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Investing in the future of the Ohio Valley

By May 18, 2021 No Comments

Originally published in The Weirton Daily Times on May 15, 2021
by CRAIG HOWELL
@CHowellWDT

Representatives of the Frontier Group of Companies were in Weirton Wednesday morning, meeting with officials from the City of Weirton, members of the Hancock County Commission and staff from our Congressional delegation to provide an update on their work to clear and prepare around 1,100 acres of former steel-producing property in the community.

A site visit also was offered to the officials, and, I’m told, Mitch Carmichael, the former state senator who is now cabinet secretary of the state Department of Economic Development, was provided with the same briefing later in the day.

Essentially, the company, which has specialized in the remediation of major brownfield sites for redevelopment, noted it has invested $80 million in Weirton and is looking for some additional support to finish the preparations in order to bring new businesses to the area.

That support would come in the form of approximately $65 million, most likely through public funds, to construct a new access road to the Frontier Crossings property, redevelop the existing port facility once used by Weirton Steel, and reinvigorate a pair of bridges which would provide improved access to Brown’s Island both from West Virginia and Ohio.

I’ve already heard some grumblings over the idea of using public funds for these projects, but consider this: The work on this property is being done as a way to attract new businesses. Those new businesses mean new jobs will be created, either providing employment for those who live here now or bringing new people to live in our communities. New businesses and jobs mean more money going into our communities, both through tax collections by government and money spent at other local businesses. Construction will be needed, so that, too, will provide work for residents.

While I understand $65 million is a lot of money, we’re not completely losing out with this proposal.

The road being proposed would create a new intersection on Cove Road, with additional access at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue/Route 2. It is designed with the hope of larger trucks using it, taking them away from the narrowest portion of Main Street in Weirton, while providing full access to much of the acreage being developed.

A current timeline provided by Frontier, if the funding becomes available, shows the road being complete sometime in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Officials say, based on prospects currently looking at the site, there could be around 832 jobs created in areas of industry including energy, value-added metals, chemicals and plastics, data processing and transportation logistics.

Again, these new businesses and jobs would bring new operations, new people and new tax revenue and spending capital for our communities.

Is it going to happen overnight? Of course not. It takes years of work before a manufacturing facility such as those being discussed can open for operation. It is taking longer here because the land being targeted has needed remediation of various metals and chemicals to be in compliance of state and federal environmental regulations before being used. There have been structures in need of demolition. Newer infrastructure needs to be put in place.

Simply put, we’ve been behind the 8 ball for much of the development we want to see. It’s not going to happen with the snap of someone’s fingers.

It’s good to see so much has happened in the last four years. Anyone who drives through the northern part of Weirton can see progress is being made. It’s just going to take a while longer to see it through to completion.