STEUBENVILLE - Mayor Domenick Mucci Jr. said the city of Steubenville is looking to use the benefits it will receive from the natural gas industry to create sustainable growth.
"The coal, pottery and steel industries gave us a rich history. We want to protect that and also welcome in our new gas and oil industry to complement our history," said Mucci, who is in his 20th year as mayor.
Mucci said he and city officials are working carefully to craft commerce around the natural gas boom, guarding against downfalls such as "overbuilding a community." That includes enticing companies that support the drilling industry to stay in Steubenville after the initial boom, while continuing to develop and support the city's established businesses and industries.
The Jefferson County Courthouse is located at the corner of Market and Third streets in downtown Steubenville.
Gas processing and drilling companies already have expressed interest in renting Steubenville office space to house employees, he said.
"We understand that some of these fields are specialized fields and they need to bring experienced employees in," Mucci said, "but we know that there will be local employment opportunities."
Eastern Gateway Community College - one of the city's two institutions of higher learning, along with Franciscan University - is leading the way in educating and training area residents in the natural gas and drilling field, Mucci noted.
The seat of Jefferson County, Steubenville shared in the population decline much of the Ohio Valley experienced over the last decade, dropping to about 18,500 residents. But Mucci is encouraged by a U.S. Census Bureau study that states traffic has increased to around 25,000 people in the city during daylight hours.
Steubenville recently earned the honor of being the only city other than Columbus to host the State of the State address, when Gov. John Kasich arrived at Wells Academy, one of the best performing schools in the state.
"Our hats off to the educators, to the administrators, and more so to the students that are taking ownership of their education," Mucci said of Wells Academy. "We were excited and truly honored by (Kasich's) visit and we put our best foot forward."
The city is continuing its efforts to brighten the landscape by removing some of the eyesores within its limits. Utilizing funding from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, Steubenville demolished more than 50 structures, mostly residential. It is also taking advantage of West Virginia's demolition of the Fort Steuben Bridge. With the construction of an observation deck on one of the bridge's piers next year, Mucci is hoping for a renewed interest in the Steubenville Marina.
Called the "City of Murals," the colorful depiction found on many of the buildings in the downtown business district are one of the tourist draws.
The Grecian Food Fest brings Ohio Valley residents downtown every summer, but the main draw every year is the Dean Martin Festival. The annual celebration of Steubenville's favorite son brings people to the city from all over the nation and even from foreign countries.
"Tourism is going to play an extremely, extremely important role in the future of our economics here," Mucci commented.