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Why Not A Cracker For Us?

March 18, 2012
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Perhaps the most important question implied by Shell chemical company's decision to pass our area by for a cracker plant is simple and unsettling: Are the Northern Panhandle and East Ohio considered too small for the big stuff?

Shell outlined reasons why it is choosing to build at Monaca, Pa., rather than in our area. The cracker will be really big stuff, and therein may lie part of the problem for us.

Among Shell's reasons for choosing Monaca were availability of an adequate site. Reportedly, the company wants about 500 acres.

Try to find that much reasonably flat land in the Northern Panhandle or East Ohio. By the way, it needs to be beside the Ohio River for water transportation, have good highway access and be served by a rail line. Western Belmont County won't work.

Then there's the other challenge: Shell made it clear part of what went into the decision was concern the area around the plant be able to support it, not just after it's built but also during construction.

As many as 10,000 construction workers may be needed for the plant. Think about that. Where do we in this area put that many people on a temporary basis?

Beaver County, where Monaca is located, has about 170,000 residents. That's more than the entire Northern Panhandle, down through Tyler County, combined. The East Ohio riverfront counties, from Columbiana south through Monroe, have about 265,000 residents.

If construction workers for a plant at Monaca can't find quarters in Beaver County, they can rent apartments in Pittsburgh and commute for about half an hour.

Does this mean we're out of the running for major industries? Absolutely not.

The Northern Panhandle and East Ohio offer enormous advantages for certain types of major industries. We need only to make them crystal clear, while coming up with counter-arguments - and there are excellent ones - for those who dismiss us as being too hilly and not populated densely enough. In some ways, less-populated areas are better for plants. But we need to be realistic in all that.

And we need to do it quickly. Remember, another company is searching for a cracker site in one of our three states.

It's our turn.

Myer can be reached at: Myer@news-register.net.

 
 

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