by MIKE SEVER
Private sector leaders of the Portage Development Board have made their pitch for continued financial support from the county, saying the board has helped bring in more than $129 million in new investment in 10 new projects last year.
In the past two years, the board has worked on 24 projects with a total investment of $264 million and about 1,380 new jobs and 1,000 retained jobs, said Brad Ehrhart, PDB president.
This past year the board was involved in projects ranging from helping grow a tree service in Suffield and retain seven jobs, to helping the expansion of Rovisys in Aurora with 182 jobs retained and 80 created. The PDB is also involved in arranging the financing for construction of student housing at the Northeast Ohio Medical University in Rootstown.
Ehrhart asked commissioners to extend the three-year contract in which the county pays $200,000 per year to fund economic development efforts in the county.
Private contributions from employers add another $108,000 to the board's budget. Ehrhart said the number of private sector contributors continues to grow.
Portage County Commissioner Kathleen Chandler said the county is "getting a good return on the dollars we've spent," but the board has taken no action on extending the contract. Chandler noted the board prepares its appropriation budget on an annual basis.
Chandler and Commissioner Maureen Frederick both praised the development board's success.
Chandler noted the board's success in working with other local, regional and state development groups. "Collaboration is so important," she said.
Frederick said the private sector's taking a large role in the board "enhances the credibility of the organization and its activities."
The PDB now has 53 companies as private contributors, and is "on track" to raise more private dollars in the next few years, Erhart said.
Stephen Colecchi, president and CEO of Robinson Memorial Hospital in Ravenna, who was the first PDB board chairman, noted there were some doubters that the public-private effort would succeed.
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