WHEELING - While most local residents know The Highlands retail development was created by Ohio County's development arm, the Ohio County Development Authority, there are other government-assisted projects, large and small, that may be less well known but still are providing a new direction for local communities.
For example, in Marshall County, the city of Benwood continues to grow its industrial park and over the years has attracted and added new companies such as AES Drilling Fluids, a hydraulic fracking-related business.
"Creating development is the lifeline of a municipality and it's how we render quality services. You have to have money to do that," said Frank Longwell, Benwood's chief of police and co-chairman of the city's development committee.
Rail cars sit in the CSX rail yard in Benwood — a city that continues to try and spur development, industrial and otherwise.
Photo by Shelley Hanson
He noted when Mayor Ed Kuca took office 10 years ago, the goal for his administration was to create jobs. Benwood, he noted, has always been an industrial city and was once home to a Wheeling Steel facility.
After the mill closed, Mull Industries later purchased 58 acres to create Benwood Industrial No. 1. The city's second industrial park is where the Regional Economic Development Partnership owns 40 acres.
At that site, Kelly Paving last year started using 14 acres for its operation. Another 10 acres is being used by J.R. Excavating. And 16 acres is used by Arrow Concrete. He noted CSX also continues to have a 100-acre rail yard.
"We're working on connecting the two roads to those industrial parks," Longwell said, noting the city is negotiating with CSX to purchase 1,200 feet of ground needed to make the connection.
Also in Benwood is the new Dollar General, Ryan Ferns Healthplex and A&B Kia, all located within what used to be the Value City location.
In Ohio County, Wheeling City Council recently approved a zone change that could foster more downtown living. After being approached by St. Clairsville resident Heather Slack, council OK'd changing first floor zoning in the downtown from only allowing commercial ventures to allowing people to live on the first floors of buildings.
Also in Wheeling, City Council is trying to spur development in bigger ways with the demolition of several old buildings in the 1100 block of the downtown. They hope someone will want to use the empty space and eventually create jobs while they are at it.
Wheeling also assisted in the creation of the new Miracle Field by donating a piece of land at J.B. Chambers Youth Sports Complex. This is the same area where the city donated space for the construction of the Wheeling Skatepark five years ago. Though not exactly for economic development, the clearing of buildings in a section of East Wheeling to make way for a future public sports field is another city of Wheeling venture.
In Moundsville, City Council has been working toward clearing the old Fostoria plant site, where officials hope a shopping plaza will be developed. For cleaning up the site, the city gave the property to GAB Inc.
In Belmont County, the 125-acre Fox Commerce Park has become home to several new enterprises, such as Fed Ex, and those related to the gas drilling industry, such as Chesapeake Energy's new office buildings.
And an example of federal money being put to use is the new Robert C. Byrd Child & Adolescent Mental Health Center beside Ohio Valley Medical Center, Wheeling. The late senator secured $5.7 million in funding for the project.
In Hancock County, plans to clear the old TS&T pottery plant in Chester were formed in 2011. The county commission teamed with the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle on the project to get rid of the plant that had been vacant for more than 20 years. The demolition work was completed in November. Two companies that manufacture equipment related to the natural gas drilling industry are interested in the site, said Pat Ford, executive director of the BDC.