It appears decisions on where to build at least one of the "cracker" plants state officials want to bring to West Virginia are within weeks, perhaps days, of being made. Quick reaction to potential opportunities could be the difference between success and failure for the Mountain State.
Two, perhaps three, companies are considering West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania as sites for cracker plants. The massive facilities are used to extract valuable chemicals from natural gas.
Late this week it was reported one of the companies has begun discussing such a plant with potential investors - and private property owners. Once planning reaches that stage, a decision may be imminent.
But at that stage, site choices can change quickly and irreversibly. Such changes can be prevented - or encouraged - by factors such as tax incentives available for specific locations.
All three states already are involved in the incentives game. West Virginia legislators approved major tax breaks for a cracker plant last week. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin was able to inform one of the firms planning a cracker of that during his trip to Houston.
Upon his return, Tomblin said he might ask the Legislature for more incentives. Presumably, he had something specific in mind as a result of his meetings in Houston.
Nothing has been said publicly about the matter for about a week.
Now, with the report that one of the cracker companies has proceeded nearly to an end game in site selection, new incentives may take on enormous importance. Again, they could offset drawbacks a company perceives in West Virginia locations. They also could make advantages of an out-of-state site, such as topography or infrastructure, seem less persuasive.
Tomblin and legislators should be ready at very short notice - perhaps a day or two - to act on new incentives. Clearly, if additional breaks seem prudent, they should be provided.
This appears to be the most important economic development campaign during West Virginia's recent history. It probably is the most significant issue legislators will deal with this winter.
Speed may be the key to success at this point, and we urge lawmakers to be ready if Tomblin determines their intervention is necessary.