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Original article appeared in The Weirton Daily Times

August 2, 2021

CRAIG HOWELL, Managing editor

I’ve always encouraged patience when it comes to redevelopment efforts in our region. We have long been an industrial area, with a base of heavy manufacturing driving our economy. While much of those companies are no longer here, their impacts linger.

It takes time to properly clear property of pollutants and other after-effects of steel-making and other industries which once called the Ohio Valley home.

Then, it may take a while to attract businesses looking for a new operational site.

If recent meetings and presentations are to be believed, though, we are truly beginning to turn a corner for our region.

I’ve long heard of efforts to prepare a section of riverfront property in Follansbee once owned by Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel for possible business growth. Many in Brooke County know of the efforts of Scott Ewusiak to create and build business, as well as his contributions to the community. He has been working on that site, previously known as Trimodal Terminal, for quite some time. I had heard rumblings some news was going to be coming, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise to find out in the last two weeks about the plans for a port facility there.

What surprised me was getting a call from Weirton’s former city manager, Joe DiBartolomeo, inviting me to a presentation from the company operating the port when representatives met with state Economic Development Secretary Mitch Carmichael.

Joe is now the director of the new port operation, so he’ll be involved in the oversight of a lot of what goes on at the Follansbee location.

As we’ve reported, this group has a great deal of plans for their Follansbee site, and, if all goes well, it could mean hundreds of jobs created for the region.

Meanwhile, the Frontier Group of Companies continues its work to redevelop former Weirton Steel property, with officials there saying they expect their demolition work to wrap up later this year.

Those efforts have been in the works for the last couple of years, and officials say they have businesses expressing interest in the land.

Where my concern stands is whether these two developments become competitors, and, as a result, obstacles to each other’s success. While various funding sources are being freed up in recent months to assist with development, especially in Appalachia, in the end the pot has its limits.

Hopefully, there are enough differences in their approaches and plans that everyone is able to get the support they seek and move forward with all of their prospects. The more business we’re able to attract to our region, the better off everyone will be, after all.

Not everything is looking at large operations, though. Retail development is still development, and one long-discussed proposal appears to be moving forward with the Park Drive project in Weirton. City Council recently held a work session to discuss the ongoing plans with developers. A contract for the infrastructure is set to go before the city’s Finance Committee next week, and then on to council for its consideration.

Infrastructure is the first step to getting buildings in there, and then bringing in new businesses, whether they are restaurants or retail shops. Let’s not forget the plans to include apartments over some of these buildings. Residential space is needed to bring new residents here, so this will be an asset if everything falls into place.

Growth takes time. None of it can happen overnight. We’ve been waiting a while, but it appears we’re starting to see some results.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)