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U.S. CONGRESSMAN BILL JOHNSON Proudly Representing Eastern and Southeastern Ohio

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Noble County Brainstorms Economic Development Possibilities

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Caldwell, August 8, 2017 | comments
Congressman Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, is coming to the table to help Noble County become more business-friendly.
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Noble County Journal-Leader
By Ruth Jellison
Published August 9, 2017

Congressman Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, is coming to the table to help Noble County become more business-friendly.

Johnson joined a roomful of chamber officials and community members on Tuesday at Lori’s Family Restaurant to participate in discussion about future economic opportunities in Noble County – which, as a part of southeastern Ohio, could stand to benefit from continued or expanded oil and gas development in the region.

Johnson said an ethane “cracker plant” planned for Belmont County is “a game-changer not only for our area, but also for our state,” which is part of a larger region, including Pennsylvania and West Virginia, vying for petrochemical dollars against the Gulf Coast. “We’re for keeping the money that’s associated with this resource right here in our communities, creating jobs.”

Last week’s meeting was the second with Johnson, who attended a closed discussion with chamber directors recently.

“A month ago, the chamber directors decided we wanted to take positive progressive action in building the community,” said Noble County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Allen Fraley. “One of the conversations that came up was, ‘Is Noble County prepared for business growth? Job creation? True economic development?’ And how can we capture tomorrow using what we have today?”

Fraley said Noble County already has tremendous natural resources with its nearby state park and expanses of countryside, good schools and quality of life, and easy access to the Interstate; the next step is to use those elements and improve them to help attract industry.

“This is our second meeting, and we’re trying to keep it to chamber members because we want to focus our energy. We’ve got a lot of heavy hitters (EPA, ODNR and oil and gas industry personnel) in the room because we would like to know what are the options for Noble County,” he said.

Among the options discussed were figuring out four to five locations that could serve as an industrial park; and securing funding for infrastructure improvements, which can make areas more attractive to businesses looking to build.

While federal funding for infrastructure projects is uncertain, Johnson said communities can do their part to be responsible at the negotiating table by having goals in place and showing some progress. It was also noted that local organizations, such as the eight-county Buckeye Hills Regional Council, can help find and apply for funding of community projects.

Fraley expressed hope for future development of outdoor areas in the county as a way to attract a greater population and potentially more businesses.

“There is a conversation between AEP and ODNR about transferring the AEP grounds (60,000 contiguous acres starting in Noble County’s Brookfield Township) to ODNR so it would provide public recreation opportunities,” he said, adding the closest Interstate exits to any of the land are in Belle Valley and Caldwell. “It’s very important to Noble County’s future – if this happens – that Noble County be the gateway to everyone coming to use those outdoor lands.”

Attendees also addressed a more immediate need – that of a way to mitigate flooding problems in Belle Valley, Macksburg and Caldwell, which could be hindering development.

As a next step, Congressman Johnson said he would help convene a conversation with the Army Corps of Engineers, the Ohio EMA and EPA, and ODNR to discuss the flooding problems and figure out ways to address them.

The group – including representatives of the state agencies – also agreed to convene quarterly.

Attending Tuesday’s breakfast meeting were Mike Bailey, chief of Division of Parks and Watercraft for ODNR; Laura Fuller, OSU Extension; Jill McCartney, Buckeye Hills; Dave Cole, MarkWest; Joy Padgett, Ohio EPA Office of Outreach; Rich Stephens, Summit Acres; Thomasina Crock, Food Center; Mary Rex, Caldwell Vision Centre; Darlene Miser, M&M Feed; Theresa Rainer, candidate for Noble Township fiscal officer; JoAnn Steed, Caldwell Redi-Mix; Guy Carpenter, Noble Local School Board; Mike Buckey, Buckey Disposal; Ryan Singer, Singer Sunoco and chairman of the Chamber Board; Brandon Crock, Caldwell Lumber; A.J. Smith, OOGAA; Mike Young, chair of the Noble County Republican Party; Jim Neuhart, chair of Noble County Board of Elections; Noble County Commissioners Ty Moore and Virgil Thompson; Misty Casto, Buckeye Hills; Nathan Lord and Greg Kozera, ShaleCrescentUSA; and Kevin Smart, office of Congressman Bill Johnson. 

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