MADISON — After two decades of serving as Boone County’s community and economic development director, Larry Lodato is retiring, effective March 15.
“I have been extremely fortunate to have worked with a great group of County Commissioners and Economic Development Board members over the years,” he said.
A graduate of the Economic Development Institute in Indianapolis, Indiana, Lodato, 68, has been director of the county development office since 1993 after serving eight years as the managing editor of The Coal Valley News, and seven years as city editor and sports editor of The Logan Banner.
He has been involved in many organizations in the county, including building manager of the Boone County Business Development Center; grant writer for the Boone County Commission, where he has administered or written nearly $4 million in community, economic development, recreation and coal heritage grants; secretary/treasurer of the Bituminous Coal Heritage Foundation; secretary/publicist for the West Virginia Coal Festival, and he also serves on the Board of Directors of the Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreational Trails Authority, Boone County Parks and Recreation Commission, the Corridor G Regional Development Authority, and was appointed by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin to the Board of Directors of the National Coal Heritage Authority.
“I would say that the most important project I was involved with was the construction of the Massey (now Alpha Resources) regional headquarters building on a post mine land site for Boone County,” Lodato said. “That was an on-again, off-again project for about three years, but it finally became a reality in 2008, thanks to a lot of hard work and determination from a lot of people and agencies. The county development office was instrumental in bringing the key players together to the table, including coal company representatives, engineers, water company, public service district representatives, state and local governmental officials, as well as the landowner of the Wash Branch industrial site. The key was getting public water out that way on Corridor G.”
Over 100 people are employed at Alpha Resources’ Julian regional headquarters facility, and the county reaps about $120,000 in annual property taxes. Last year, Alpha unveiled its state-of-the-art, world class center leadership academy for mine safety and training and development. Both facilities are located on Running Right Way, just off Corridor G at Julian.
Other major projects Lodato said he was proud to have been a part of included:
• Working directly with U.S. Congressman Nick Joe Rahall II to secure the northern overlook area on Corridor G, as the location for the Hatfield-McCoy Trailhead and Boone County Welcome Center.
• Being involved in year-long process of obtaining Certified Business Location status for the county, a new economic development tool to attract new businesses. The county recently was re-certified for three years.
• Development of the county’s first business incubator and business development center where eight companies and agencies are located, employing 16 people.
• Working with the Boone County Commission and Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College to secure property for a new educational facility, just off Corridor G at Rock Creek, near Danville.
• Helping to establish the Coal Heritage Museum and Boone County Arts and Heritage Center and for being an officer for 21 years and a founding member of the West Virginia Coal Festival, one of the most popular festivals in West Virginia.
• Working to develop walking trails and other recreational facilities and now a potential amphitheater at WaterWays Park at Julian, which attracts over 50,000 visitors annually during the summer months.
• Helping to start a public transportation (Tri-River Transit) system in Boone County.
“Everything this office has accomplished over the years would not have been possible if it wasn’t for the excellent cooperation of the Boone County Commission and the Commission’s staff and maintenance department,” Lodato pointed out. “I can truly say I did my best to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Boone County.”
“It almost took an act of Congress to secure the property for the Trailhead Center and Welcome Center next to Waterways. I recall personally driving Congressman Rahall to the Northern overlook park and ride area and showing him the site. I requested that he start the process of utilizing that property for the new Hatfield-McCoy Trailhead and Welcome Center,” Lodato said. “He (Rahall) said: “This is a Federal Highway it would be very difficult to get a project like this done.” “I then reminded him that he was the ranking member in the U.S. House of Representatives for Transportation and Infrastructure. Needless to say, within a few weeks, I got a call from the State Department of Transportation stating that the Hatfield-McCoy Trails Authority could lease the property for the Trailhead Center.” The Boone County Commission’s super maintenance department built the building, saving the Trails Authority thousands of dollars in construction costs. Now the Welcome Center serves as the Gateway to Boone County and Hatfield-McCoy Country.”
Lodato said there are still many projects he would like to see accomplished to help diversify the local economy in the wake of the major decline in the coal industry, such as the development of the county’s first industrial park; construction of an amphitheater at WaterWays Park for concerts; and to see the Hatfield-McCoy Trails Authority expand to provide more opportunities for local entrepreneurs with a new trails system that would link the municipalities of Madison and Danville with the Big Coal River area.
A resident of Boone County since 1978, Lodato resides in Madison with his wife, Rose, a teacher at Scott High School. They have five grown children. They attend the New Harvest Church of the Nazarene, and on January 29, 2014, they became grandparents of a 6 pound, 4 ounce boy, who was named Elijah Cole.