BEECH BOTTOM - Some area residents and officials recently receivied a possibly once-in-a-lifetime experience through the efforts of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle.
The BDC invited members of this year's Leadership Weirton class, as well as officials from the Brooke County Economic Development Authority and the Village of Beech Bottom to tour the former Wheeling Corrugating plant, which they currently are working to develop for future business use.
Ford is acting as an advisor for Leadership Weirton's business and economic development session this year and felt it would be a good way for members of the program and officials to get a better understanding of what the plant has meant to the Beech Bottom community and why the BDC's efforts to are so important.
BDC Assistant Director Marvin Six, center, discusses the former Wheeling Corrugating plant with representatives of Leadership Weirton, the Village of Beech Bottom and the Brooke County Economic Development Authority. -- Contributed
"We thought it would be a great opportunity to do a walkthrough of the plant," BDC Executive Director Pat Ford explained.
A portion of the vacant property will be used as a staging area by Sheehan Pipeline for several months, the BDC recently announced.
The EDA representatives and Beech Bottom officials helped to frame the tour by discussing some of the plant's operations over the years and how job creation could impact the village and Brooke County.
"We want to be sensitive to the place this facility holds in the historical and cultural past when we plan for the future," Ford said.
Some of the Leadership Weirton members on the visit expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to tour the plant and learn about some of the ideas the BDC has for the site.
"It was refreshing to imagine the possibilities of oil and gas companies operating in the former offices or using the refurbished flex spaces to park and store oil field equipment," DeeAnn Greene-Marszalek, a member of this year's Leadership Weirton class, said. "In this day and age where abandoned mills are presently scattered all over our region, this is a project I am excited to watch unfold."
Karen Mason, also a member of the Leadership Class, said she wishes more residents could experience such a tour.
"What an eye opening experience for the 'average Joe' of the community," Mason stated. "I just wish everyone had the opportunity to see it from that perspective."
As part of the tour, several areas of the plant were showcased, including numerous work areas and office spaces. Ford and BDC Assistant Director Marvin Six explained many of the offices still had personal effects and office equipment in them from when the plant was still in use.
Six has expressed interest in trying to locate some of the items' former owners or perhaps donate the office equipment to schools or other organizations before the plant is sold to a future company.
"If we were just doing a basic smash and grab, these things wouldn't have been identified," Six said.
Six said he would like to make it a project for Leadership Weirton or another organization.
Ford said that is why making connections with the county EDA, other officials and residents is so important. People who have worked at the plant, for example, would have a better idea of the location of utility lines, while others might be able to lend assistance at repairing lights or other permanent pieces of the building.
"Marvin and I are just two people," Ford said. "It really does take a community."
(Howell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)