At first glance, it might seem a deal revealed last week means Christmas came early for the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle. But this gift comes wrapped in miles of red tape that will have to be cut through before local residents can enjoy the benefits.
After the remnants of Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel collapsed this year, it appeared for a time the Wheeling Corrugating Plant in Beech Bottom might be kept in operation. Sadly, that was not to be.
A California firm has acquired the physical assets and probably will sell the plant's equipment. Last week the company transferred about 600 acres of land, along with 480,000 square feet of warehouses, to the local business development corp. The BDC is a non-profit entity established in 1993 to develop the economy in Brooke and Hancock counties.
Included in the Wheeling Corrugating land is about 150 acres of level property that, located between West Virginia and the Ohio River, ought to be attractive to developers. Add the warehouse space and finding interested tenants or buyers almost sounds too easy.
Not so fast, though. Much of the land was used for industrial purposes for many decades. Beyond any doubt some of the soil is contaminated and will require clean-up before the site can be re-purposed. Both state and federal environmental protection agencies may require the BDC to take expensive remediation action.
If contaminants at the site are dangerous, they should be removed or neutralized. But environmental agencies at all levels should make it their mission to cooperate with the BDC to make the cleanup process as inexpensive and expeditious as possible. Then, other state and federal agencies should work with the local corporation to make the Wheeling Corrugating land and buildings as attractive as practical for economic development.
Loss of nearly all the steel industry jobs that once blessed our valley has been hard on Northern Panhandle and East Ohio residents. But we're ready and eager to move on - and state and federal officials should work with, not against us when opportunities such as that in Beech Bottom appear.