Beech Bottom Site Promising

Few sites in the entire Northern Panhandle are as promising for large-scale economic development as the old Wheeling Corrugating property in Beech Bottom. In part because of the natural gas drilling and processing boom, the 650-acre tract may have a bright future, bringing with it hundreds or even thousands of new jobs.

Just one obstacle stands in the way of local officials being able to dangle the site in front of developers: money.

For decades, the land was in heavy industrial use. Almost undoubtedly, environmental cleanup work will be required before it can be used.

But the site also has one gigantic advantage over some other developable land in the area: It is owned by the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, an organization formed solely to bring new jobs to our region. The BDC bought the land in 2012, for $200,000.

Ownership by the BDC instead of a private entity means that haggling over price should not be a problem if a suitable buyer or tenant comes forward.

BDC officials have obtained $225,000 in federal funds to conduct an environmental assessment of the land. Once it is completed, the scope and cost of necessary environmental remediation work will be known.

Some work already has been completed, and BDC Executive Director Pat Ford has said he does not believe a significant amount of cleanup remains to be done.

Local, state and federal officials who worked with the BDC to obtain money for the assessment now should turn their attention to finding and locking in federal funds for any remaining cleanup. And, it is not too soon to be taking the next step, of exploring resources for actual development. If all those ducks can be in a row when the assessment is completed, the Northern Panhandle will be well on its way to creation of new jobs and a boost to the economy.