From The Wheeling News-Register:
Weirton Planning Commission Chairman Chuck Robinson might well have been referring to any number of Rust Belt communities when he remarked last Wednesday that, “This town needs some excitement and energy instead of just waiting for something to happen.”
But there are differences between Weirton and many other so-called “post-industrial”towns.
For one thing, redevelopment of the old Weirton Steel property appears to be making genuine progress.
For another, city officials and concerned local residents are in the process of creating a vehicle that could result in some of the excitement and energy Robinson has in mind.
His comments came during a Weirton Planning Commission meeting. It was held to discuss work on a new comprehensive development plan — a written blueprint for progress — for Weirton.
Too often, such plans are developed by people who — pardonably so — focus most of their work on infrastructure improvements and methods of attracting new businesses. Both are important. Both need to be key parts of Weirton’s plan.
But as officials of Mackin Engineering, which is helping draft the plan, understand, the blueprint needs to be a wide-ranging one, written with as much input as possible from the public.
On Wednesday, Robinson noted that two “very vocal” groups of people want the plan to include improvements to Weirton’s arts infrastructure. Theater groups and art galleries were among suggestions.
By all means. The time when companies seeking new locations were interested only in matters such as trained workforces, access to transportation, utility costs and the like is long gone. Many executives want to know about quality of life, too. They want to locate new plants and stores in communities with good recreation and cultural opportunities, not to mention excellent schools.
In other words, a town where people want to live often is one where executives want to do business.
In creating a new comprehensive plan, then, city officials should understand that considerations such as those involving the arts no longer are just desirable. In this day and age, they may well be imperative.