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Lawrence County, Ohio.

FRANKLIN FURNACE, Ohio — A proposal to build a new steel plant in the Franklin Furnace area has run hot and cold over the past five years. Now it may be warming up again, with the potential of bringing 250 to 1,000 or more jobs to the region.

State and local officials plan to meet in Portsmouth next week to discuss the project.

"There is a partnership between the county commission in Scioto and Lawrence County and the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation and the Scioto County Port Authority and others working on this project," said Bill Dingus, executive director of the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation.

"I'm a great believer in hard work," Dingus said Thursday. "There is a very good chance this can happen. The two counties have been working on this aggressively for the past six months. Now the state is coming to the table. Local people are working together. The LEDC has purchased the air permits for this project."

The Lawrence County Board of Commissioners reset their regular board meeting next week to attend a meeting at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, at the Scioto County Courthouse in Portsmouth. The Lawrence County commissioners will holds its regular meeting next week at 9:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 24.

New Steel International is the name of the firm involved in the project.

Lawrence County Commissioner Bill Pratt said a company is looking at a 900-acre parcel in Scioto County west of the Sun Coke plant. It is considering building a steel plant capable of producing 200-ton forgings (steel molds) for nuclear power plants. A power plant could be built adjacent to the steel plant, he said.

"They need to know about the property by April 30," Pratt said.

Rob Slagel, an Ironton businessman and former Lawrence County Port Authority member, said he's hearing "a lot of rumblings about the project. They would need river access. The project has been hot and cold over the past five years. I think it has a 50-50 shot. The project would be great for our area."

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