Steve Pritchett (center) of the Jones-Stephenson Insurance Agency in Jackson will serve as new second vice chair of the Jackson County Economic Development Partnership (JCEDP) board. The announcement was made at the recent JCEDP annual Appreciation Reception. Pritchett is pictured flanked by JCEDP Assistant Director Sam Brady (left) and JCEDP Director Jennifer Jacobs.
This is the new logo which was unveiled last year when the Jackson County Economic Development Board was renamed as the Jackson County Economic Development Partnership.
In 2016, the Jackson County Economic Development Board was officially renamed as the Jackson County Economic Development Partnership (JCEDP), but there was a lot going on besides a new name and a new logo.
At JCEDP's annual Appreciation Reception on Thursday evening, Dec. 8, at the Markay Cultural Arts Center in downtown Jackson, JCEDP Executive Director Jennifer Jacobs shared information about the success stories and the behind-the-scenes work which has been taking place during the past year. The special guest speaker was Dr. Michelle Johnston, the president of the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College.
Board members, partners, and other supporters were invited and there was a near-record attendance of 53 -- a fact which was most appreciated by the staff.
"We are always so overwhelmed when all of you care enough to show up for this every year," Jacobs told the attendees.
JCEDP is a not-for-profit organization focused on economic and community programs that center on the creation and retention of jobs and is largely supported by financial contributions from both public and private sources. The two-person, full-time staff consists of Executive Director Jacobs and Assistant Director Sam Brady, who work from an office located at 920 Veterans Drive, Suite A, in Jackson.
JCEDP's all-volunteer board represents a cross-section of the community working together to encourage economic growth and stability in the county. The board is led by an Executive Committee. Jackson Mayor Randy Heath is the current chair and will continue in that leadership position in 2017. Joe Wyant of Ohio Valley Bank will also continue as first chair through 2017. Jackson County Commissioner Paul Haller currently serves as the secretary and Judy Kiefer of WesBanco is the treasurer. The new face on the Executive Committee is Second Vice Chair Steve Pritchett of the Jones-Stephenson Insurance Agency. Bobbi Montgomery of Montgomery Machine Shop and Fabrication was recognized for her past leadership service as the chair preceding Heath and served on the Executive Committee in 2016 as Past Chair.
During her report and comments, Jacobs stressed the importance of partnerships, collaboration and cooperation involved in JCEDP's economic development efforts.
"It takes all of us to do economic development," Jacobs declared.
Jacobs' detailed annual report included the following highlights:
-- She and Brady visited 18-plus existing companies to visit with industrial/business leaders to help them create and retain jobs. She described this as "enjoyable work" and stressed that assisting existing companies is an important part of JCEDP's work.
-- As for new companies, the startup of the Speyside Bourbon Cooperage Plant in the former Merillat Plant location in Jackson was one of the big economic development stories of the year. Production of the customized bourbon barrels began last summer and the plant has already increased employment from the committed beginning level of 35 jobs to 68 jobs; and also has already surpassed initial production objectives. Speyside has worked with economic development representatives at the local, regional and state level and recently received a training grant which helped with the process of bringing on more employees.
-- As for Jackson's largest employer, the Bellisio Foods Plant on East Broadway Street, she alluded to the recent corporate-level sale of the company, but was not in a position to comment further on this important development. However, she said JCEDP has had an excellent relationship with the local plant's management team and said she and they are "very excited" about the future of the local plant, which employs approximately 1,300.
-- JCEDP worked with regional automotive dealer Mark Porter to secure a $350,000 loan from the Revolving Loan Fund, which was used in Porter's acquisition of Barnett Ford in Jackson, which helped to create 17 new jobs at the new Mark Porter Ford dealership.
-- JCEDP also utilized another loan program to assist a veterinary clinic in Wellston.
-- While the former Meridian Plant site in Jackson remains a large vacant lot, JCEDP is working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency on a remediation plan which would be used to clean up the site for future development. Once this is done, she feels the site is a prime location which will attract interest. "Everybody knows about this site, but we have to get it cleaned up," Jacobs remarked.
-- With the aid of a grant from Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives, Inc., of which Buckeye Rural Electric is an affiliate, JCEDP is also working to collect necessary data which will enhance the status of the Wellston Industrial Park as a "certified site" for potential development. Without offering specifics, Jacobs noted that an outside company had expressed interest and was considering the Wellston Industrial Park as a potential site.
-- JCEDP has also been involved in other grant-funded projects which could foster economic development in the county, including the McCarty Lane road rebuilding project in Jackson, the South Water Treatment Upgrade project in Wellston and the Wastewater Improvement Project in Oak Hill. JCEDP was involved in all these projects because they involved grant funds from the Appalachian Regional Commission. Jacobs commented, "You've got to have the infrastructure."
-- JCEDP is one of the parties which has been working on a feasibility study for improvements to Salem Church Road in Milton Township, which would support the Brown-Foreman plant located on that road.
-- Thanks to funding support from Fluor-BWXT, the JCEDP staffers have had the opportunity to make trips to talk directly with site-selection representatives who have major influence in determining where a company may locate a plant or a business. JCEDP personnel members already have been to Washington, D.C., Charlotte, North Carolina, and Atlanta, Georgia on such missions. Fluor-BWXT is the cleanup contractor at the Pike County uranium enrichment site and has provided funding for economic development marketing efforts in its core four counties (Pike, Jackson, Ross and Scioto).
-- As for the future, in addition to continuing with some of the aforementioned projects, Jacobs said JCEDP would be working with others to pursue possible further development around the county-owned James A. Rhodes Airport. Another new project will involve the revamping and expansion of the JCEDP website.