Friday, February 17, 2012

The SOTPA: Optimism in a Sea of Uncertainty

On this date 95 years ago, Wally Horton was born. If Frank Capra were to make a Wally Horton version of It’s a Wonderful Life starring Wally, it’s interesting to ponder what Capra would show for Licking County and Heath minus Wally’s influence. The same could be asked about the Port Authority.

That prompts me to share a “State of the Port Authority” outlook that my Board got Tuesday.

Defense cuts at the federal level are impacting close to home and the looming renewal of the current large contract for workload here stand in contrast to an improving deal stream and an improving local economy. There are reasons for uncertainty yet reasons for optimism too.

Defense Cuts: Mixed news. some of our customers saw severe cuts in workforce take effect in early January.  However, they have actually started to bring a few of those people back already. Others have not seen the severity of cuts from the most recent rounds and, in fact, recently has seen job growth. We still await a ribbon cutting or two on some exciting projects.

Economic Impact: Many may recall that the Port Authority built roads, a bridge, and a new spec building among capital projects during this “Great Recession.” These investments were really, in part, a local economic stimulus. That’s why it’s worth noting a recent report that shows $12.8 million has been spent with Licking County Chamber of Commerce members in the past three years and even more with local vendors. We were driving full bore into the storm while others were sitting back and weathering it. The Port Authority has achieved a higher visibility in the community as a result.

Deal Stream: Greenfield sites tend to lag in the economic development deal stream. However, we are seeing a deal stream in the first quarter of this year approaching what we were seeing in late 2007. Increased marketing by the new Grow Licking County CIC is a key part of sustaining the deal stream into the future. Workforce development efforts by C-TEC, COTC, and The Works are also critical.

Tech-Savvy, Government Innovator: Though many may call it an oxymoron, tech-savvy and government innovator are terms that make sense in describing the Port Authority. We have gone a year, now, with paperless meetings on iPads and can report benefits from this. We also have almost a year of deployment of Segway PTs and can report on cost savings and improvements from this as well. Our lobby message centers, new “situation room” approach to monitoring the facilities, and integrated use of social media are all stand out examples that fit this image.

Balancing uncertainty and optimism is nothing new to the Port Authority. That's why our Board accepted a $23 million 10-year capital plan for the Port Authority that shows we are firmly planning for the best, while preparing for the worst.

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