Monroe county receives AEP grant

T-L Photo/JANELL HUNTER Monroe County economic development consultant Jason Hamman spoke to county commissioners Monday about new development plans for a site along the Ohio River near Clarington.

WOODSFIELD — Monroe County Economic Development consultant Jason Hamman told commissioners Monday the county has been awarded a $10,000 grant that will help prepare land owned by the port authority for business development.

Since 2005, American Electric Power Ohio’s Local Economic Assistance Program has provided grants to local economic development partners in several counties for “creation and retention of manufacturing jobs,” according to AEP’s website.

The funds will be used for development of approximately 49 acres along the Ohio River just north of Clarington at the former site of Ferro Alloys.

“Specifically, the funds will be used for permitting work that we need to do with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” Hamman said. “This is to do some flood plain and wetlands mitigation to allow for industrial development.”

Hamman said the port authority is working with Hull and Associates, an environmental consulting firm, for help in preparing the permits for submission to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“I think one of the things this process demonstrates is the challenge for development of property along the river takes time. It lacks infrastructure and utilities. We’ve owned the property for about two and a half years now, and it just goes to show all the upfront work it needs to take a piece of basically raw land and transform it into a development site that’s ready to go.”

Once the flood plain and wetlands mitigation is complete, there will be about 35 acres that will be available for development.

“Unless you have a neighboring property you can borrow dirt from, you have to even it out on the same property,” Hamman said. “So as we take from one corner of the property to build up the middle, you lose some developable acreage.”

Hamman said not all of the wetland areas will be able to be preserved, but enough will be preserved to fulfill environmental standards in the permitting process. The port authority must prepare an “economic justification” that includes inquiries it has received from businesses who are interested in developing the property, a vision for developing the property — whether one large building or a mini-industrial park, and all other needs for development.

“Since we’ve owned (the property) we’ve had five or six companies inquire about purchasing it,” Hamman said. “We just want the property to add to the tax base and create new jobs. Those are our basic thresholds.”

Hamman noted the county has a need to prepare properties for downstream companies that will work with and benefit from the proposed PTT Global ethane cracker at Dilles Bottom.

“It could be four years before they are actually producing product and selling it, so when they talk about the downstream economic development — the chemicals and plastics companies — it makes a heck of a lot of sense for them to be close to this cracker,” Hamman said. “Those are the companies that we’re going to try to attract to this property and others. This is the time frame we have to get these properties transformed and ready to go.”

Hamman also confirmed that the Monroe County Port Authority is in the process of acquiring property in Woodsfield to market to hotel developers.

“There is a lot going on right now, and I think we will start to see things happening sooner rather than later,” Hamman said.