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Menards delays some construction

By IAN HICKS

Staff writer

TRIADELPHIA – Big-box retailer Menards has said it’s delaying construction of multiple new locations, casting uncertainty on the timeline for its first West Virginia store planned for the Highlands in Ohio County.

Menards officials have confirmed they’re pushing back construction of new stores in New Philadelphia and Cuyahoga Falls, near Cleveland, by about a year to see what impact the November presidential election has on the nation’s business climate. In December, the Ohio County Development Authority, which manages the Highlands, announced it had sold land near the retail development’s Power Center to the Eau Claire, Wis.-based retailer, which specializes in home improvement products but also offers grocery items, pet supplies, clothing and more.

“We are a family-owned business and we need to be very cautious with how we spend our dollars,” said company spokeswoman Jessie O’Mara. “Menards is delaying some new projects, including the store planned for New Philadelphia, until the economic, political and regulatory climate is more settled.”

Menards officials did not respond to specific questions about whether the Highlands’ location is among those being delayed.

However, in a statement provided to several other media outlets earlier this month, spokeswoman Jessie O’Mara said President Barack Obama’s administration has been “scaring the dickens out of” family-owned businesses around the country.

“With no certainty if the next administration will be any better, we have decided not to risk expansion until things are more settled,” she said in the statement.

Ohio County Development Authority President Randy Wharton said he’s had no communication with company officials about any change of plans.

“I have not heard anything from them in that regard. We have already closed with them on the property, so they own the property,” Wharton, also a county commissioner, said.

Wharton previously said the Menards store at the Highlands would be 200,000 square feet and employ about 150 people.

The company employs about 45,000 people in more than 280 locations in 14 states, mostly in the Midwest. Its closest stores to Wheeling are in Warren and Massillon.

Construction originally was expected to begin early this spring, with the store set to open by the end of the year. Although ground has not been broken, Wharton said the county has been unable to complete site preparation work that was part of its deal with Menards as it awaits the necessary permits from the state.

“Obviously we can’t do anything until we get the permits,” he said. “With large deals like this, it never happens as quickly as you want it to. … When you need permits, it always takes longer than what you think it will. … We’re hoping that something comes together within the next month or so.”