New economic development director gets right to work

LISBON – Columbiana County’s new economic development director has been busy his first three months on the job based on a quarterly report he provided county commissioners at their meeting this week.

Hired on Aug. 28, Tad Herold spent the past three months learning about the programs operated by and affiliated with the economic department. While the office has been in place since the 1980s, it had been without a director since 2002, when the position was eliminated by commissioners to save money.

This left only the office staff of Pam Dray and Marie Cox to seek and administer state and federal grants. Cox retired several years ago but continues to work part-time, and when Dray announced she was retiring at the end of September, commissioners decided to reinstate the director position.

In his report, Herold noted he met with the county Community Improvement Corp. (CIC), which administers a small-business revolving loan fund program. He reviewed the three outstanding loans and learned one of the beneficiaries is delinquent on its payments. He is collecting the necessary paperwork to begin collection efforts.

Herold noted the Community Action Agency operates a similar program, a mini-loan program for small businesses. He met with both CAA and CIC officials to discuss ways to coordinate efforts so an applicant for one loan program can be automatically screened to determine eligibility for the other.

“We have (applicants) falling between the cracks. If we have both programs aligned we can direct applicants to the other,” Herold said.

He also advised commissioners they were eligible to deduct 5 percent from the $500,000 state grant received to demolish dilapidated and abandoned homes in the county to cover administrative expenses. Herold said commissioners instructed him to waive the administrative fee and keep the $25,000 in the program so none of the homes would have to be cut from the list.

Herold said he also met with Mike Conway, executive director of the Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corp., about the county possibly rejoining MVEDC. He said MVEDC wants to work with the county CIC in issuing more loans to spur business development.

Herold’s report also listed all of the various other meetings and professional conferences he has attended.

“I believe we have laid a good groundwork for the department and expect 2014 to be a year in which we gain great momentum,” he concluded in his letter to commissioners.