Local development leaders are pleased that the new owner of a 111-acre industrial property near Third Street in Steubenville with river, rail and interstate access is willing to consider doing more than just turning it into a scrap heap.
Progress Alliance Executive Director Ed Looman said a steady stream of prospects have been impressed by the potential of the property, now owned by River Rail Development, part of Wheeling-based Herman Strauss Industries. Strauss paid $15 million for the former RG Steel Steubenville plant, most of it for the machinery and buildings.
A New York-based salvage company, Frontier Industrial, spent $20 million on the former RG Mingo Junction plant. Frontier has said it will consider leasing certain high-value parts of the Mingo operation, and has consulted capital funds about potentially restarting operations.
"The good news for us is our vacant properties are hot," Looman said during Tuesday's partners meeting, hosted this month by the Jefferson Regional Planning Commission. "The former RG Steel property (in Steubenville) is drawing an extremely large amount of interest from companies outside the area looking to relocate here. We're taking numerous prospects to tour that site, and Strauss also has prospects coming to look at that site. When you see the folks visiting there, they're just like kids at Christmas when they walk in and see what's available, the size of the buildings, the river's right there, the rail, the highway are there - the three Rs we always talk about.
"Going forward, I think that property is going to be huge for our county, as is the potential for the Mingo Junction property going forward. Even though they're not making steel at this point - though they could end up making steel at some point along the line - Strauss has been extremely cooperative, they're always willing to work with us. That's good news for us."
Looman, however, told the business leaders in attendance that interest is high in properties throughout the county, including the industrial park, and applauded the efforts of state government as well as the county commission to grow jobs and the economy.
"We're also working with a company located in the northern end of Jefferson County, looking at a nice-sized expansion project," he said. "Our state contacts were here last week to meet with them to move that forward. It's an exciting project for us."
Looman also told members nine shale-related companies had current job orders with Jefferson County Connections, pointing out the agency had assisted four others in hiring workers.
Information from Ohio's Office of Workforce Development also showed Jefferson County unemployment at 10.6 percent in August, down a full percent from the same period in 2011. Looman said employment has been above 28,000 for three consecutive months; in January, 27,100 Jefferson County residents were working.
Looman, meanwhile, said he's awaiting word on potential funding for a second access road at the industrial park. Officials have already secured a $200,000 grant from the Governor's Office on Appalachia and are working on securing additional funding through JobsOhio and the Ohio Department of Transportation.
Consideration also is being given to resurrecting the organization's annual "Best of the County" banquet, he added.