BEECH BOTTOM - To fully understand how far the old Wheeling Corrugating property has come, David Lieving says you have to understand where it was just a few months ago.
Lieving, manager of business retention and expansion for the West Virginia Development office, said it was difficult to see the loss of steel jobs in the Upper Ohio Valley over the past decade-plus, "but a new economic engine is driving a lot of the growth now."
"That's a good thing for Brooke County, for the community of Beech Bottom and the region as a whole," he said. "I look forward to seeing more of this kind of growth down the road as well."
Lieving, in Brooke County this week to celebrate Tulsa-based Sheehan Pipeline's new operations center, said they're looking at spin-off opportunities as the oil and gas industry takes root.
"When we start to see more announcements, particularly on the manufacturing side, it really does have an economic impact on the community," he said.
Sheehan has upwards of 500 workers locally and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to set up a staging yard.
"They'll all be coming in and out, spending money in the community," Lieving said. "They'll be spending money in the community - supporting local hotels, supporting local restaurants. They'll buy gas and food. That all has an economic impact that will be felt across the area. Just look at Beech Bottom, it's already being revitalized. It's good to see."
Lieving said his office spends a lot of time "working with existing companies, that's really where a lot of growth in the economy is coming from." With the gas pipelines going in, Lieving expects to start seeing secondary growth in the manufacturing sector.
"We have the pipelines helping to get natural gas into the marketplace," he said. "But what are they going to do with the derivatives coming out of the gas? The derivatives are typically used for other manufacturing purposes. I think we're going to see a revitalized chemical industry here, as well as plastics manufacturing.
"One of the reasons the chemical industry grew here originally was because of cheap natural gas," he added. "It's available again, there's a long-term supply. It really puts us back in the ballgame in terms of being competitive."
The paint lines remain intact inside the corrugating plant, and village officials remain hopeful that as the oil and gas boom picks up steam, demand for steel products will revitalize the local steel industry. Lieving said he doesn't rule it out, saying above all they want to make sure the paint lines stay in Brooke County.
"I think there will be some things happening with that," he said. "I can't say what ... but it's not unreasonable to think that the paint line could be restarted. We're working on it."
Lieving also said they're not ruling out landing an ethane cracker plant, a high-value project.
"We're still actively seeking a project, and more than one is being considered," he said, saying it would be a "smaller facility" than the multi-billion dollar plant proposed by Shell in nearby Monaca, Pa.
"The big driver is locating an adequate site and gaining the financing to support it," he said.
(Harris can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)