By Frank Lewis
Everybody in government and business is about something. Portsmouth Vice-Mayor and First Ward City Councilman Kevin W. Johnson is about economic development. It is the thread that runs through his political and business life.
Johnson, who chairs the city’s Economic Development Committee, has been named to the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission (OVRDC) executive committee, along with Scioto County Commissioner Mike Crabtree, and Wayne Kempf of PNC Bank.
“It (OVRDC) is a clearing house for federal and state funds essentially for this area,” Johnson said. “There is everything from an infrastructure mapping program for cities and villages, long term investment plans, small government funds, district funds through the Ohio Public Works Commission, and funds from the Appalachian Regional Commission.”
Johnson said the funds go out under a competitive process and within the entire OVRDC all of the counties are represented so that those involved with the commission can analyze the worthiness of the projects submitted by the various counties, cities and villages.
“So I don’t see my responsibility as just representing Portsmouth, but Scioto County,” Johnson said. “These are county appointments. And what I hope to do is represent our county, and city, because the city makes applications as well, and to make sure that not only are our T’s crossed and our I’s dotted to give us the best opportunity, but that we have a voice. That’s the primary purpose. We’re representing our district.”
Johnson recently supported the city appropriating $50,000 to the Southern Ohio Port Authority (SOPA) because he said, as a regional arm of development, that board has more development experience and contacts with development entities in surrounding communities.
“Our goal is to give up economic development as a formal process in the city and let SOPA handle that,” Johnson said. “The the focus of our economic development committee will be how we can enhance what SOPA is doing.”
Council chose to bring the issue up after receiving more information from SOPA as to how their money would be spent.
Johnson said the one thing Scioto County needs is to have is an explanation as to what tax inducements it has for companies considering locating in the county.
“We don’t have a listing,” Johnson said. “There isn’t a comprehensive listing of everything that is available throughout the county, and the city hasn’t touched that since 2004. It hasn’t been updated.”
Johnson said serving on the OVRDC executive committee comes with a steep learning curve for him.
“This is a little bit different from what I have been used to,” Johnson said. “But I’m getting a lot of help from (SOPA Director) Jason (Kester) and Bill Whitaker (Solid Rock Construction). I’ll be serving also with Wayne Kempf. I think we’ve got a good group.”
Whitaker and Kester were appointed to the OVRDC Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) Committee.
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 252, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.