Belpre Chamber pleased by talk

BELPRE – An official with the Belpre Area Chamber of Commerce said those in the organization are pleased with last month’s Town Talk economic development discussion.

“It was a very successful event,” said chamber executive director Karen Waller.

The Jan. 23 program at the Belpre Senior Center, on Washington Boulevard, attracted 110 people, which included community members, business owners and managers, area manufacturers, retailers, nonprofits, and other interested persons.

“It was our first time trying a program like this and we had no idea what to expect, but we prepared for a full house and got it,” Waller said.

The more than two-hour program was held by the Belpre Area Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Committee and included presentations by a number of people. Those who spoke included U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio; Ohio Rep. Debbie Phillips, D-Albany; Sen. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville; Belpre Mayor Mike Lorentz; Kraton Plant Manager Scott Oran; DeeAnn Gehlauf, vice president of business organization and development at Memorial Health System; Bradley Ebersole, president of Washington State Community College, and Pam Lankford, director of the Marietta Small Business Development Center.

“We were pleased with the panel, as they all validated what we were thinking the whole time Belpre is poised to grow in the west end with the hospital, Kraton and other businesses moving to that end of the city,” said Waller. “The word we keep hearing is ‘hub’ because we will be a place people come through to get to and from destinations and we need to know how to use it to our advantage.”

The idea for the program came about from the chamber’s economic development committee’s desire to hear from local businesses and industries about their views of the economic climate.

Along with the informational talks and question and answer opportunities, nearly a dozen organizations and businesses had information to educate people about what they offer the community. Those who participated included American Electric Power, American National University, Appalachian Partnerships for Economic Growth, Belpre Woman’s Club, Community Bank, Memorial Health System, NOE Office Supply, Southeastern Ohio Port Authority, Tupperware Business Opportunities and Washington State Community College.

Because of the success of this first Town Talk, Waller said the chamber is planning to do more in the future.

“We will absolutely do more,” she said. “We have no hard plans, but would be remiss if we didn’t because the community seems to want it.”