The Health Plan A Major Advance

Jim Pennington, CEO of The Health Plan, got it right: His company’s new headquarters in downtown Wheeling is a “firecracker” for development of the city’s economy.

Pennington’s comment came prior to a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the facility on Thursday. It was an apt analogy. Firecracks do draw attention, after all. They can shake things up. And sometimes, they set off chain reactions.

The decision by The Health Plan’s officials to build their new headquarters in downtown Wheeling draws attention to the business district’s potential like nothing that has happened for many years.

Like the sharp report of a firecracker, The Health Plan’s move draws attention. It is precisely the kind of notice we need — a statement by a big, prestigious company that downtown Wheeling is a good place to do business now and has the potential to be even better in the future.

Many people deserve credit for The Health Plan’s new building. Efforts to redevelop that site, once home to dilapidated buildings no one seemed to want, date back to the administration of former Mayor Nick Sparachane and City Council members who served with him. Decisive steps were taken during former Mayor Andy McKenzie’s tenure, with support from council members then. And current Mayor Glenn Elliott and council members now serving have played important roles, too.

But let us be realistic: None of what city government did would have mattered had Pennington and others at The Health Plan not stepped up to the plate, ready to hit a home run.

Company officials’ faith in downtown Wheeling and the willingness of The Health Plan’s many employees to embrace change deserve bottom-line credit.

By itself, Pennington’s “firecracker” is making quite a bit of desirable noise. It may well lead to a chain reaction giving Wheeling residents, businesses and officials lots of reasons for celebration in the future.

So, on behalf of the community, we extend both our gratitude to The Health Plan and a hearty welcome to downtown Wheeling.