U.S. Sen. Rob Portman Views Progress During Visit to Belmont County and Monroe County

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, visited two communities Tuesday afternoon in Eastern Ohio to talk about jobs, tax reform and infrastructure.

Portman made his first stop at American Mud Works Partners Ltd. in Woodsfield, which is expected to bring in more jobs to the Monroe County. Monroe County Commissioner Mick Schumacher, founding American Mud Works member Mark Teinert and other company representatives joined Portman on his tour.

“This is awesome. I am very excited about this creating jobs in the county,” Portman said. “It’s tough to figure out in this part of Ohio how to bring in jobs that are good-paying jobs and that are steady. This is a big investment, and they plan to be here a long time. The community really will benefit from this. There’s also a lot of Ohio steel that has been put into building this. It is part of a broader economic development plan. This is infrastructure, which is what everyone has been talking about.”

Portman also took the opportunity to talk about tax reform. He has supported the Taxpayer Bill of Rights Act, Prevent Targeting at the IRS Act and Fair Treatment for All Donations Act.

“They have benefited here from two aspects of tax reform,” Portman said. “One is the lower rates, which all companies can benefit from. The second is the ability to write off investments. They said a couple years ago it was harder to do. I have been to over 20 businesses in Ohio and asked them about the tax thing and it has all been positive.”

American Mud Works celebrated with a ribbon-cutting in early August at its location at Industrial Park. The company is based in Texas and services the oil and gas industry with a drilling mud production plant.

After leaving Woodsfield, the senator went to St. Clairsville to discuss a $60.5 million water project that Belmont County officials announced in August.

Portman met with Belmont County Commissioners J.P. Dutton, Josh Meyer and Mark Thomas, as well as Belmont Sanitary Sewer District Director Kelly Porter, about the preparations the county has made to lay the groundwork for the project. Also in the discussion were Ohio Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta, and David Hall, state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Ohio Rural Development.

Officials said the USDA is providing a $45.5 million direct loan combined with a nearly $15 million grant through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program for projects that include replacing the water metering reading system; the 1965 water treatment plant; the Ohio 9 water booster station; and the Homeside 12-inch water transmission main. They also will install a water distribution system supervisory control and data acquisition upgrade.

In addition, officials learned last fall that the county would receive $9 million in loans and $3 million in grants for sewerage improvements.

“We’re here to celebrate that and talk about how we can insure this project works well, because it’s a huge commitment,” Portman said. “This is the biggest project ever in Ohio from USDA.”

“The buzz in eastern Ohio still continues about the award that we received,” Thomas said. “This is the foundation of our economic growth. This award just solidifies where we would be able to lay that foundation, and ultimately that foundation will have the private sector creating jobs.”

Commissioners also credited Porter for his work in helping to lay this groundwork and for forming a long-range water plan.

“He gave us a lot of information throughout the process,” Meyer said.

While officials noted the potential of a proposed ethane cracker plant in Dilles Bottom was a likely factor in the investment, Dutton said another step in showing local commitment was the commissioners’ decision in 2017 to raise water and sewer rates.

“We did basically nearly double the rates of our customers,” Dutton said. “That put the rate structure in place to make this package happen…Our residents are making a substantial investment.”

“The county got their act together, and USDA noticed,” Portman said. “They put together a solid application for the funding. It fit their criteria because it had to do with economic development…The PTT (Global Chemical) issue, the cracker plant helped, but it’s beyond that. Because it wont just effect the cracker plant, it’ll effect the whole county. They also stepped up and made some local commitments to this.”

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