STEUBENVILLE -Veteran labor leader Kyle Brown was elected to lead the Community Improvement Corp. for the next two years Tuesday during a public and sometimes heated meeting that saw members debate the future of the economic development organization and a proposed new county port authority.
The tone of the meeting was set by Ken Perkins, who has served as president of the CIC for the past three years.
"I am proud of what this organization has done over the past three years. We have brought this organization from a relatively unknown, behind-the-scenes kind of an operation to one that is at the forefront of all things great in Jefferson County, and while doing so we have garnered our share of criticism and micromanagement from those who have not participated in or have not vested in the progress we have made," said Perkins.
"Over the past year with the implementation of the strategic plan it seems to me that we have lost the vision that I was sold when I was first made a member of this elite group of men and women," added Perkins.
The verbal battle continued when Bill Blake, chairman of the CIC nominating committee, announced a proposed slate of officers for the new term that included Karen D'Anniballe for president, Alex Marshall for vice president, Robert Filby as treasurer, Blake as secretary and Geary Teramana for the open board seat.
That slate was immediately challenged by Jim Emmerling, a Partner in Progress, who nominated Brown for president, Ed Florak to remain as treasurer and Pat Hyer for the board seat. Emmerling was nominated for the vice president position by Perkins.
DISCUSSING CIC'S FUTURE— Jefferson County Commissioner Tom Gentile, left, talks with Kyle Brown following a Community Improvement Corp. meeting that saw Brown elected president of the economic development organization. - Dave Gossett
Following a 45-minute debate on how nominations could be made and who could vote for the officers, Brown was elected president and Marshall as vice president. Blake was chosen for the secretary's post, Florak was re-elected treasurer and Teramana was named to the open board seat.
Emmerling questioned the three Jefferson County commissioners regarding their financial commitment to the CIC and was told the county had no plans to cut the $75,000 funding.
"We are governed by the Ohio Revised Code. We recognized the way we were running Progress Alliance for many years and it had morphed into something outside of the Ohio Revised Code. We have never attempted to disrespect anyone in the community or any of the Partners in Progress," said Commissioner Tom Gentile.
"This attempt to transition to a county port authority is a huge thing. Trying to get the city council and commissioners together 10 years ago was impossible. No one is trying to disrespect anyone. We see this organization transitioning into the port authority. There were no secrets at the meeting last week. It was an open meeting attended by the press," stated Gentile.
Steubenville Council and the Jefferson County commissioners reached a tentative agreement last week during a joint meeting to create a countywide port authority.
Rich DeLuca, a Partner in Progress, said creation of a county port authority may be disruptive to any business coming into the county."
"It bothers me there are things happening. I read things were happening. I am not challenging the changes. But you owe it to the businesses out there to explain what is changing for us," said DeLuca.
"What will happen to Ed Looman (Progress Alliance executive director) ? We are at a tipping point of businesses coming here. If you break up the CIC, other counties will be trying to get the new businesses. You better be careful about making some of these changes," remarked Bill Chesson.
According to Commissioner Tom Graham, "the CIC asked the council and commissioners to help implement a port authority. The CIC was instrumental in putting together a port authority."
"The consensus was the county would be better served with a port authority. We should still work on the port authority but we need to be careful that we don't drop the ball. Everyone in this room is here for the right reasons. We have to be careful as we proceed," noted Commissioner David Maple.
"This is typical when you have a CIC and are creating a port authority. There is fighting that goes on. Some CIC organizations and port authorities work very well together and some despise each other. Our goal here is to work together," stated Graham.
"The most important thing is to our economic development office. We need to make sure we maintain a balanced economic development office. If it makes sense to have a port authority and still have a CIC that is another issue. We absolutely need funding from the private sector. Let's not beat away at our economic development office. We have three people there doing a fine job. We have a good opportunity to expand our growth. Let's try to stay cohesive here," urged Blake.
Steubenville City Manager Cathy Davison said the CIC "will essentially transition into the port authority. But the Partners in Progress must remain. We must also maintain this as a public-private entity."
Graham said the port authority will be able to seek grants and have the power of imminent domain.
"We went down this road at the urging of Ed Looman and the CIC. There was never an attempt to disrespect the role of the CIC or Partners in Progress. There is no attempt to change the staff," concluded Gentile.
Following the CIC meeting the Progress Alliance members heard reports from Barb West, chief executive officer of the Jefferson County Community Action Council, and Michael McGlumphy, director of the Workforce Investment Act office, who detailed efforts to train the local work force for jobs in the oil and gas industry.