, whose 12-county service area includes the four counties.
“The initiative demonstrated by Fluor B&W to create the Community Commitment Plan to create long-lasting results is highly commendable and unprecedented,” said OVRDC Executive Director John Hemmings, who has facilitated and hosted many JEDISO meetings.
JEDISO Phase 2 activities will primarily focus on developing and implementing the regional marketing program. It will include funds to improve attractiveness of available industrial properties, to host familiarization tours for site selectors, to visit with targeted prospects, and to participate in trade shows and conferences with the objective of raising national and international awareness of the benefits of doing business in the four-county region.
Another goal of the Initiative is to create a positive image for the business climate in southern Ohio so that when potentially reusable industrial property becomes available at the DOE Portsmouth site as cleanup progresses over the years, its assets will be more favorably viewed as part of the region’s business advantages.
Manegold says JEDISO sees its activities as complementary to those of the Southern Ohio Diversification Initiative (SODI), the DOE Community Reuse Organization charged with leveraging the Government assets for the benefit of the same four-county region.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at email@example.com. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.