U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin Views Progress in Northern Panhandle

Stops made at Health Plan site, Girls State

Photo by Joselyn King U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., right, and Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott attend a roundtable discussion at The Health Plan building in downtown that focused on the future for development in the city.

WHEELING — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin asked officials with The Health Plan Friday just why they chose to move 460 employees and their offices from St. Clairsville to Wheeling.

Manchin made visits throughout Wheeling on Friday — starting with an appearance at West Virginia Rhododendron Girls State on the Wheeling Jesuit University campus, then moving on to see The Health Plan’s new headquarters under construction in Wheeling.

David Mathieu, vice president of commercial products for The Health Plan, said the company started out located in Riley Building in Wheeling, now known as the Kaley Center.

“We ran out of space, and couldn’t find a building to accommodate our growth, so we ended up in (St. Clairsville) Ohio,” he said. “We are a West Virginia corporation — always have been — but we’ve just been in Ohio.”

He said when James Pennington took over as CEO of The Health Plan, he believed the company should be located in Wheeling.

While some employees already have been moved to Wheeling, about 80 percent of The Health Plan’s employees remain in St. Clairsville, according to Mathieu. All should be in the new facilities by December, and the St. Clairsville building and property that currently houses The Health Plan offices are to be sold.

Mayor Glenn Elliott said the company’s move across the river is bringing new energy to Wheeling. The Health Plan’s building is the first new construction in the downtown since 1982, he said.

“It’s a great time to be mayor in Wheeling,” Elliott said. “The excitement I’m hearing about Wheeling — a lot of it is being generated by The Health Plan. The perception of what is possible in Wheeling has changed a lot in recent years. It’s the first time people are talking more about the future than the past. I hear my parents talk about how Wheeling used to be. We’re not out of the woods yet, but it’s a big step.”

Manchin also provided concluding remarks at Girls State Friday morning, and among the participants was his granddaughter, Sophie Manchin.

He told the students they’ve “hit the lottery” if they have someone in their lives who gives them unconditional love.

Every child needs a “safe place” in which to grow, a healthy start and a chance at education, according to Manchin.

“Lastly, every child must grow into a caring adult that gives back,” he said.