Inaugural Launch Business Academy Event Features CCPA

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio – While the “three C’s” – Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland – seem to be at the top of the list for legislators when it comes to funding and other matters, Columbiana County Port Authority CEO/Executive Director Penny Traina and her team aim to change that.

Traina and the three members of her “A-team” at the now-combined county port authority and economic development department met with the Southern Columbiana County Regional Chamber of Commerce Wednesday morning. 

Hosted by the port authority, this inaugural meeting of the chamber’s Launch Business Academy was held at the Museum of Ceramics and drew business owners as well as Mayor Greg Bricker. 

“We’re the squeaky wheel,” Traina said of her agency. “We have come a long way. That’s our goal every day to make Columbiana County and the region known. Do we get sick of the three C’s? Absolutely. But guess what? There’s a fourth C, Columbiana County, and they’re going to know about us.”

Traina said she and her team have been visiting chambers throughout the county “to let them know what the port authority is and what it does,” speaking with business leaders and encouraging them to take advantage of its resources.

“People ask, ‘What is the port authority?’ They think we drive buses or boats,” Traina said. The formation of the consortium between the port and economic development department now offers a “one-stop shop for development in Columbiana County, she said.

In addition to speaking to local chambers, Traina has been touring others of the 61 Ohio port authorities, “just to try and see what they’re doing and what we can bring back to our region.” 

Port authorities were created in the 1970s to conduct maritime, airport and economic development activities, with the CCPA formed in the mid-1970s to foster economic development, transportation, education, housing, recreation, research and culture. 

The Columbiana County Port Authority is one of a few in Ohio that is completely independent and self-sufficient, according to Traina, who said its revenue is generated by rental income on property it owns.

Also speaking was Brittany Smith, the assistant executive director, who outlined the efforts being made to secure grant funding for a variety of projects, with $3 million procured over the last three years.
Smith encouraged businesses to contact the port authority. “We don’t know who’s out there. We want to find out what your needs are.”

In regard to grant and other funding sources, Smith said, “It’s amazing what’s out there.”

The Wellsville lntermodal Facility is a vital commodity in the county, added team member Haedan Panezott, private sector specialist, who said it serves as a feeder port for the industrial base of the Cleveland-Pittsburgh corridor and provides seamless transfer of cargo from multiple modes of transportation in all seasons.

Designated as a Foreign Trade Zone, the Intermodal Facility encompasses five businesses that share two cranes and a conveyor belt on the site, and collectively moved 2.3 million tons of cargo on the Ohio River inn 2018.

Asked by Heritage Thermal Services spokesman Raymond Wayne what types of cargo moves through the terminal, team members said among the top items are raw steel and iron, soybeans and molasses.

The port authority provided statistics showing that Ohio is the eighth largest maritime state in the country by tonnage moved and that two-thirds of Ohio’s borders are on navigable waters.

Moreover, Columbiana County is Ohio’s largest river port system and is the northernmost point of the Ohio River in the United States.

Given that moving cargo by river is significantly less expensive than other modes of transportation, Southern Columbiana County chamber president Marcus Trellaine questioned why the river is not high priority for economic development projects.

Traina said she agreed 100%. When she joined the port authority in 2016, she said, she heard a state representative incorrectly said there were no port authorities on the Ohio River, and it has since been her mission to correct that misconception.

“There are only two public ports on river: Us and Lawrence County [Ohio]. Since 2016 we’ve done exactly what you’re saying, trying to market the port authority. But, there are four of us. Things take time,” Traina said. Over the last six years, Traina said her team has increased the work force, the number of grants secured by the county and doubled awareness about the river and port authority. 

Before 2019, Smith added, all state funding went to the lakes but that year, $23 million was set aside through the Ohio Department of Transportation for Maritime Assistance Program grants. The Columbiana County Port Authority secured $2 million.

Robert Ritchey, recovery coordinator who served as director of the Land Bank program from 2014-2020, said the agency has “excelled” at looking at and receiving grants. 

The chamber, which focuses on East Liverpool, St. Clair Township and Chester, W.Va., will try to hold quarterly meetings with various businesses and agencies, according to its president, Trellaine.

Chamber vice president Troy Chisom and member Scott Shepherd are “leading the charge” on the Launch Business Academy program, he said. The chamber had tried to start the Launch Business Academy a few years ago but was delayed with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Pictured at top: Penny Traina, executive director of the county Port Authority, Brittany Smith, assistant executive director and Haedan Panezott, private sector specialist, spoke to the Southern Columbiana County Regional Chamber of Commerce Wednesday morning. Also speaking but not shown was Robert Ritchey, recovery coordinator.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.