Columbiana Port Authority OKs Application for Federal Development Funds

LISBON, Ohio — Resolutions aimed at securing funding to promote regional economic development were approved Monday evening by both the Columbiana County Port Authority board and East Liverpool Community Improvement Corp.

A resolution passed unanimously by the Port Authority authorizes Executive Director Penny Traina to apply for $478,000 from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration for a three-year period between Jan. 1, 2021 and Dec. 31, 2023, to implement an Economic Recovery Coordinator Program.

The Port Authority’s matching share will not exceed $119,500 in cash and in-kind services for the project.

Also during the brief teleconference meeting, the CIC board voted unanimously in favor of a resolution committing $7,500 to the Port Authority as a portion of those matching shares, noting in the resolution that the Economic Development Administration “plays a critical role in supporting regional economic development efforts in Columbiana County.”

Traina said the total cost of the project is $597,500. She said the board had originally requested $625,000 in its initial funding application, which was decreased to the $478,000 figure and will now require some refiguring of the budget.

“I’m really excited we’ve made it to the next round. Our application has made it out of the first round and is being considered to move on,” she said.

The plan is to hire two recovery coordinator specialists over the three-year period who would work for the Port Authority, focusing on both the northern and southern portions of Columbiana County. The specialists would perform a number of duties, including business retention to employ workers and generate revenue, workforce development to build new skills and secure new jobs, and entrepreneurial infrastructure to open and establish new business.

They would also be responsible for compiling an inventory of existing businesses and prioritize those to visit based on economic contributions, industry and needs, identifying capital needs, and working with institutions of higher learning to align programs and career pathways, among others.

Traina told the board that, in addition to redoing the budget for the project, her staff is in the process of completing a list of other requests made by the EDA before a Jan. 7 deadline, including compiling a staff plan identifying the positions, salaries and responsibilities.

Ideally, Traina “would love to hire someone from Columbiana County” for the coordinator positions, she said.

Passing the resolutions by the Port Authority and CIC boards was also among the items required by the EDA by the January deadline, and Traina offered her thanks to East Liverpool Mayor Greg Bricker and Adam Hughes of Better City for their assistance with the application process, as well as the CIC for its commitment of the $7,500 in cash funding.

The fact that the application has been selected for further consideration is “very promising positive news” and “exciting for Columbiana County,” Traina said.

“Even though 2020 has been a difficult year being plagued with a global pandemic, I must admit that this has been the busiest year for us at the Port Authority, making many positive economic impacts in the county,” Traina said.

It would not have been possible, she continued without her “incredible dedicated staff” and “a great board of directors,” adding, “It takes and entire team working together. And we certainly have an ‘A’ team working to make Columbiana County a great place to live and call home.”

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.