When the Daily Times recently asked the Scioto County Commissioners how much money they had set aside for the Southen Ohio Port Authority (SOPA), they said they had not set any money aside for SOPA because Scioto County still stands to lose $2 million in sales tax revenue, wince the MCO tax was declared impermissible.
On Thursday, in an exclusive interview with the Times, Jason Kester, Director of SOPA, talked about the financial condition of the Authority.
“Right now, our budget is pretty much been contingent the last couple of years on (Scioto) County Commissioners government funding of Adam’s (Phillips) and my salary,” Kester said. “Right now, we haven’t got that (county funding) yet. We’re hopeful.”
Kester said if the funding isn’t forthcoming in the next month or two, SOPA will have to try to come up with an alternative funding source.
“Right now, I would say we’re about medium, but we need, by the next month or two, to start evaluating how we’re doing things,” Kester said.
The Commissioners told the Times it is the job of SOPA to look for private funding sources.
“I think last year, in grant funding, I brought in two or three million dollars,” Kester said. “I pretty much get up every day trying to find more money. We’re well aware that we’re supposed to be fundraising.”
Kester said the main problem is that the Portsmouth area doesn’t have enough big businesses to privately fund economic development.
“I was just in Atlanta (Ga.) and South Carolina talking to these folks and they get a lot of support in their communities from the state government,” Kester said. “Some of their sales tax goes to fund economic development. They get $10 million projects, sales tax revenue to develop industrial parks and all that stuff. In Ohio, we don’t have that luxury.”
Kester said there are only about 20 affluent people in Scioto County that 200 agencies a year ask money from. He said Findlay, Ohio is around the same size as Scioto County, but they have seven Fortune 500 companies.
“That’s who we’re competing against, and some place like that can raise a lot more money,” Kester said. “Columbus can raise a lot more money.”
Kester named several companies and individuals from the private sector who can actually invest in economic development.
“Glockner’s (auto dealerships), Jeff Albrecht (Holiday Inn and other development), Wagner Rental, Lute Supply, The (Southern Ohio Medical Center) hospital, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera,” Kester said. “They can only give so much money to everybody.”
Kester did look positively at the agency’s current financial status.
“I would say we are fine for the rest of the year,” Kester said. “That’s about where we’re at.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewisPDT.