The owners of the Ziegenfelder Co. in Wheeling say they aren't having a meltdown when it comes to dealing with city leaders and paying business and occupation taxes.
Wheeling business leaders were asked Thursday, "How are you hanging on in a down economy?"
About 20 people turned out for an open roundtable discussion on the local economy Thursday night at Wheeling Coffee and Spice in the downtown. The event was organized by Patty Levenson, Republican candidate for Ohio County commissioner.
Photo by Joselyn King
Susan Cookman, left, Don Cookman and Barbara Ruben participate in a roundtable discussion on local business Thursday night at Wheeling Coffee and Spice.
Other current candidates were asked to facilitate group discussions. Among those participating were Delegates Erikka Storch, R-Ohio, and Ryan Ferns, D-Ohio, and Patrick McGeehan, Republican candidate for West Virginia Senate, 1st District.
Many of those present talked of a high level of business and occupation tax in Wheeling, and how building codes and inspections can also add cost to doing business.
Lisa Allen, president and chief executive officer of the Ziegenfelder Co., said she doesn't have the struggle with Wheeling officials that many businesses voice.
"We've always felt the responsibility to pay our taxes, and have worked well with the city," she said. "We really don't have any complaints."
Allen added, though, she would like to find more local residents willing to work at her company.
"It's tough to find entry-level employees willing to commit to manufacturing jobs," she said.
Allen noted she pays her employees minimum wage with benefits.
"We take care of our employees," she said.
Barry Allen, vice president of sales and marketing for the Ziegenfelder Co., noted the company sells billions of its "Twin Pops" across the nation each year, and it would always be a good business decision for the company to relocate to his native Tennessee or Texas.
"But we love West Virginia, and we want to give back," he said.
Walter Austin of Wheeling pointed out West Virginia has an advantage over both Pennsylvania and Ohio in that overall education costs are cheaper in the Mountain State. He explained in Ohio, there are many school districts each with their own administration that cost taxpayers more money. In West Virginia, each county has just one school district. Also, Pennsylvania can assess school tax levies on taxpayers without going to the voters, Austin added.
Businessman Dolph Santorine, meanwhile, questioned the need for business and occupation taxes in what he termed a "shrinking" city of Wheeling.