Commissioners cut ties with SOPA

By Nikki Blankenship - [email protected]

The Scioto County Commissioners have announced that Southern Ohio Port Authority (SOPA) will no longer be handling economic development activities for the County.

“The Southern Ohio Port Authority will no longer represent Scioto County in matters related to economic development. In the future, SOPA may still be utilized for bonding of specific projects and potential land transfers,” a release from the Commissioners’ Office dated Sept. 21 stated.

The release further announced that economic development activities will now be handled internally.

“The Scioto County Board of Commissioners have activated their economic development office. Effective immediately, Sept. 21, all economic development activities in Scioto County will be conducted out of the office located at 602 7th St., Room 405,” the release said. “More information will follow with details of Scioto County’s economic development plan in the near future.”

The Scioto County Commissioners further detailed the decision in a letter addressed to SOPA Chairman Bud Sayre, which was also addressed Sept. 21.

“This letter is to inform the Southern Ohio Port Authority that effective Sept. 21, 2017, the Southern Ohio Port Authority will regrettably no longer represent Scioto County in matters related to economic development,” the letter begins. “We ask that SOPA suspends all future efforts pertaining to economic development projects within Scioto County. Where memorandums of understanding or contracts exist between SOPA and a third party, we ask that those be exercised according to terms of those agreements.”

The letter made no mention of the County’s economic development office or budgetary considerations, rather it cited issues with business conducted by SOPA.

“We do not feel Scioto County can be adequately represented in the future by SOPA. The board has noticed for some time the inability of SOPA to secure major projects in Scioto County, the mismanagement of recent projects, the angering of potential new employers, and the repeated threats over time of resignation by your Director, Jason Kester,” the letter stated. “Coupled with the recent notice of the pending departure of his assistant, Adam Phillips; a misrepresentation of a public officials statement by the director, and an adversarial, and in some cases, disrespectful behavior of some of the employees and board members, we are left with no other option then to end the current arrangement. We must take the steps necessary to secure economic development in the future.”

The letter ends with the Commissioners stating that they will be informing all local, state and federal agencies of their decision and will contact SOPA with details of their economic development plan at a later date. The letter is signed by all three commissioners: Bryan Davis, Mike Crabtree and Cathy Coleman.

Sayre responded in support of Kester and Phillips.

“We are proud of the tireless efforts by Jason Kester and Adam Phillips on our region’s behalf,” Sayre responded. “We stand by their accomplishments and are proud of all of their hard work as well as their passion to see our community thrive. We have passed all audits by the state of Ohio, and our checkbook is posted online for the general public to view. We are also proud to have earned the respect and support of many of our local businesses.”

Sayre added the SOPA has approved a strategic plan with local, regional and state partners.

“Our performance metrics and dashboards reflect our recent successes,” he added.

Sayre then referenced numerous accomplishments made by SOPA.

“In the spring of 2017, Site Selection Magazine named Scioto County the 10th best metropolitan in the United States for economic development in its 2016 Governor’s Cup rankings,” he reported. “Qualifying projects involve a capital investment of at least $1 million, create 20 or more new jobs or involve 20,000 sq. ft. or more of new construction. Scioto County’s qualifying projects occurred between November 2015-October 2016.”

According to Sayre, qualifying projects included:

  • Altivia Chemicals (2015): “Restart” of plant operations.
  • Altivia Chemicals (2016): Rail & dock expansion.
  • Yost Labs: Sensors and real-time human movement motion-capture systems.
  • Appalachian Wood Floors: Revitalization of the Schaeffer Building on 8th Street.
  • Columbia Gas: New regional headquarters and dispatch center.
  • Wiseman Brothers: Acquisition of 96,000 sq. ft. of the former M&J facility in Lucasville.
  • Big Sandy Superstores: Expansion of logistics, transportation, & distribution center in Wheelersburg.
  • Mako Finished Products: Development of a new machining facility at the Scioto County Career & Technical Center (SCCTC) North Campus in Lucasville.
  • Taylor Lumber: Creation of a new production line of hardwood flooring products.

Sayre further state that SOPA had numerous success in 2016 and 2017.

“In 2016, SOPA assisted in the creation of 170 new jobs, the retention of 466 existing jobs and the investment of more than $45 million in new capital expenditures. Scioto County was named the 18th best county for job creation in 2015/2016 by the Dayton Business Journal. SOPA also led the City of Portsmouth’s America’s Best Communities initiative throughout 2015-16,” the SOPA Chairman explained.

Sayre also provided some highlights from the work done by SOPA in 2017.

These included:

  • Helping to develop an action plan as part of Portsmouth’s participation as one of 10 Cool and Connected pilot communities in an effort to deploy broadband in support of community development in the downtown and riverfront area.
  • Being selected to receive a $300,000 Brownfields Assessment Grant to focus redevelopment efforts on Portsmouth’s oldest and most densely populated industrial area known as the Central Ohio River Terminal Corridor.
  • Agreeing to issue up to $120 million in bonds in support of an advanced plastics recycling facility at the former Dow Chemical site in Haverhill – a project which will use technology licensed by Procter & Gamble, and will employ approximately 60 workers with starting pay between $40,000 and $50,000.
  • Working with the City of Portsmouth to assist Rocla and KSA with the widening of Pershing Avenue in Sciotoville.

“Rocla intends to invest $5 million dollars in new capital improvements over the next three years in an effort to expand their manufacturing at the site,” Sayre explained. “They currently have 35 employees with an annual payroll of over $1.5 million and $14 million in sales. Rocla will add six-eight new employees as it reinvests in the facility.”

The Daily Times reached out the Scioto County Commissioners. As of press time, they had not responded.

By Nikki Blankenship

[email protected]

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.