Wednesday, June 16, 1999

Area governors urged to cooperate

Group promotes Ohio, Ky., W.Va

The Associated Press

        HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A civic group is recommending the governors of Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia meet jointly to discuss what each state can do to help the region develop and grow.

        Leadership Tri-State would like to bring the chief executives together Sept. 16 at Virginia Point in Kenova, W.Va., where the Big Sandy River flows into the Ohio River.

        Such a conference would permit the organization to sell the idea that the three-state region should be marketed as a statistical metropolitan area, rather than as individual communities within three separate states.

        “It made sense for Leadership Tri-State to spearhead this effort because we are not politically bound or motivated toward governing bodies,” said Dan Mooney, a member of the group's strategic planning committee.

        Mr. Mooney said the group hopes the governors will look at developing one port authority along this stretch of the Ohio River to provide jobs and to increase economic development and riverfront improvements.

        “We need to emphasize the Ohio River as a corridor between the three states, not as a barrier,” he said.

        Though plans are very preliminary, Mr. Mooney said members of Leadership Tri-State have “planted seeds in all three governors' offices and everyone has been receptive to the idea.”

        Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton was not aware of the summit proposal, said spokesman Mark Pfeiffer.

        But Greenup County, Ky., Judge-executive Bobby Carpenter said he thought Mr. Patton would be open to the idea.

        “I know our governor is open to try to get businesses in here. He's very business-oriented. I think he would be an asset to any of the states because of his vast knowledge,” Mr. Carpenter said.

        Rod Blackstone, a staffer in West Virginia Gov. Cecil Underwood's office, said the governor found the idea of a summit “very interesting. He understands policy-making in one state can certainly affect the neighboring states.”

        Mr. Blackstone said he thought Mr. Underwood would try to participate if he did not have scheduling conflicts.

        Ohio Gov. Bob Taft's office did not respond to phone calls.

        Mr. Carpenter said he was already talking to economic development officials from Ohio about a regional ap proach.

        “We all thought about trying to advertise the area as a metropolitan area. We could market it for everybody,” he said.

        Boyd County, Ky., Judge-executive Bill Scott agreed.

        “Anytime all three states can work together to put together our ideas for the same purpose, it should be done,” he said. “No longer can we all live alone. We are all here together, so we have to work together.”

        Joint ventures by Ohio and West Virginia already are in the works.

        The most prominent of them is a federal empowerment zone that includes parts of Lawrence County, Ohio, and the Huntington metro area. The zone will receive millions of dollars over the next 10 years to pay for economic and social improvement programs.

        For the past three years, Lawrence County has supported a study to look into developing industrial parks along the river, where there are 4,000 acres available for an inland port, Mr. Mooney said.


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