Frontier Group looks for support as progress continues
WEIRTON — The Frontier Group of Companies continues its efforts to redevelop an area of former steel-making land in the city, and is seeking support from local, state and federal officials to help put some of the final pieces of the puzzle in place.
Company officials already have invested approximately $80 million into preparing more than 1,100 acres it purchased in the city in 2017 for future business use, and announced Wednesday it is hoping for a public investment of approximately $65 million to help fill in the gaps.
Representatives of the Frontier Group met in the Weirton Municipal Building with officials with the city, members of the Hancock County Commission, local legislative representatives and staff from West Virginia’s U.S. Senate and Congressional delegation.
“The city of Weirton is at a crossroads, like much of West Virginia,” Weirton City Manager Joe DiBartolomeo said in opening the discussion.
He relayed the history of Weirton Steeel, which, at one time, was one of the largest steel manufacturing companies in the nation, and the first billion-dollar company in West Virginia. Today, however, the local mill now owned by Cleveland-Cliffs, employs between 900 and 1,000 people, and the area is seeing a steady decline in population.
DiBartolomeo said the project undertaken by the Frontier Group could reverse those trends.
“We have what is needed to compete,” he said.
David Franjoine, CEO of the Frontier Group, said the company has been putting up funds to demolish dilapidated structures and clear the property in preparation of welcoming new businesses to Weirton.
“The site is 90 percent shovel ready for construction,” he said, noting much of the land preparation will be complete this fall. “To bring it home, we need the infrastructure. There’s really no access and we’re landlocked.”
According to Patrick Ford, business development director for the Frontier Group, the company is looking at three key projects: a new industrial access road/Main Street bypass, the development of a port facility and improvements of bridge connectivity to Brown’s Island from both West Virginia and Ohio.
The port development, at a cost of $21 million, will be key, Ford said, in providing access from the Ohio River.
“Almost every prospect we’re talking to wants to have that access,” Ford said. “This is a critical, critical part of our development.”
The industrial access road, with a $8.5 million price tag, will include the construction of three miles of road, beginning at Cove Road, as a way to provide relief of truck traffic on Main Street and open up 500 acres for development.
The bridge projects have an estimated cost of $36 million, connecting Brown’s Island with the Frontier property and Ohio Route 7.
According to information providing during the briefing, industries which have expressed interest in the Weirton Frontier Crossings property have included operations in the energy, value-added metals, chemicals and plastics, data processing and transportation logistics industries, with the potential for the creation of 832 jobs.
It was noted the Frontier Group, with assistance from local governmental entities, also have applied for various state and federal grants to assist with some of these costs.
Weirton officials, DiBartolomeo said, also are investing approximately $40 million to improvements in the city’s water and sewer systems through planned treatment plant expansions.
“Our council is committed to Frontier Crossings,” DiBartolomeo said.
(Howell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)