$800K from ‘Zone Loan’ handed to Huntington

September 22, 2018

HUNTINGTON — The Huntington Municipal Development Authority has been given about $800,000 left over from a now-defunct loan program to use for economic development and job creation efforts.

The money is from the Huntington-Ironton Empowerment Zone’s dissolved Zone Loan program, which was used to aid many businesses over the past decade, including development of Kinetic Park in Huntington.

“The need for the Empowerment Zone has wound down at this point, and it’s not practical anymore to maintain that loan fund,” said Tom Bell, executive director of HMDA.

The HMDA board voted this week to accept the leftover money and place it into a separate account. It was presented to the board by City Manager Cathy Burns, the former executive director of the Huntington-Ironton Empowerment Zone.

Burns said the Zone Loan program was dissolved in October 2017 but currently has four loans continuing to be repaid.

Loan repayments are being managed and collected by the Ironton-Lawrence Community Action Organization based in Ironton, Ohio. Burns said that account balance was split between West Virginia and Ohio, with West Virginia expected to receive checks totaling approximately $800,000.

That total is expected to increase as the four outstanding loans are repaid and the money is then split between the two states.

Burns asked HMDA to accept the money and continue the original mission of the loan program, which was to create jobs and foster economic development.

One of the last projects supported by the program was the construction of an elevator tower at the Huntington Tri-State Airport. The Empowerment Zone gave $250,000 as the first source of funding, while the Zone Loan program gave $250,000 in matching funds, she said.

The airport project would be a construction project in two phases, she said. The

completion of the elevator tower would lead to the construction of a parking facility or parking deck around it.

HMDA board member Cal Kent asked if the $800,000 could be used for projects that benefit Huntington but aren’t necessarily within city limits, such as the airport elevator project.

Empowerment Zone board members requested the money be used specifically to benefit Huntington since the airport already has enough money to complete its project, Burns said. The money could be used to create new businesses or other taxpaying entities.

Travis Crum Is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.

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