Published in The Weirton Times, 11/16/2020
While there has been a lot of bad news lately on the spread of the coronavirus, our area received a reminder that there are reasons to be optimistic about the future.
That came when officials with the Frontier Group of Companies met with local officials to discuss the status of some of the property the Buffalo, N.Y.-based company controls in the Northern Panhandle.
The company is working to prepare more than 1,100 acres of property for new business opportunities. It is property that was once owned by the Weirton Steel Corp., and is land that could serve as the impetus for growth in the region, as companies from around the United States look for opportunities to distribute their products and international companies seek locations for new production sites.
Discussing those plans for the land is a Patrick Ford, a familiar name in business and development circles in our region. Now Frontier’s business and development director, Ford spend 10 years as executive director of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle until August 2019, when he took a development job with the Marion County (Ky.) Industrial Foundation.
He explained that the COVID-19 pandemic and the closures and shutdowns that have come with it have forced businesses to rethink their plans. And the land that was once home to the mill fits right into that mix.
That property, coupled with the Tri-State Area’s location, make for a good combination. Our region, Ford reminds, sits within a day’s drive of two-thirds of the population of the United States and one-third of the population of Canada. It has easy access to the rail, the Ohio River and sits less than a 30-minute drive from Pittsburgh International Airport.
There’s already interest in the property from businesses that deal in the energy, chemical, automotive, value-added metals and transportation logistics segments, he said. Plus, Ford added, our region has a skilled work force made up of people who are recognized for having a strong work ethic.
Work done on that property for decades helped to provide the steel that was needed to keep our country safe, expand our infrastructure and build products that helped the consumer industry grow. That era, sadly, has passed, but there are new possibilities for the use of that land and opportunities for our region to grow.