The theme of the evening seemed to be togetherness.
The 2018 Portsmouth Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner seemed to have the same theme. Whether it was Keynote Speaker Ryan Scribner economic development director for Pickaway Progress Partnership, Member of the Year, Fluor BWXT, Portsmouth, or Distinguished Citizen of the Year Jeremy Burnside, they all talked of how to bring the community together to make it a better place to live.
Burnside was chosen, primarily due to his spearheading the Plant Portsmouth project in August which put Portsmouth in the record books for 1,405 people potting a plant at the same time. Burnside said although the event was a one day affair, he has seen businesses and property owners continuing in efforts to clean up downtown Portsmouth.
“There’s a sense of hope I haven’t seen since I’ve been here,” Burnside said of his 9 years in Portsmouth. Burnside said he can’t take all the credit, saying it was the whole community coming together for a common cause.
“The whole driving force behind Plant Portsmouth was unification and our slogan was ‘unify as we beautify,’ for a reason,” Burnside said Wednesday. “Plant Portsmouth could not have happened if everyone had failed to work together.
“The city was working with the county which was working with the business community which was working with citizens…everyone came together to make the event what it was,” Burnside continued. “If the spirit of Plant Portsmouth is to continue then all of these parties need to work together to harbor and develop new ideas while stomping out negativity.”
Scribner kind of echoed the words of Burnside when he took to the podium saying the key to economic development is the “stop pointing fingers,” and sit down to work out a plan that everybody can agree on. He said it is important to leave your political affiliations at the door, saying economic development is not “an R or a D thing.” He said build the foundation first, noting the recent plant expansions and new industrial developments in Circleville. He said once those good paying jobs are established then the other businesses and industries will follow.
“Don’t be afraid to give yourselves an attitude adjustment,” Scribner said. “You can’t turn a community around without the attitude adjustment first.”
Scribner said instead of saying “why would they come here,” speaking about a potential business, you need to start asking “Why not here,?” He said “find that sense of local pride.”
He jokingly said he is “just a big bald guy from Punkin Town,” saying he doesn’t have all the answers. He said that is the reason why it is important to develop as a community, because nobody has all the answers. He said Circleville went from making the big console televisions to tissue paper. “We became the toilet paper capital of the world. And proud of it.“
Scioto County Economic Development Director Robert Horton said he has worked in 25 states during his career and never seen the solidarity of a community like Plant Portsmouth experienced this summer. He said he “watched the people” during the Plant Portsmouth, saying it was an amazing time for Portsmouth.