Let’s focus on what works

A meeting of local officials with Bryce Custer of North Canton-based Ohio River Corridor LLC emphasized something that has to happen: Steubenville needs to do a better job of promoting itself and the good things that are happening that could lay the groundwork for an economic resurgence.

Custer emphasized that the area will be changed by the presence of one and possibly two ethane crackers in the area.

And he noted the city has issues to deal with but there is much working in its favor.

Yes, the city and its residents need to invest in water and sewer systems and fix the roads. Yes, there are empty storefronts downtown and at the mall.

But there is much to note that has happened and is happening.

When a citizen told Mayor Jerry Barilla a few days ago at a public meeting that there should be some concern for the loss of stores at the mall, Barilla was able to recite the names of dozens of new businesses that have come to the city in the past couple years. And no, they’re not the big names that make a big, attention-grabbing splash, but they represent investment in the city and that translates into confidence. People do not put their money where they think it will be wasted.

Custer said Steubenville still has the basics that economic developers consider when looking for a place to put new job-generating facilities. First, and it’s something that can’t change, is the location. The city is almost equidistant from both cracker sites. Second, it is on the Ohio River, has good rail service and a highway network that connects easily to the Interstate system. He noted that Bidell Gas Compression put a site at the old Weirton Steel machine shop because of easy nearby access to U.S. Route 22.

The work force remains an asset, as do the educational systems in the area.

None of this makes the problems go away easily, but they are something to keep in mind.

Investment in retail and warehousing is occurring and more can follow.

A focus on building upon what works is far more optimistic than a constant focus on what is gone.