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Northern Panhandle Businesses Received $170M from PPP

View an interactive map of Northern Panhandle businesses that received Paycheck Protection Program loans at the following links:

Wheeling/Ohio County

Weirton/Hancock County

Moundsville/Marshall County

Wellsburg/Brooke County

New Martinsville/Wetzel and Tyler counties

WHEELING — The Paycheck Protection Program — the federal government’s life preserver to small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic — made its mark on the northern part of West Virginia, as more than 1,400 businesses received money through the program.

In the Northern Panhandle counties from Hancock to Tyler, the program injected more than $170 million into businesses with workforces in the hundreds down to the single digits.

And while businesses and their owners are thankful for the assistance that kept employees on the job and paychecks whole, there is hope that any future installments will come with a less fluid set of guidelines.

As the pandemic hit the United States earlier this year and companies feared mass layoffs due to the shutdown of all but essential businesses, the federal government instituted the PPP, which offered forgivable loans designed to supplement payrolls and keep workers on the job. In Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, Marshall, Wetzel and Tyler counties, those loans delivered $170.2 million to businesses.

Some loans landed in the mid-seven figures, as 12 businesses in those six counties received more than $2 million. Atop the list was Newell’s Homer Laughlin China Co., maker of the popular Fiestaware. That company received nearly $4.9 million.

Other companies receiving at least $2 million were WMC Physician Practices in Weirton ($3.46 million), the Ziegenfelder Co. in Wheeling ($2.87 million), Team Sledd in Wheeling ($2.67 million), Kalkreuth Roofing & Sheet Metal in Wheeling ($2.38 million), Good Shepherd Nursing Home in Wheeling ($2.26 million), the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston ($2.15 million), H.E. Neuman Co. in Triadelphia ($2.09 million), Change Inc. in Weirton ($2.07 million), East Coast Metal Systems in Wheeling ($2.07 million) and Kaley Group in Wheeling ($2.04 million).

Ziegenfelder CEO Kevin Heller said the PPP loans helped keep the company’s employees stable and working through the pandemic. That opportunity was welcome during a stressful time.

“As you can imagine, any family or any person had some doubts about the future, and what the next two weeks, four weeks, six weeks, eight weeks would bring to anybody,” Heller said of the early days of COVID-19. “We were no different than anyone else around the country.

“This certainly allowed us to communicate with our employees and give them a sense of calmness that our goal — and we felt like we’d be able to achieve it — was to keep everybody collecting a paycheck during this time.”

The loans weren’t just a tool for companies such as Ziegenfelder, which makes frozen treats like Twin Pops, Monster Pops and Ice Pops and employs 250 people, according to PPP data. Businesses with just a handful of employees also were able to secure loans for around $4,000.

The Wheeling law firm Phillips, Gardill, Kaiser & Altmeyer, when the pandemic hit, started a practice of rotating staff between working in the office and working from home to help with social distancing. The firm’s managing partner Jim Gardill said that about a third of the staff was in the office at any one time.

Some staff members weren’t able to work remotely. Some were home for as many as 60 days.

“We kept them on the payroll,” Gardill said. “We kept them covered with health insurance in that period. Knowing we had some assistance as a backstop fortified that decision to be able to do that.”

Delegate Erikka Storch, R-Ohio, has seen what the PPP loans have done for local businesses through a couple of prisms — not only that of a state legislator but also that as president of the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce. She appreciated seeing how creative some Wheeling businesses got in order to continue moving inventory and staying open. She heard from business owners about how crucial the PPP assistance became.

Yet she also heard their frustrations about how the guidelines for those loans would change through the process, causing confusion and frustration.

“Anyone that has kept their doors open was glad that they could keep their doors open and they’re glad to be doing what they love,” she said. “But the frustrations are no less for all of them.”

Gardill, whose firm helped WesBanco navigate the program requirements to provide loans, said those revisions could complicate the task for borrowers.

“It’s like a chameleon,” Gardill said. “It keeps changing as it goes, and they keep adding rules after the fact and that caught some borrowers by surprise.”

Gardill said the U.S. Small Business Administration did provide some relief, as borrowers could rely on the guidance they were given at the time their loans were issued. So if that guidance changed, it didn’t change for those borrowers.

Storch said that any new payroll relief from the federal government would be better served by having a more solid set of guidelines. A $908 billion COVID relief bill, spearheaded by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, was introduced Tuesday and includes $288 billion for small businesses.

“They need to lay out the rules before, so they know before, so it’s not changing,” Storch said. “They’re not feeling like they’re in a game of Uno and they drew a Wild-Draw Four.”

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