WVU, Wheeling Chamber Partnering for Economic Plan
WHEELING — The Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce wants a realistic plan for Wheeling’s economic future, and it is partnering with the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics for a survey of the city’s strengths and weaknesses.
“We didn’t want a study, but a strategic action plan,” said Delegate Erikka Storch, R-Ohio, who serves as president of the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce. “We wanted a roadmap for what our community could look like, and one that would recognize its shortfalls.”
The chamber contacted Javier Reyes, dean of the John Chambers West Virginia University College of Business and Economics, about utilizing school’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research to do a survey of Wheeling and surrounding communities.
Chamber members already knew health care was a concern in the area, even before the closure of Ohio Valley Medical Center and its sister hospital East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry. Area health care options will be examined, as will such topics as work force needs, according to Storch.
The school has done similar research for the city of Huntington and the Potomac Highlands region, she said.
Plans call for researchers to collect data in Hancock, Brooke, Ohio and Wetzel counties in West Virginia, and Jefferson, Belmont and Monroe counties in Ohio.
“Within that region, there already is a crack plant (being constructed) in Monaca near Hancock County,” Storch said. “If another is built in Dilles Bottom, we would sit in the middle and produce the gas being used by both.”
Questions arise as to whether the local workforce will be able to fill the need for the industry, and if many local workers will need to be retrained. Education concerns will have to be addressed, as well as any unforeseeable needs.
“WVU will be able to analyze these type of components, and create a plan for us,” Storch said. “It will address, ‘what are the human needs?’
“We want actual recommendations.”
The research should extend through the 2020 academic year, with the school reporting back to the chamber in the spring.
Storch admits the WVU survey is “a pricey initiative.”
Cost for similar studies have come to about $200,000, but WVU has been working on securing grants and the support of its partners to pay for the project in Wheeling.
Storch expects the cost for the chamber to be about $50,000.
“If we have a good actual plan, we can turn it into gold that can benefit all of us,” she said.