What does the Port Authority even do?

If I only had a dollar for every time I heard that in my first few months on the job, I’d probably have my third Jeremiah’s Big R of the week…

All jokes aside, it’s an honest question. One that’s hard to answer, especially in an organization with a breadth of capabilities from a statutory standpoint, but with one employee and finite resources. That said, the focus of this organization has not waivered since it’s launch in 2006 – Business growth, job creation, and economic prosperity for Washington County. In a post-COVID economy, it should be comforting to know there’s someone whose job it is to champion those efforts on behalf of the place we call home. 

But, back to the question at hand. What does the Port actually do and why should you care?

This is where I could insert some trendy buzz words and a bit of lofty marketing prose in my attempt to educate; or, we could just get down to brass tacks. So, to your question… just what does the Port Authority do? Let’s start with the known, tangible metrics. Since 2006, the Southeastern Ohio Port Authority has been directly responsible for, or has facilitated, the following outcomes:

  • Created and/or retained 1,326 jobs
  • Secured over $16 Million in grants, loans, and other financial incentives
  • Provided critical support for over $20 Million in private sector investment
  • Issued $60 Million in bonds for the development of the Memorial Health System Belpre campus
  • Remedied several environmental and infrastructure-related issues to incentivize site development
  • Built a 35,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility currently home to Grae-Con Process Piping & Electrical
  • Developed a 24-acre business park (7N Commerce Park) that was eventually sold to Truck Sales & Service, Inc.
  • Purchased, remediated, redeveloped, and sold real estate that had otherwise been abandoned by the private sector
  • Supported – both fiscally and via project management – a plethora of planning projects involving municipal, township, county, state, and federal agencies
  • Provided countless hours of pro bono technical expertise to assist business and local agencies with needs related to environmental remediation, infrastructure expansion, site development, and business retention or expansion 

Pretty good stats for a relatively young organization with a difficult mission and a shoestring budget. But, I’m the new guy; I can’t take an ounce of credit for the success the preceded my arrival at the Port. What doesn’t show up in the numbers are the thousands of hours of effort put into researching, planning for, and pursuing projects and opportunities that never manifested themselves for one reason or another; often for reasons outside the Port’s control. My predecessors in title were dedicated to the mission of our organization and equally committed to the citizens of this county. To borrow from a prominent local businessman, “activity begets activity”, and it’s now my job to be active in pursuit of the type of measurable success we all desire. It’s now my job to carry on a legacy of success that’s been overlooked for far too long. 

To borrow from a well-known economic development practitioner in SE Ohio – “If it were easy, the private sector would have done it.” It’s the Port Authority’s job to solve the most complex development issues in our county and create success where others cannot, have not, or choose not to. 

Now that I’ve answered the first part of a two-part question, let’s address the second part – why should you care?

We both know that’s a loaded question that’s much harder for me to answer, and although I know it’s not fair to answer a question with a question, I’m going to anyway. What is it that you desire for the state of well-being in this county? Take a moment to ponder that before reading on. 

Go ahead. Pondering is good for you. 

Chances are, you thought about your quality of life. More outdoor recreation, restaurants, retail, music and entertainment, fairs and festivals, family-friendly activities, and more. Maybe it is your desire to see more jobs. Jobs that pay better, offer better benefits, and/or opportunities for advancement. Perhaps you’re a business owner and your desire is integrating new technologies, expanding your operation, or improving your supply chain. Remember the statement about “activity begets activity”? Your desire for a higher quality of life is unrealistic in a declining, dying, or stagnant economy. It doesn’t happen in a poor business climate with subpar employment, either. There’s only one entity in your county whose sole focus is working to foster business success and job growth, which in turn, increases the likelihood that you’ll someday realize the quality of life you just envisioned. And that’s the Southeastern Ohio Port Authority.

Still don’t know what the Port Authority does? Or why you should care? Reach out and let’s have a conversation. Preferably over lunch. I’ll have the Big R.