Most recently the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) again designated Scioto County as having a “distressed” economy; which means we continue to be eligible for additional federal funding when applying for grants. Data shows that our county has a three-year unemployment rate of 9.5 percent (US – 4.6%, OH – 5.4%), poverty rate of 25.3 percent (OH – 15.8%) and a per-capita income of $20.718 (OH – $26,001).
ARC covers 32 of Ohio’s counties: Adams, Ashtabula, Athens, Belmont, Brown, Carroll, Clermont, Columbiana, Coshocton, Gallia, Guernsey, Harrison, Highland, Hocking, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Mahoning, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, Perry, Pike, Ross, Scioto, Trumbull, Tuscarawas, Vinton, and Washington. Of these, only four are considered economically distressed; Adams, Athens, Meigs and Scioto.
It is within this economic background that the Scioto County Commissioners in their esteemed wisdom cut ties with the Southern Ohio Port Authority (SOPA) even though, through SOPA efforts, our county was named by Site Selection Magazine as the 10th best metropolitan in the United States for economic development (2016) and the 18th best county for job creation by the Dayton Business Journal (2015/2016).
The commissioners cited “the inability of SOPA to secure major projects in Scioto County…” I doubt Appalachian Wood Floors, Altivia Chemicals, Big Sandy Superstores, Columbia Gas, Mako Finished Products, Taylor Lumber, Wiseman Brothers or Yost Labs consider their qualifying projects as not a major project. (A qualifying project is: at least $1 million, 20 or more new jobs or involving 20,000 sq. ft. or more in new construction).
Landing a major project is a planning, research and time-intensive process. It has taken this current rendition of SOPA over four years to develop into one of the most respected port authorities in the state; if not the nation. Our county is nearing the capability of finally being able to respond to JobsOhio and other inquiries regarding potential job sites. We had never been able to do this before.
And because our county commissioners could not control the independent board which ran SOPA, nor could they dictate terms to its executive director who reported to the SOPA board, these commissioners, in a political pique, decided to kill what might have become the “golden goose.”