Columbiana Port Authority Authorizes Plan to Improve Downtowns

LISBON, Ohio – The Columbiana County Port Authority Board of Directors on Monday passed a motion to authorize a countywide plan focusing on bettering downtowns.

The motion authorizes the executive director to negotiate, approve and execute proposals for a contract for the Columbiana County Downtown Building Signage and Vibrancy Plan.

According to Brittany Smith, assistant executive director, a positive outcome from recently seeking funds through the Appalachian Community Grant Program was that the staff had an opportunity to work closely with community leaders on projects in their individual communities.

“It became clear to us that one of their biggest focuses and needs was to better their downtowns,” Smith told the board, adding that the countywide project will assist with monitoring vacancies, inventorying building stock, assisting with marketing efforts, promoting vibrancy and reporting on facade and building conditions.

Smith said that, ideally, this will lead to more marketable downtowns, diversifying business, creating a live building inventory database, promoting and capturing youth and general population sustainability and promoting economic development. 

“With this information, we hope to be more proactive rather than reactive to future funding opportunities,” Smith said, adding that they intend to enter into a contract with Town Center Associates of Beaver, Pa., for one year, with the option of extending the contract if needed.

Executive Director Penny Traina told the board she and her team were “disappointed” that six projects submitted locally for a portion of $500 million available in the Appalachian Community Grant Program were not funded. She said the response for the grant funding was “overwhelming.”

Traina said the team was thankful, nonetheless, that the county received funding for four projects, including $2.4 million for the Utica Shale Academy; $252,000 for the East Palestine School District; $239,000 for the Crestview School District (sharing with school districts in three other counties); and $10.5 million for the Campbell City School District, which included Columbiana County.

“We learned a lot, and we want to continue our efforts in having our projects come to fruition,” Traina said, pointing to the plan described by Smith.

Other Matters

Smith said a grant application for $2.39 million was recently submitted to the U.S. Maritime Administration’s Port Infrastructure Development Program to assist S.H.Bell Co. in East Liverpool with a dock extension project. 

The program requirements allow for up to 80 percent of the project cost to be funded with federal tax dollars, with the remaining 20 percent matching share coming from the private terminal.

The port authority is a nominee for the Economic Development Organization Impact Award, presented by Valley Partners.

“This nomination would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of the great team and board at the port authority,” Traina said. “We are very excited and humbled to have been considered.”

Winners will be announced at the Valley Partners 45 Anniversary Legacy Awards event in Girard on Thursday.

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