The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

September 7, 2013

Geneva wins national business magazine award

By DAVE DELUCA - For the Star Beacon
Star Beacon

GENEVA — Perseverance under adversity has broujht the City of Geneva some well-earned recognition. A July/August article in Cleveland based national business magazine “Inside Business” gave the municipality a thumbs up for its efforts to clean up a brownfield, increase tax revenues and create local jobs. Geneva was winner of the magazine’s 2013 Economic Develop-ment Plus Award. It took a few years to put together a complete package to do all these things, and the most important things are coming to fruition now.

Arthur Louis Steel of Ashtabula will soon be expanding into an environmentally safe area in Geneva, spending and making money there and bringing some jobs to the area. Getting this milestone accomplishment off the ground took more than a plan. It required diligence.

On Sept. 10 Environ-mental Management Services of Cleveland is to begin remediation of toxic soil at the old True Temper plant on North Avenue in Geneva. The clean up should take about a month. Environmental Manage-ment Services will clean the property to about 4 feet under the surface. The clean up may exceed Ohio and federal EPA quality guidelines for industrial plant soil quality.

Upon completion the property will become part of Arthur Louis Steel’s Geneva plant. Plans to clean up the place for use by Arthur Louis have been in the works since 2012, and the city has hoped to remediate soil on the property for much longer.

Much of the credit for bringing the deal to fruition goes to Assistant City Manager Jennifer Brown. She sought to find a source to fund the environmental project before. She submitted a grant proposal to clean up the brownfield next to Arthur Louis Steel in 2012 but it was denied. Her problem with securing funding through Clean Ohio Revitalization had to do with an elaborate point system that often rewarded certain criteria that could never be met. For instance, in one funding round Geneva had to face off against Kent, Ohio while one of the criteria was having a college in town. After some of these unfair criteria were done away with, Brown resubmitted the application in 2013. It was accepted.

“It took a lot of research and work,” Brown said. “When the grant was free of some of the criteria restrictions it made it a lot easier to get our message across.”

Arthur Louis Steel wanted to acquire the two parcels adjacent to their North Avenue plant for almost as long but was thwarted because of the condition of the land. The place had been left polluted by numerous industrial plants since 1890, including Geneva Tool Company and True Temper Corporation. A number of toxic pollutants accumulated there, making the place unusable. Some of these pollutants included PCBs, lead, toluene and various petrochemicals.

“There were enough toxic chemicals in the soil to make it a brownfield,” Brown said. “Fortunately these will now be cleaned up and Arthur Louis can take over the property.”

Environmental Manage-ment Services submitted the lowest bid to remediate the soil there, at a cost of $109, 894. Geneva City Council accepted the bid in August. Arthur Louis will match the bid with $210, 000. Thanks to approval of the grant the deal will cost the city nothing.

Arthur Louis Steel president JT Kanicki said Arthur Louis had been eyeing the property for a long time but environmental concerns had always blocked it.

“There were sludge ponds and all that, but now with no environmental legacy issues, we’re ready to go ahead and sign on the dotted line,” he said.

Kanicki said it was quite an enterprise getting the sale off the ground, and was grateful for the persistence shown by the city.

“It’s a good thing for us,” he said. “We need thriving businesses to drive the economy in this county.”

Arthur Louis Steel Vice President Matt Kanicki was also excited about the remediation.

“Geneva became our target after we expanded in Ashtabula,” he said. “It’s proving to be a good choice.”

Arthur Louis Steel is looking at hiring 10 new people for the plant now, expanding to around 25. Cleaning up the old True Temper brownfield will not only be good for the local environment, it will bring employment and a new tax base to Geneva.