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Editorial: Legislature can help Wheeling with Tax Credit

From the Wheeling News-Register:

Developers understand a few percentage points can make a critical difference when one is involved in a big construction or renovation project.

The old Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel headquarters building, with 144,000 square feet of interior space, is a big project.

Towering over downtown Wheeling, the building has been vacant for the past few years. But as we reported last week, a developer is thinking of renovating it, possibly for residential purposes.

That would be an enormous boon to the downtown business district and the city as a whole. It is more attractive than it might have been just a few years ago for two reasons.

First, downtown Wheeling is experiencing something of a rebirth. Construction of a new headquarters for The Health Plan, just a few feet from the Wheeling-Pitt building, is one reason for optimism.

Second, potential construction of an ethane cracker plant in nearby Dilles Bottom will bring thousands of construction workers and, eventually, hundreds of permanent employees to our area. They will need places to live.

West Virginia’s tax credit for those who rehabilitate historic buildings could tip the balance in favor of proceeding with the Wheeling-Pitt building project — if state legislators augment the program.

Currently, the program offers an income tax credit of 10 percent of the cost of a project. That is not competitive for developers with a regional outlook, who are likely to prefer the 25-percent credits in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Bills to increase the West Virginia credit to 25 percent have been introduced in the Legislature. They ought to be attractive to lawmakers simply because development the credits could promote would mean new revenue for the state.

Here in Wheeling, the higher credit could spur new development not limited to the Wheeling-Pitt building. Legislators should make increasing the credit a priority so it can go into effect quickly — when it is needed to capitalize on opportunities in our region of the state.

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