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Port seeks grant to help other county businesses

LISBON — The Columbiana County Port Authority has received preliminary approval for a federal grant to hire two people for three years whose job would be to assess what local businesses need to remain open and thrive.

Port authority director Penny Traina reported at Monday’s board meeting the U.S. Department of Commerce informed them its application for a $479,000 Economic Development Administration grant “has been reviewed for merit and selected for further consideration.”

The next step is for the port authority to formally apply for the grant, which the board agreed to do. Preliminary approval does not mean final approval is guaranteed, Traina said.

“So far everything checks off. We’ve made it through the preliminary process,”she said.

The money is to be used by the port authority to hire two people to serve as economic recovery specialists. The employees would meet with major employers in the county to determine what they need to stay in business and even expand, such as workplace development to create a pool of trained workers to draw from. The information would be turned into a working plan to be developed by the duo.

Officials believe this plan could play a key role in helping local businesses struggling with the financial impact of the COVID-19 virus and the government’s response to pandemic.

“That would be a huge benefit especially given our current circumstances,” he said.

“As the pandemic continues we’re going to see more struggling businesses,” she added.

The total project cost is $597,500, with the port authority contributing $119,500, and that includes $7,500 from the East Liverpool Community Improvement Corp., which the CIC agreed to contribute at its meeting, also held on Monday.

The grant money and local match will used to pay the two economic recovery specialists $65,000 year each for three years, plus benefits. The rest will go for operations and plan development.

Traina thanked the administration of East Liverpool Mayor Greg Bricker for their support, and she said since the city is contributing $7,500 it will be given a bit more attention by the specialists.

“Probably what we’ll do is have one for the south (part of the county) and one for the north, but there will be extra attention paid to East Liverpool,” she said.

Although there is no timetable, Traina is hoping the grant will be approved sometime in 2021.

12/29/20

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