The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Reality Check

June 25, 2008

Partnership for economic prosperity

Editor’s note: From the inception of the G rowth Partnership, the Star Beacon was a trustee. The newspaper’s leadership chose to drop its membership in 2008.



By CARL E. FEATHER

Lifestyle Editor

When it comes to economic development in Ashtabula County, the buck stops at the doorstep of 17 N. Market St., Jefferson, the Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County.

Housed in a former funeral home, the $600,000 Robert S. Morrison Economic Development Center bills itself as a “one-stop shop” for economic development in Ashtabula County. Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court Judge Al Mackey was a county commissioner at the time Growth Partnership came together, the late 1980s. Prior to forming the partnership, economic development had been handled through Ashtabula County Industrial Development (ACID), which came out the county’s planning department. Mackey says commissioners wanted to delegate that responsibility to a public-private partnership.

“I think there was a feeling we needed to get new faces, get a different approach, and that’s where the Growth Partnership came in,” Mackey says.

That new approach was to hire a full-time director and staff that would work out of a stand-alone office, initially provided by the county. Organizers attempted to fund the partnership through a levy, but after voters twice rejected that approach, the partners turned to a combination of private and public funding. Trustees would kick in an annual membership fee as a monetary expression of their commitment to Ashtabula County’s future.

The group operates as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization under Internal Revenue Service rules.

The partnership was just a babe when Joseph F. Mayernick, formerly the head of the Weirton, W.Va., Chamber of Commerce, was named director in September 1990. Once Mayernick was on board, county leaders gradually transferred economic development to the GP.

Mayernick’s first job was to save the 2,000 jobs that two different reports had projected would be lost during the 1990s. In a letter dated Jan. 9, 2008, from Mayernick to Larry Bottoms, GP president, Mayernick states that the organization was deeply involved in saving Transplastics, Bailey, Webb, CW Ohio, NEO Plastics, Meric Wood Products, Zherco, Future Controls, Titan Aircraft, Foseco, Nordic Air, Conneaut Leather, Glenbeigh, Therapedic Mattress, Tegam, Perfection and several others.

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