Amid the negativity of criticism without solutions, Keyser, a representative of Shawnee Labor Council, unassumingly stepped to the microphone and began to give another perspective on the future of our area:
"Haverhill North Coke - SunCoke Corporation - recently announced plans that they will again double the size of their plant. Scioto County is looking at approximately a $1-billion investment and hundreds of permanent, good-paying jobs," he said.
Keyser said in addition to those jobs, the plant will have the ability to produce electricity, which means they can sell that power at cheaper-than-market value to other plants.
Next, Keyser talked about New Steel - MMK, set to announce in the near future a plant that will create 1,500 construction jobs, a $1.3-billion first phase, more than a thousand good-paying jobs, and the creation of many opportunities for supply and technical support-oriented businesses.
Keyser talked about another project, Infra-Metals, with a more than $10-million investment, and almost 100 new good-paying jobs.
He also spoke of the growth projections for Norfolk-Southern, and the fact they are refurbishing and reopening their car repair shop right here in Portsmouth, creating approximately 80 good-paying jobs - and he hardly touched on the promise of jobs created because of increased demand for rail traffic.
Another member of the southern Ohio community is about to go through another growth spurt. The A-Plant - as we have come to know it - in Piketon, is building a $3.5-billion centrifuge plant, with the creation of 800 construction jobs, and it could create as many as 500 permanent jobs.
Keyser also reminded council and those in attendance of the DUF6 - a $1-billion plant bringing 400 construction jobs and 50 permanent positions.
Keyser talked about the latest growth of Southern Ohio Medical Center, presently involved in a 50,000-square-foot, $100-million expansion of its emergency and surgery departments, producing 500 construction jobs and employing 200 people in the new addition.
Keyser mentioned the new jobs that came to the area as the result of the location of King's Daughters Medical Center, the future expansion of MarkWest in South Shore, Ky., and the fact the building trades also have made available hundreds of new apprenticeship positions.
He had done his homework, and he reminded all of us who reside in this area the glass is not just half full, it's about 75 percent full - which means there is room for even more growth.
Talk about your glaring contrasts: While Mayor James Kalb was talking about the increased population in the city of Portsmouth, one of the meeting's "regulars" began making ethnic remarks, which to any thinking person were drowned out by Keyser's positive forecast for the community.
Keyser closed his remarks with the following statement:
"The question that we have really is: Who do we want charting the path that this city should take during this time of great opportunity - those who see nothing but doom and gloom, or those who want to capitalize on all of the positive things that are happening in our area. I hope, just this one time, we can have a unanimous vote in support of progress, and move forward together."
While the vote to put the Justice Center and the City Center on the November ballot was not unanimous, it did get a majority vote, and now citizens will have the opportunity to choose to step forward or step backward.
Austin Keyser is right. It truly is time to capitalize on all of the positive things that are happening in our area.