It’s been a busy couple weeks at the Southern Ohio Port Authority.

First, I traveled to San Diego to attend the Foreign Direct Investment World Summit. At the same time, Adam Phillips and Mike Payton attended the Ohio Economic Development Association Economic Development Basic Course. Also that week, Chris Smith and Andrew Gedeon participated in the Ohio Brownfield Conference. Three events happened simultaneously, all supported by representatives of SOPA, the city, county and village. All of the events are critical to our community’s success, and it was great to see the collaboration among a lot of different organizations to make sure we were well represented.

We spent the next two weeks preparing for the semi-final round of the America’s Best Communities competition. I want to thank everyone who came out and participated in our dry run and practice sessions. I also want to say thank you to our community and our sponsors. The outpouring of support both during the competition and afterward was absolutely amazing. There have been over 100,000 views of Shane Runion’s “I Am Proud of Where I am From” music video, and there were over a thousand positive comments from our community on social media. Thanks to all of you from everyone at SOPA, Main Street Portsmouth, the Portsmouth Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Portsmouth & Scioto County Visitors Bureau. I also want to personally thank Adam Phillips, Barry Weatherspoon, Jerry Schneider, Gina Chabot, Kirk Donges, Joseph Pratt, Lisa Carver, Kim Bauer and Derek Allen – these team members spent countless hours working together to improve our community, and I am forever grateful.

While we were very disappointed in the results, we were very happy that our sister community of Huntington, West Virginia advanced along with our new friends in Madison, Indiana and Statesboro, Georgia. We have a strong relationship with Huntington through our board position with the Huntington Tri-State airport, and Mayor Williams was a panelist with Adam and I at the national brownfield conference last year. We must use the successes in both communities to market our region to larger national audiences. I also want to give a shoutout to the Huntington Area Development Council that recently helped us work to recruit a company.

The ABC competition was like many other events we attend. Inevitably, we find someone who says, “My family is from Portsmouth…or Ironton…or…Huntington…” – it never fails. At the ABC competition, we learned that Madison’s mayor has family in Wheelersburg. It was especially interesting since my wife is from Madison, and my mother-in-law taught junior high social studies to Madison’s primary presenter. It’s a small world. The good thing about these connections is that a delegation from Portsmouth is going to travel to Madison later this summer to take a look at its riverfront development. Madison is very similar to Portsmouth. Its equivalent to Boneyfiddle is slightly larger, and the city has been working on its riverfront redevelopment for about 30 years. We hope to take some of the lessons learned from Madison and apply them to our efforts.

I’ve been asked repeatedly, what’s next? How do we continue the positive momentum that was built from the ABC competition? The good news is that we have a plan. Our plan includes constructing a connector from Second Street to Alexandria Point, rehabilitating the access at Court Street, improving road access to OSCO and InfraMetals in New Boston, and continuing to work with Frontier and Ciena to make Portsmouth Frontier’s first community in Ohio with free public Wi-Fi. We have a lot of work to do, but we will implement our community revitalization plan. We’re also going to introduce a new social media campaign and announce different ways our local citizens can get involved. You’ll see it here first, so stay tuned!

Lastly, Derek Allen and I are at the University of Oklahoma’s Economic Development Institute being held this week in San Antonio, Texas. One of the instructors worked in economic development with the Portsmouth steel mill, and as we were riding the elevator after class, one our classmates said… “You’re from Portsmouth…my family is from…” Like I said, it never fails.

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By Jason Kester

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