Top Honors For Fort, Merchants

Jefferson County’s C.A. Joseph Co. and Historic Fort Steuben will be recognized by the 13-county Eastern Ohio Development Alliance today for their extraordinary contributions to the local economy.

Ed Looman, Eastern Ohio project manager for the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth and formerly the executive director of the now-defunct Progress Alliance, said he consulted with Jefferson County Port Authority staffers before nominating C.A. Joseph for emerging business winner and the fort for the EODA Tourism Award.

“As past economic development director in Jefferson County, I think it’s really significant,” he said. “This is the third year in a row that a Jefferson County business and/or organization has been honored by EODA.”

C.A. Joseph, in the mausoleum supply industry for more than 30 years, has been branching out, diversifying its operations to include warehousing, plate processing and industrial vacuum processing. The company has operations in Irondale as well as a machine shop in Calcutta.

The company is currently clearing land for a rail line extension that will open C.A. Joseph’s market and “open the door for more customers, more opportunities,” he said.

“We can go after (customers) we couldn’t consider before because we didn’t have rail service,” he said, adding that once the rail work is done they’ll be adding 150 feet in warehouse space. Later this year they’ll also be adding at least one new process, he said.

“We’ve never really had a major layoff, even when times were really bad six or seven years ago,” he said.

Judy Bratten, executive director of Historic Fort Steuben, said their award is “a testimony to the fact that the people who reconstructed Fort Steuben had a vision that not only would make history more accessible to people, but also use tourism as part of economic development. This affirms their initial belief.”

Some 6,000-8,000 people visit the fort’s visitors center over the course of a year, she said, “either to see the fort, exhibits and programs or the land office.”

Bratten said Historic Fort Steuben is truly a community project, pointing out they’ve received state and federal funding “and support from the mayors and different organizations” over the years.

“A lot of the initial work was done by volunteers … who’d come down in their spare time and work on buildings,” she said. “We’re so grateful to all the volunteers, all the organization in Steubenville, all our members who’ve helped us.

“I think so many people, at the very beginning, said it couldn’t be done or figured what’s the point. Now, everybody can see it can be done and see the value. I think it’s inspired other groups – the restoration of the Grand Theater, for instance. The people working on that understand it takes time, but if they persevere and do what they know is right and it will come to pass,” she said.