We spent quite a bit of time this year refining our scope of work, examining the areas where we can make the most impact, and considered the larger needs of our community first and foremost.
In the past we have been accused, rightfully so, of trying to be too many things to too many people. It was a noble effort on our part, but in many ways it only set up parties for disappointment. From a philosophical standpoint, it is important to recognize that the Southeastern Ohio Port Authority does not organize, build, or create projects. We are a facilitation measure. The Port Authority, like all other Ports in this state exist to utilize their powers, a toolbox of sorts to ease development. While some Port Authorities in our state are heavily utilized by city and county governments for the process of property management and redevelopment, our governing body (the County Commissioners) have not as of yet operated the Port like those in Cleveland, Cincinnati, etc. It is important to keep this in mind, as there are some in our midst who would seek to see the Port engage in projects of a similar nature.
Where I see those Ports differing from ours comes in two major ways: Port funding streams through property ownership and sale, and willingness of local governments to jump into redevelopment/development projects.
There is a major philosophical divide within communities of the role of government, and we aren’t here to debate those beliefs today. What we are here to discuss, is where we see the Port Authority maximizing its limited resources in the coming year (recognizing how our Port operates compared to others).
As I mentioned we are a facilitation mechanism at this point. It is fiscally out of the question for our organization to jump into site development and building construct given our current book. Now this could entirely change with a City or County driven effort to create more sites for development, but without governmental partners committed to utility extension on speculatory sites, an attempt to do so without their cooperation would be foolhardy.
We at the Port will work to facilitate projects this year, as we do every year. Where we do it will be hyper focused however given our skeleton staff and organizational limitations.
Last week I prepared a 2019 Plan of Work with emphasis areas and delivered those items to our board. I want each of you to see where we will focus this year as well. I created this graphic to illustrate.
As you can see from the interior focused circles, we are going to be hyper strategic in regards to redevelopment efforts at the Muskingum River Plant in Beverly. The former AEP plant is the single greatest concentration of utility in our county. It has rail service, abundant process water capacity, abundant electrical supply, three major gas lines with significant supply for firing, and has a sanitary sewer that can be reactivated. Those are the positives…….the negatives however are innumerable and are in need of immediate address and constant tending. That is something the Port will jump in to assist the owner with. We don’t have money to buy the site, we can’t afford much to assist with cleanup, but rest assured we want to see those things happen in order to maximize its redevelopment potential. Frankly put, we don’t have many other places in the county to assist industrial development.
We will focus on redevelopment efforts in Downtown Marietta through advocacy, resource alignment, and plying whatever resources we have to assist in the purchase, redevelopment of buildings in our downtown core. There are high return projects all around us, but they need some TLC, we aim to assist Marietta Main Street and the City of Marietta in anyway we can. Through maximization of the CRA, use of TIF’s in the downtown core, and creation of Downtown Redevelopment Districts and Opportunity Zone fund mechanisms, we are here to do all we can to assist.
We are also going all in to assist those interested in starting businesses in the Belpre area in regard to utility planning. If you hadn’t heard, Belpre has significant issues related to gas supply and stormwater runoff. Those issues need to be addressed at the forefront with developers and city officials. Knowing there are limited staffers around to assist businesses in Belpre, we are going to attempt to help them manage that workload. We want to facilitate development in the county, helping with utility planning requests in Belpre is a great way to do that we feel.
Lastly, we want to do more structured leases. There is quite a bit of information on our site about this program, but to summarize, through utilization of the Port powers, deeding a property to the Port during construct can offset a number of costs, including sales tax on materials for construct. That cost savings we want to pass on to those creating new projects in our community. We need pay for the legal to get that done, but the Port is ready and able to do what it can to help alleviate some costs and thank you for building your business here.
Those are the four hyper focused moves……..the four outside categories I will discuss in my next post. Those are the items that are in need of constant management and what I would call the backburner items. Making a good dish requires a few pots on the stove, some need low and slow others need flashed. The hyper focused list represents our flash items, the outer core represents the low and slow process that we need to constantly be minding and stirring.