Although Belmont County's industrial park is filled to capacity, thanks to the influx of companies linked to the oil and gas boom in the county, there is still room for expansion and one business plans to do just that.
Tim Wojchowski, owner/operator of Tim's Custom Installations, the first business to locate in the Fox Commerce Park, has acquired additional acreage in the park with the intention of expanding the current plant, which covers 4,000 square feet. The additional ground expands the plant site to more than six acres.
When the expansion will begin depends upon when the Murray Energy Corp. completes its longwall mining operations in the area. Wojchowski said the coal company and its president, Robert Murray, has been cooperating in keeping him informed of their operations. "He has a business to run and I respect that," Wojchowski noted.
Wojchowski's business has enjoyed a rapid development since moving into the industrial park. The plant as well as the work force has more than doubled. "When we moved out here there were six employees." His business had been located in a small confine on National Road in East Richland. "Now we have 15."
There was a period when even that number was doubled. "At one time we had 32 employees working two shifts." But Wojchowski said that schedule became much too strenuous and his business was coming through an economic change so operations reverted to just one shift.
With the proposed expansion Wojchowski noted philosophically, "Now we're looking at the opportunity to change things. You have to make change to keep up. You have to in order to survive. There is opportunity here to do more. You have to change to do better."
Since his business started 16 years ago, Wojchowski has made a number of changes. Just recently he expanded his production line. "Now we're making kitchen cabinets." Originally the business was strictly Corian countertops. Then later the business was expanded to include construction of windows and doors.
Wojchowski gets a lot of help running the business from his family. Two daughters have key roles. Allie, a graduate of Wheeling Jesuit University with a bachelor's degree in business administration, runs the office and Abbey, a graduate of the University of Kentucky with a degree in interior design, runs the production department.
His wife, Margie, also has a role but no title. Some time ago when I first approached Wojchowski about his expansion plans, he had nothing to say, but then added, "Call my wife and ask her."
Tim and Margie Wojchowski have been married 26 years and they jointly operate another "business" - running a ranch, raising bulls and bull riding. They own a 124-acre farm - TCB Ranch in Bethesda - and have about 50 head of cattle.
They were featured in a recent issue of Humps N' Horns magazine. In that article Tim explained, "We are small breeders. Margie and I are just two kids with a high school education that are living the American dream. We weren't raised in the business, but it's in our heart and soul now. We raise five to eight bulls a year. We do this because we love the business, we love the people and we love the bulls."
One year while vacationing in Las Vegas, they went to a professional bull riding event. They've been raising and training bulls ever since and have had bulls entered in competition. They traveled through 23 states to have one of their champion-caliber bulls in competition.
"This business is just too much fun," Wojchowski was quoted in the article. "The time I spend in the operation is the time I enjoy the most. I love to watch the bulls buck."
Belmont County Engineer Fred Bennett had the choice of asking the county commissioners to approve a request for an additional $10 license fee or a one-mill tax levy in order to raise the needed funds to improve county roads and bridges. The levy had been casually mentioned at a commission meeting for improving county roads and bridges.
He opted for the $10 license fee on which a public hearing was held last week during which there were almost an equal number of people who opposed and those who favored tacking on the fee with the purchase new car plates next year.
Bennett pointed out his decision was based on the fact that, "I did not want to ask for a levy because the senior citizens, the school board and others have levies on the ballot and I did not want to compete with them for votes." He noted when there are so many tax levies on a ballot, it seems to drive people to vote negatively.
The license plate fee would produce about $530,000 for the county and give townships about $140,000 and municipalities about $60,000 based on 2011 registration figures. The Belmont County Townships Association voted to support the fee.
On Wednesday the second and final hearing on the license fee will be held at 10:30 a.m. as part of the commission's regular meeting. If approved by the commission, the resolution passed in March approving the issue pending public hearings will become effective on May 31. Then the state will be notified and the first day to collect the additional $10 fee will be on Jan. 1, 2014.
A reader from Cadiz called last week wondering why the stations in the St. Clairsville area are charging $3.699 for a gallon of gasoline. Unfortunately, I couldn't tell him why. He thought it was outrageous since gasoline in the Cadiz and Steubenville areas is at least 20 cents a gallon cheaper. He wanted to know if it was the price was the fault of the stations or the distributors. I couldn't answer that either.
But prices all around the state have to take a back seat to Tennessee. Two weeks ago Belmont County Engineer Fred Bennett was in Tennessee where he was surprised to find gasoline selling for $3.089 a gallon.
Five Morristown area women who get together the third Thursday of every month to enjoy each other's company while enjoying lunch at Schlepp's Restaurant came in for an unexpected surprise at their last session that has them still scratching their heads.
When Lois McDowell, Mary Ann Droll, Nancy Toto, Jean Reed and Mary Jo Modelewski finished their gab session and their meal, they were ready to settle their meal tab. But the waitress approached without a meal check in her hand. She did have a message:
"The two men who were seated behind you paid for your meals." The women were shocked and speechless. And they couldn't thank the two men because they had already left the restaurant.
"We saw the two men come in and sit behind us," McDowell noted, "but they didn't say a word to us. And we didn't speak to them either." Then bursting out in laughter, she exclaimed, "they couldn't help but hear everything we talked about."
McDowell surmised the two men, who were dressed in workmen's clothing, are part of the oil and gas company workers who have invaded Belmont County.
For a month the Belmont County tourism office and the Martins Ferry "Picnic in the Park" promoters were wrestling with a real "Whodunit" in the case of a missing $2,000 check.
On March 22, the tourism office sent the Ferry organization and 34 others in the county checks representing the amount of money approved for them under the tourism council's grant program. A week later a representative of the Ferry organization inquired when the check would be sent. They didn't get theirs and frantic searching for a couple of weeks failed to produce the check which was mailed to the Martins Ferry city building.
Finally on Friday, April 19, the tourism office stopped payment on the check. And then two days later it showed up at the city building. So how long does it take for a letter mailed from the Ohio Valley Mall to get to Martins Ferry? 31 days.
Al Molnar can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (740) 695-5233.