PDT Staff Writer
While officials tout the viability of the southern Ohio area as a good location for industry, Shawnee State University is doing something about it by inviting community members to join local, state and regional government leaders, as well as transportation officials, to explore opportunities for regional economic and community development. During the one-day free Intermodal Conference, participants will examine the advantages of the region’s transportation system including the Ohio River, railroads, airports and highways.
The event is planned for Thursday, Aug. 30, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. in the Sodexo Ballroom on the campus at SSU, and topics will include: “The Ohio River as it relates to the Panama Canal expansion and Heartland Corridor which begins in Richmond, Va. and ends in Columbus, Ohio;” “Possible partnerships between the ports of Portsmouth, Huntington and Cincinnati;” “Regional partnerships with Rickenbacker Airport;” “Possibilities for job creation;” “Necessary training and education,” and “The role of higher education as a partner in regional development.”
“Part of our mission is to play a role in the development of the region,” SSU President Rita Rice Morris said. “And we have, for at least the years that I’ve been here, been involved in economic development activities. But we recently changed the mission of the university to bring more of a focus upon that and regional research. So when I hired (Assistant to the President for Governmental Relations) John (Carey), I asked him to help us take the next step in doing that.”
The conference brings to light the intermodal opportunities of southern and central Ohio.
“Where Portsmouth is located we’re wanting to see if we can take advantage of our location with the river and the rail,” Carey said. “So those are things that we will be talking about.”
Speakers and panelists from all over the state, region and country will be participating in the day-long event. The moderators will be State Representatives Dr. Terry Johnson, Joe Uecker and Morris.
“The moderators will wrap it up with an action plan for community members to work on after the conference is over,” Carey said. “So what we hope is that we’ll learn things out of this conference that will help us become more competitive economically and lead to more in not only Scioto County but south central Ohio, as well as the Tri-State area.”
Morris said the conference is a natural event for the university to stage.
“We’re brokers,” Morris said. “We’re sharers of information. We have the resources. We have the people that can help us try to bring together ideas for the community to talk about. So I think it matches the role of the regional university so well. It just clicks into place if you look at regional universities.”
The conference comes at a time when several industries are looking at the region as a location because of those resources.
“It seems like the right time,” Carey said. “People seem to really be interested in it. I think it will really put us in a stronger position to be more competitive economically.”
Guest speakers include Jim Bruce, Bruce Consultants; Chris Ingraham, Norfolk Southern Industrial Relations; Patrick Donovan, Rahall Appalachian Institute, Marshall University; John Molinaro, CEO of APEG region for Jobs Ohio and John Milton, CSX Headquarters, with local political leaders taking part in panel discussions.
“It’s about our community and a possible future for our community,” Morris said. “I’m excited about it.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at firstname.lastname@example.org