STEUBENVILLE - Jefferson County is just a signature and a zoning change away from landing upwards of 50 jobs to start with a California-based graphics and screen print company, while announcements are anticipated "in the near future" about two other companies locating at the industrial park, Progress Alliance Executive Director Ed Looman said Tuesday.
Looman told the Community Improvement Corp. and Progress Alliance Partners that all three deals are "getting closer" to fruition.
But before the deal with the still-unidentified graphics and screen print company can be finalized, Steubenville Council will have to rezone its intended site, a 7-acre property on Lover's Lane where the Rose by Clara's Catering are located, from medium-density residential to light industrial.
DEVELOPMENT UPDATE — Community Improvement Corp. President Bob Chapman, left, listened as Progress Alliance Executive Director Ed Looman on Tuesday updated members on the status of business recruitment efforts in Jefferson County.
-- Linda Harris
First reading of that ordinance was Tuesday; a public hearing is scheduled for Aug. 6, after which the third and final reading would be heard.
Looman said the project has been more than two years in the making.
"It has huge growth potential," he said. "It would start with between 50 and 75 people the first year; if everything goes as planned, it could go as high as 200 jobs or more. It's a good companyand obviously they want to be here. We've overcome a lot of challenges to get where we are now."
Looman said the paperwork for the graphics and screen print project was "signed on this end and shipped to him, contingent on the zoning change being approved," and credited the cooperation of local leaders in bringing the company to the Upper Ohio Valley.
Progress Alliance manages and markets the industrial park for the county commission.
"I think it's a huge deal, but it also brings diversification," Looman told the group. "These are different kinds of jobs than we have here right now. Obviously, we're excited about the jobs (created) in the shale industry, but as it grows we can't forget that we need to diversify our employment base."
Looman, meanwhile, said he's hoping to be able to announce two new tenants at the Jefferson County Industrial Park "within the next couple weeks."
One of those prospects is in the shale industry, "the other is a company that's already doing some biz in the area but is expanding into the shale industry."
"We should be making those public in the near future," he said. "The remaining acreage, particularly the undeveloped acres, are starting to draw real interest from shale-related companies. Outside of the two deals we're working on now, we'll have about 36 acres left and the commissioners and I have been working closely to try and map out plans for developing additional acreage there, but there are a lot of needs - the road needs extended, the infrastructure needs extended."
But Looman said some companies have voiced interest in the property as is.
"What we have in the hopper could be huge for us," he said. "Companies are interested in that land even though it's not what you'd call shovel ready. They would step up and buy the land and develop their own infrastructure. It'd be a real win for the county if we could sell that land, create jobs and not have to worry about putting the proceeds of the sale back into infrastructure."
Tuesday's meetings were held at the Laurels, and its administrator, Melissa Ross-Merkel, told the Progress Alliance Partners the 98-bed skilled and intermediate care facility has about 95 employees.
In other action, the CIC board approved a three-year contract for Looman, with a 3 percent pay raise in the first year. The deal has a reopener clause "contingent on another evaluation and funding" after that first year.
Bill Lamatrice, a member of the Jefferson County Oil & Gas Committee and a former shale industry worker, talked about expectations for the shale industry, which he described as "in its infancy.
"We have to focus on doing the right things," he said, adding that ensuring the work force has the necessary training is critical.
"There's a good chance we can make a pretty good future (for Jefferson County), if we stay focused," he added.
(Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)