Mill redevelopment plans getting a $300,000 boost

GRANTED — The U.S. Economic Development Administration has awarded $300,000 toward the creation of a development plan for 1,100 acres of property purchased earlier this year by the Frontier Group from ArcelorMittal. Pictured during the announcement Wednesday are, from left, Mike Paprocki, executive director of the Brooke Hancock Regional Development Council; Travis Blosser, Weirton city manager; William D’Alesio, chairman of the board of the Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle; U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; Economic Development Administration Acting Head Dennis Alvord; David Franjoine, president and CEO of The Frontier Group of Companies; and Patrick Ford, executive director of the BDC. -- Contributed

WEIRTON — The continuing redevelopment of former mill property in Weirton will be receiving a boost, following an announcement made Wednesday by the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

Work on approximately 1,100 acres of land in Weirton was among eight projects in West Virginia receiving a total of $8.3 million in federal funds as part of a new initiative to support economic development in areas hit by the coal industry’s decline.

The Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle will receive $300,000 of the funds to prepare a development plan to repurpose the property, which was purchased by the Frontier Group of Cos. from ArcelorMittal earlier this year.

“Thanks to the investment from the EDA, we will have a roadmap to provide shovel-ready sites for industrial/manufacturing businesses in Weirton, which has a shortage of developable land with rail and river service,” said Patrick Ford, executive director of the BDC. “The added real estate inventory will assist with our ability to attract new businesses and create employment opportunities for West Virginians.”

The BDC, partnering with the city of Weirton, will collaborate with the Frontier Group to prepare a strategy to repurpose the former steel mill property, with a master planned development for targeted industry clusters.

“This adaptive reuse plan will provide strategic recommendations for pursuing advanced manufacturing, infrastructure improvements and community revitalization initiatives to support the transformation of Weirton and the Northern Panhandle region,” Weirton City Manager Travis Blosser said.

Blosser explained the entire process of developing the plan is expected to take 15 months, noting it will encompass an examination of all buildings on the property, its infrastructure, possible uses for the property and what is needed for its redevelopment.

“This is a very comprehensive plan,” Blosser explained.

According to estimates from the group, the efforts could create anywhere from 500 to 2,500 new jobs and spur between $50 million and $2 billion in private investment.

Ford explained, despite the growth of the natural gas industry in the region, the local area has been overlooked twice for a major facility. With the former mill property opening up, though, and development of ethane crackers in Monaca, Pa., and, possibly, Dilles Bottom, there will be increased opportunity for a payoff in Weirton, according to Ford.

“We’re confident this will be the next home for one of those large facilities,” Ford said.

Blosser pointed to the growing cooperative efforts between the city and BDC as reason for receiving the grant and increased attention for development projects. He also credited Washington, D.C.-based consultant Sustainable Strategies with providing guidance during the application process.

“All of these relationships are paying huge dividends,” Blosser said, adding he feels this will be the first of many opportunities. “The grants are not going to stop.”

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., joined Economic Development Administration Acting Head Dennis Alvord, as well as local business and development leaders, to make the economic development announcements Wednesday.

“Capito has been very clear that energy, brownfields development and entrepreneurship are critical to economic development in West Virginia,” said William D’Alesio, chairman of the board of the BDC.

“The senator’s leadership and the EDA’s support are critical to repurpose this former mill property in Weirton to attract new businesses and industries to the region as well as serve the thousands living in West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle.”

Ford also thanked Capito, saying she has been working hard to get West Virginia back on the map for the EDA, with a five-pronged approach focusing on energy, entrepreneurship, brownfield development, broadband access and leverage federal funds.

Other organizations to receive funding included West Virginia Coalition for Technology Based Economic Development, $400,000; West Virginia University, $747,123; Center for Applied Research and Technology, $750,000; Pierpont Community and Technical College, $767,442; Mingo County Redevelopment Authority and Mingo County Public Service District, $1,392,480; Flatwoods Canoe Run Public Service District, $1,478,100; and Randolph County Development Authority, $2,500,000.