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Port authority seeks stronger ties

February 5, 2014
By DAVE GOSSETT - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - The Jefferson County Port Authority board of directors plan to meet with Steubenville Council next month to build on a relationship that has cooled during the past several months.

Third Ward Councilman Greg Metcalf told the directors Tuesday he will meet with City Manager Tim Boland, Mayor Domenick Mucci and Finance Director Alyssa Kerker to discuss if funds are available for supporting the countywide economic development agency.

"It makes a lot of sense to work together," noted Jay Zatta, a member of the authority's board of directors.

The authority also indicated an interest in managing the city's South End development properties.

"You already have the streets, the water, sanitary sewer and electric in place. It is a developer's dream. We were supposed to manage that property and then it was pulled away from us," said board member Greg Nemeth.

Board Chairman Rob D'Anniballe also encouraged Metcalf to work to improve the city's image.

"It is important to talk about the positives and not have to respond to what people are reading in the newspaper or watching on television. There is an image issue. And your legislative body can't look like a city in dissension," said D'Anniballe.

Authority Economic Development Director Evan Scurti said he will meet with City Council soon in order to brainstorm ideas.

"We are all in this together. My impression is some people feel we are marketing East Springfield as opposed to downtown Steubenville. But we are all in this together," said Ed Florak, a board member.

And according to board member Mark Teramana, "Steubenville has some issues. One is the crime issue and we need to address that, be aware of it and get rid of it."

Metcalf said he will support a special council session to meet with the port authority.

In other business, Jefferson County Commission President Dave Maple reported the commissioners would like to see excess revenue devoted to the counties affected by the oil and gas industry.

"If you look at the areas where the casinos opened they get a bigger bite of the revenue. We believe the same should be true of the oil and gas severance tax," said Maple.

The board of directors also heard from Scurti who said the Ohio Enterprise Zone reporting season officially has started.

"The only property currently under an abatement agreement in Jefferson County is QPI Tools. I hope to meet with their management this week and hand deliver their annual status report form, which is due back to the state by March 31," Scurti remarked.

Scurti said he met with U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta; U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio; and state Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, to discuss the proposed severance tax to the Jefferson County Industrial Park site development potential.

"I also had a good conversation with the new Steubenville city manager and members of his administrative team regarding long-term partnerships with the port authority. I have also had meetings with TIMET and National Colloid and presented a port authority overview to the Friends of Smithfield Corp.," cited Scurti.

The board discussed a marketing brochure for the port authority and several directors encouraged Scurti to stress the potential for smaller backroom operations.

"If we focus too much on industrial and manufacturing opportunities we may miss some smaller commercial opportunities. We may see more commercial opportunities. That may not be what we are used to but it is what we have a chance to pursue," stated D'Anniballe.

Jefferson County Commissioner Thomas Graham suggested changing to name of the industrial park to reflect the commercial aspects of the businesses located in the park.

Authority Manager Donna Hrezo announced a, "meet and greet the new director" will be held from 1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 27 at the Towers.

Scurti said he will be prepared to make official comments at 5:15 p.m.

"This is a good opportunity for people to focus on Evan and Donna. They are our team going forward. It is good for investors to see board involvement, but we are now past our start-up issues. We need to know when to step back," D'Anniballe noted.

The board also officially thanked Zatta for the year he served as board chairman.

"Jay gave 110 percent during the past year. He was so good to work with. We had some growing pains as a new organization but Jay was always very professional at all times," said Hrezo.

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