City experiencing economic development spike

STEUBENVILLE — Commercial building permits in the city for the first half of 2018 are equal to the figure for all of 2017, records show.

Urban Projects Director Chris Petrossi said the commercial building permits for the first half of 2018 total $24.04 million on 191 applications.

“We’re almost at last year’s total in just the first six months of this year,” he said.

The total includes only site work and not the remainder of construction on the $76 million tower project at Trinity Medical Center West, he explained.

Residential permits, Petrossi said, are at the regular pace, totaling about $2.24 million on 445 applications for the first half of 2018.

“I think if you use commercial construction as an economic indicator, this is a plus sign that commercial investment is on the rise and companies and businesses are choosing to invest and reinvest in the community,” Petrossi said.

On Wednesday morning, Kroger in the Hollywood City Center held an open house for its $4.2 million store upgrade, which officials said is indicative of confidence in the future and the community.

Dominic Teramana, president of Hollywood Center Inc., said there is reason to be proud of the city.

“Steubenville is my hometown. I was born here and I was raised here and I’ve lived my whole life here except when I was at college. I love this town. It’s special to me that the center is right next to Big Red’s practice field and Harding Stadium. The investment that the Steubenville school system puts into this area and what they do for this town is incredible, too,” he said. “I look at it as a partnership.

“We have so much to be proud of in this city. We are the victim, like every other city like us across the country, of our population dwindling over time. But the heart is always in Steubenville, and Steubenville has a heart that is second to none,” he said.

Mayor Jerry Barilla said the $4.2 million spent on upgrading the Kroger store is an example of what is happening across the city.

“It says that they are comfortable in Steubenville, that they see a future for Steubenville and they want to be a part of this forward movement for our community,” he said. “This really tells you Steubenville is alive and well and will continue to prosper.”

Evan Scurti, executive director of the Jefferson County Port Authority, said, “Most importantly, when I see those numbers, it shows confidence in the economy. I think this year and the last couple of years, it’s more broad-based, which is always good for an historically heavy steel town. We’re seeing investment in all sectors, recently in steel, but during the past couple of years at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Eastern Gateway Community College, the upcoming Trinity investment, the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County and private sector investments, like what we see at Kroger and Tidewater’s recent purchase of River Rail. There is confidence in all those sectors. It’s great news, and we’d love to build on it.”

Tricia Maple-Damewood, president of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, said the county is in better economic shape than in a long time, with unemployment reaching a decade low.

“Building permits rising can only mean two things: That people are getting a permit when they should and that things are happening here,” she said.

“At the chamber, we hear a lot about ‘look at what’s happening in Weirton,’ or ‘look at what’s happening in Wheeling.’ But I think if you really know the facts, you see that things are happening here, too. Really good things,” she said.

Maple-Damewood said she doesn’t remember a time so exciting in recent years.

“There is new leadership at Eastern Gateway, Franciscan and Trinity. There is so much good stuff that finally seems to be coming together. People are working together instead of separately. It’s a really exciting time. I wish our citizens would share the good as much as they often share the negative.”

Councilwoman at large Kimberly Hahn said the building permit numbers mean “hope.”

“It speaks to the number of people who are considering bringing businesses back here, and people returning to be near family and bringing business or work experience.

“I think this is going to generate even greater encouragement.”