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Mayor: Martins Ferry has turned the corner

MARTINS FERRY — For Mayor John Davies the reopening of East Ohio Regional Hospital was just a jumping-off point to a brighter future for the city of Martins Ferry.

The day EORH reopened after being shut down since 2019, Davies celebrated on his Facebook page, noting that “God shed his light on Martins Ferry.”

“Such a great day for our city today and for the valley with the reopening of EORH. We must continue to support and pray for our hospital that it may never again close,” he wrote.

Davies went on to talk about the future of commerce in the city as a whole.

“We must start to take care of our own businesses and citizens. We need to start supporting all our local businesses so all may grow and flourish,” he said.

Davies noted that in addition to new small businesses that have opened recently there are more interested in locating to the city.

“I believe our city has turned the corner and will continue to grow. We continue to work with other property owners to market their properties for future businesses,” he wrote.

EORH was purchased by Dr. John Johnson, a Dayton, Ohio-based psychiatrist, last spring. The city pledged its support of the reopening with an income tax agreement that calls for giving back to the hospital 75 percent of the income tax hospital employees pay.

City leaders at that time said that with a closed hospital, the city was not receiving any income tax money generated from the facility. The city of nearly 7,000 residents relies heavily on income tax proceeds, which typically accounts for about $1.5 million in its annual budget.

Meanwhile, there have been new shops opening up in the city during the past few months — despite the COVID-19 pandemic — including Belmont Brewerks, M&C Boutique, the Wishing Well, Dollar Tree and Dollar General.

Davies on Wednesday said the city is putting together a business advisory board that will market the city to entrepreneurs and existing companies.

“Martins Ferry seems to be a hot spot for small businesses. We didn’t have enough businesses before to fill the storefronts, now we don’t have enough storefronts for all the businesses,” he said.

Davies also wants existing businesses within the city to support and patronize each other.

Also, in an effort to rid the city of blighted properties and give entrepreneurs future places to locate, Davies said he has a plan. To make it work, he noted, the city would have to forgive its liens, the wastewater authority would have to forgive liens and the county would have to forgive back taxes.

“Most of council is on board. It’s just a matter of getting it all pulled together,” Davies said. “We’re finding buyers for some properties now. It takes longer than what I like. I want it to happen now. I try to be patient, but when I see a door with an open crack, I try to kick it in. … Things are clicking along, but it’s not fast enough for me.”

Davies said although he would like redevelopment to happen faster within the city, he still sees a lot of progress occurring.

“I’m happy with the whole city in general right now, including the employees and administration. Everyone is working well together. Things are happening,” he said.

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