Guernsey County awarded $2M federal grant for business center

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A 44-acre section at the western end of the D.O. Hall Business Park, as seen on the left side of the map, is the location for a proposed $3.5 million expansion project. A $2 million award submitted for funding through U.S. Cong. Bill Johnson's office and contained in the 2022 Consolidated Appropriations Act was approved last month when President Joe Biden signed it into law.

A 44-acre section at the western end of the D.O. Hall Business Park, as seen on the left side of the map, is the location for a proposed $3.5 million expansion project. A $2 million award submitted for funding through U.S. Cong. Bill Johnson’s office and contained in the 2022 Consolidated Appropriations Act was approved last month when President Joe Biden signed it into law.

Guernsey County has been awarded a $2 million grant through the 2022 Consolidated Appropriations Act signed into law by President Joe Biden last month for expansion work at the D.O. Hall Business Center.

“President Biden has signed the omnibus bill that gets us a $2 million grant that will be used to upgrade 45 acres at the business center,” Community Improvement Corporation Executive Director Norm Blanchard told board members on Friday.

The request for funding was submitted by Appalachian Partnership Inc., a non-profit created to advance economic development opportunities in the region, through the office of U.S. Congressman Bill Johnson on behalf of the county.

“We have to thank Glenda Baumgardner, president of the Appalachian Partnership,” said Blanchard. “They went through a process of submitting to each congressional district the site that they felt was most beneficial in Appalachian Ohio for upgrade.

“They looked at us because of our location and lack of sites, and she went forward and recommended that we get that $2 million and it has finally come through. It took a long time to do that, but it’s great.”

Blanchard also gave credit to the Ohio Mid-Eastern Government’s Association for helping write the $2 million grant request.

The total project cost is $3.5 million to complete site development, finish road work and upgrade existing utilities. The $2 million request stated approximately $1 million has already been received from mine reclamation funding.

Blanchard told CIC board members one of the first requirements is to obtain necessary permits to fill in a small valley and stream that runs through the middle of the 45 acres.

“Getting the permits to mitigate that (stream) is $770,000,” said Blanchard. “You can see right off the bat, $2 million sounds like a lot, but $770,000 isn’t going to do anything but get us permits to fill that area.”

The cost of the proposed $3.5 million project engineered in 2018 is expected to increase due to current inflation.

“We don’t know in 2022 what those numbers will be,” added Blanchard, who discussed an option of dividing the 45 acres into smaller lots to avoid mitigating the stream.

The problem with dividing the property, which is already well below the average parcel size requested for development, is making them too small for interested developers.

According to JobsOhio, the average parcel size requested in 2021 was 139 acres with an average building size of 236,154 square feet.

The D.O. Hall Business Park has provided for more than 500 jobs at the current site.

Other development news

Blanchard said work continues to locate Ohio Valley Charcoal in the D.O. Hall Business Center and seek funding for Otto Luburgh to develop a 50-acre parcel near Interstate 70 outside Old Washington.

Blanchard said Ohio Valley Charcoal officials are seeking a way to place manufacturing equipment at the site where it will not be on top of underground mines. If successful, it would eliminate the need for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to fill the mine with grout — an option that would further delay opening the manufacturing business.

Ohio Valley Charcoal is expected to create as many as 100 new jobs locally.

As for the Luburgh property, Blanchard added requested information necessary to seek funding for a road at the site has been “slow coming” since the county was first contacted in June 2021.

“It is so frustrating,” added Blanchard.

Other topics discussed by Blanchard during the director’s report included:

  • The Port Authority has completed the process of transferring the Harper-Hutchison building to Jack Warne Construction.

  • Accountants Clark Schaefer Hackett of Columbus notified Blanchard that a $19,930 one-time tax for the State Historic grant used to renovate the Potter-Davis building in downtown Cambridge is due to the city.

  • Encouraged members to promote the Port Authority’s Revolving Loan Fund for business start-up loans and small business expansion projects. Barrowers can receive up to $25,000 and the current interest is 1% below prime. The Port Authority currently has nine such loans that Blanchard said are “doing well.”

  • Local leaders are searching for a downtown location for Dickens Victorian Village. “We have to find a way to keep them downtown,” said Blanchard.

  • A buyer has expressed serious interest in purchasing The Daily Jeffersonian building on Wheeling Avenue in Cambridge.

Guest speaker from SEAT

Katie Price of South East Area Transit visited the meeting to tout the services of the Zanesville-based public transportation provider.

Katie Price of SouthEast Area Transit highlighted the services of the public transportation provider at the Guernsey County Community Improvement Corporation.

Katie Price of SouthEast Area Transit highlighted the services of the public transportation provider at the Guernsey County Community Improvement Corporation.

“We are established in Muskingum County. My goal is to share more in the counties that we are not as established — Guernsey County, Noble County and Belmont County. We serve all four,” said Price, marketing/media coordinator for the government entity.

SEAT offers both fixed routes and on-demand response with more than 30 operators and 70 contractors who transport patrons in privately-owned vehicles with 15,000 to 16,000 trips scheduled monthly.

Price said most on-demand drivers are located in Guernsey and Muskingum counties and there is a need for more drivers.

“It is a continuous growth,” said Price. “We are trying to do more to get more drivers to be able to cover afternoon shifts. If you know of anyone, spread the word. We are always looking to expand more in Guernsey and Noble counties.”

Price shared the rates for various services including in-county and county-to-county transportation, as well as the fixed routes. She also discussed how to schedule a trip with the various ways to pay including a new mobile application, EZFare, available via a smartphone for street routes.

“This is trying to make it little easier and safer for people who don’t want to use cash,” said Price.

Several individuals in attendance including Community Development Corporation Director Ron Gombeda, Cambridge Mayor Tom Orr and Byesville Councilman Michael Port, a SEAT driver, who joined Price is praising the company.

“You guys are doing a great job,” said Port.

Visit the SEAT website, www.seatbus.org, for more information.

Planning Commission approves rule change

Following the CIC meeting, the Guernsey County Planning Commission approved a motion to accept a revision to the county’s subdivision rules regarding local well pads.

Guernsey County Engineer Paul Sherry said he did not see any detriment arising from the change that would allow the pads to be split.

The request was tabled at the board’s previous meeting following a request by Shannon Leek of the Guernsey County Map Department.

The CIC will not conduct a traditional meeting on May 6. Instead, board members will visit the Guernsey Power Plant.

This article originally appeared on The Daily Jeffersonian: Guernsey County awarded $2M federal grant for business center

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