Port Authority loan converted to grant

EAST LIVERPOOL — The Columbiana County Port Authority has fulfilled all of the requirements for a $3.5 million state loan obtained to fund improvements at its Wellsville industrial park, which means the money will not have to be repaid.

Port CEO Penny Traina reported at Monday’s board meeting the Ohio Development Services Agency advised her the 2013 loan used to acquire and install an overhead crane and conveyor system at the industrial park will be converted to a grant since all of the requirements have been met.

“This is fantastic news,” she said. “It was a lot of work and a lot of effort on our part to satisfy those requirements.”

When the loan was awarded the port authority in 2013 for the crane/conveyor belt project, the state agreed to forgive the debt and write it off as a grant if certain conditions were met. First, the project had to generate 23,400 construction hours. Secondly, port authority tenant Cimbar Performance Metals was to add 20 new jobs.

The new crane/conveyor belt system used to transfer bulk material to and from barges became operational two months ago.

The news comes a year after the state required the port authority to return a $148,000 loan for the former Baard Energy project that was to be forgiven once the required jobs were created. The state ordered the money be repaid after the project never materialized.

In other business, Traina reported Humtown Products has installed an industrial production 3-D printer as planned at the port authority’s industrial park in Leetonia as part of a joint venture with Youngstown State University announced in September.

Humtown is expanding its 3-D mold manufacturing operations to the vacant network operations center (NOC) building located in the industrial park, which will also serve as a hands-on classroom for YSU engineering students. The new 3-D printer was acquired by YSU with a portion of state grant money awarded the university. The project is to result in the immediate creation of five new jobs at NOC, which could increase to 15 if business grows as expected because of the expansion.

Traina said Humtown also received a $25,000 state grant to help with renovations at the NOC.

Finally, the board agreed to participate in a project with the county mental health and recovery services board that will result in five small local businesses receiving help in drafting a drug-free workforce policy.

The project is being funded with a $20,000 state grant awarded the county mental health/recovery services board. The port authority agreed to serve as project administrator and help prepare a survey to be circulated among small businesses about the impact of drug abuse on the workplace. Five of the businesses surveyed will be selected to receive up to $2,000 in help in drafting a drug-free workplace policy. The port authority is to also advise the businesses about the job retention and expansion programs are available to assist them.

Some of the grant will be used to cover mental health/recovery services board and port authority administrative costs.