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by Craig Howell | April 23, 2022

It was nice to see Sen. Shelley Moore Capito in Weirton Wednesday afternoon, as she met with local municipal and development officials to see first-hand some of the efforts under way to revitalize our region.

I’ve said it numerous times in this space – development of any kind takes time, especially when there is so much work needed to prepare an area for new business opportunity. The Upper Ohio Valley, having been primarily industrial during the last 100 or so years, has a lot of environmental issues which need addressed before businesses will look at available property.

That’s been the focus of local development groups for close to 15 years now; obtaining property with potential for redevelopment and cleaning it up for future use. We’re now turning that next corner where other preparations can be made on that land.

A major focus for the Weirton community has been the Frontier Crossings development, which involves several hundred acres of former steel-making property. The Frontier Group of Companies has been working to clear and clean the land. Now, infrastructure is needed, including roadways, utilities, broadband and more which will help to attract business.

Sen. Capito, along with Sen. Joe Manchin and Congressman David McKinley have been working to provide federal funds toward some of those efforts. That includes a total of $4 million recently set up to assist with the construction of an industrial access road through the Frontier property. Officials have noted this road, once built, will provide access for those businesses looking to build on the property, as well as serve as a public bypass as it will connect a point near Cove Road to a location near the Main Street and Pennsylvania Avenue intersection.

The senator, while in town Wednesday, noted there are efforts to obtain additional grants for local development projects, and her office will be supporting them as well.The same case can be seen in Follansbee with the Port of West Virginia. Empire Diversified has been working to clear much of the land it owns along the Ohio River, including former industrial property, to develop a river-side port operation to assist with the transportation of goods through the eastern United States.

Senator Capito met with them, also, to discuss their plans.

There continues to be this misconception about the role government plays in economic development. Government, on any level, have certain abilities which can help to incentivize economic development – providing the right zoning, incentives and such, but it takes private investment to make it happen. That can only happen when businesses find somewhere they feel is worthwhile for them, with the right support, land, infrastructure, etc.

That’s what we’re finally seeing here. Land is being made available in certain areas (although there are still some instances where property owners are holding on to vacant sites making growth opportunities prohibitive), government, economic development agencies and private developers are working together, using all of their tools and connections to prepare the available land, build it up to a point where it will encourage investment, market it to potential businesses and industries and, eventually, create jobs.

None of it happens at the snap of someone’s fingers. None of it happens within a few weeks. Unfortunately, none of it happens just because we want it to.

It takes having the right people in the right places at the right time. It takes teamwork. We’re finally seeing that here, with Congressional representatives, state and local leaders and more, coming together to make it happen. It will still take time, but we finally appear to be on the right path.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)