ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Belmont County is open for business with three industrial and business parks.
Industrial parks have allowed local counties and communities to head in a new direction by having land ready for development - the infrastructure is in place, plots are marked off - before tenants are interested. This allows companies to come in and not have to wait as county or private developers scramble to find a suitable site.
The oldest industrial park in Belmont County, Fox Commerce Industrial Park in St. Clairsville, is located near the county fairgrounds and along Interstate 70. It has been under development for 15 years on 125 acres.
Industrial operations such as this in the Benwood Industrial Park also are springing up across Ohio, particularly in Belmont County where three industrial parks exist.
According to Belmont County Department of Development/Community Improvement Corp. Director Susan Douglass, it is expected to reach full capacity by this summer.
"It's really been a great magnet for new businesses," she said. "Fox Shannon is also very diverse."
Douglass pointed out occupants at the Fox Commerce Park are all independent businesses and include small companies that began as home-based businesses, such as Sew Biz, as well as international companies such as FedEx.
She said employees like the park-like setting with a pond and walking trail and that Fox Commerce Industrial Park has been a showpiece for visiting businesses.
"It's like a microcosm-a snapshot-of the county," said Douglass. "Fox Commerce Park has materialized into the industrial park that was envisioned in the beginning."
In western Belmont County, two developing industrial parks are the result of partnerships involving county government, the village of Barnesville, Warren Township and private investors.
Each park is designated as a Joint Economic Development District, an agreement between contiguous municipalities and/or townships to foster economic development and job creation while benefiting the parties in the agreement.
The Eastern Ohio Regional Industrial Park is located north of Barnesville on Ohio 800 just south of I-70. An agreement with Oxford Mining Co. made use of several hundred acres of reclaimed strip mine land as the park site. Barnesville and the Belmont County Port Authority have secured state grants and matching funds totaling $1 million for a waterline project to the industrial park, and it should be completed by this summer.
Larry Merry, director of the Belmont County Port Authority, said businesses have been eyeing the property because of its flexibility in design with undeveloped land.
Lot sizes could range from 5 acres to 60 acres.
"We knew we'd be looking at a long-term project here," said Merry. "Just building the infrastructure takes time."
On the east side of Barnesville along Ohio 147 lies a second Economic Development District facilitated by the Port Authority. A portion of this new district, including land known as the former Children's Home property, is privately owned, and the remainder is owned by Belmont County.
A sewer line to the district is under construction and is also a product of public and private sector partnerships.
The private owners built one 10,000-square-foot pre-engineered building and leased it immediately. Construction is under way on a second building, and another potential tenant is interested in a 20,000-square-foot building.
Merry will be promoting both of the projects at an upcoming regional event targeted toward Pennsylvania real estate brokers and businesses.
"Barnesville is really a shining example of how the government, the public sector and private enterprise can work together for economic development that benefits everyone," Merry added.
"The county commissioners have been very supportive of these projects and work hard to encourage business development and job creation throughout the county."