Good things in future

We are less than one week into the new year, and we are already learning that 2019 could be very good for our region.

One of the reasons for optimism is the success of this year’s Nutcracker Village and Advent Market. Officials at Historic Fort Steuben have said the crowds that have attended this year’s display have been bigger than they had anticipated. That’s something organizers can be proud of, especially when you consider that the attendance averages out to about 1,000 visitors to the attraction each day.

Residents of our Tri-State Area know what an impressive attraction the nutcrackers have become. What’s more important, though, is that the village has grown in popularity so much that attendees have come from Buffalo, the Detroit area and the Carolinas as well as other parts of the country — and Canada, as well — to take in the attraction.

And that’s good for everyone — from the men and women who run local restaurants to those who sell gasoline and, especially, the hotels in our city. The money that has come into our town through increased tourism is important for local businesses, and has proven to be a nice shot in the arm.

It’s important to remember, though, that for the tourist numbers to continue to grow, those involved with the village and market will have to continue to find ways to make the attraction even better. That will ensure those who have come in the past will have a reason to return, and will give those who haven’t made the trip to Steubenville even more of a reason to visit our community in the future.

Sometime in the next few days, the nutcrackers will make their annual journey from Fort Steuben Park to their spring and summer storage location. The existing ones will be refurbished, and new nutcrackers will be designed and built, waiting to take their spots and help welcome the holiday season in November when the annual Steubenville Lights Up the Night is held.

The program continues thanks to the efforts of Judy Bratten, the executive director at the fort; Mayor Jerry Barilla, who remains active at the park; and Mark Nelson, Therese Nelson and the other members of their family who are working to help revitalize the area. Also important to the continued success of the village are the many businesses that have stepped forward to provide sponsorships, including Trinity Health System, which has made a long-term commitment to be the presenting sponsor.

¯ Impressive as they are, the nutcrackers are not the only bright spot in our area. We also learned last week that the number of jobs in our area has increased, largely thanks to the oil and gas industry.

That came from the Associated General Contractors of America, which reported construction employment in our area stands at 2,400, an increase of 500 workers in the past year.

It’s been a long time since our region has received such positive news, and all expectations are that the good employment numbers will continue to come our way. Construction continues on the Shell cracker north of us in Monaca, and PTT is expected to make an official announcement about its plans for a cracker south of us in Dilles Bottom. Plus, JSW plans to add jobs at its Mingo Junction steel plant — in addition to millions of dollars in planned investments.

All of those items mean there’s plenty of room for optimism about our region’s economy.

¯ Things are getting better, unless, of course, you are an employee of the federal government and find yourself affected by the shutdown. According to WalletHub, the Washington, D.C.-based personal finance Website, Ohio ranks as the 42nd most-affected state. West Virginia, meanwhile, is seventh on the list, while Pennsylvania is 33rd.

The impact is the least in Minnesota, and it should come as no surprise that Washington, D.C., is the region that has suffered the hardest hit.

Just some things to think about as 2019 really starts to heat up.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)