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Tiered development would maximize opportunities, Marshall County officials say


The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Bob Miller figures there’s more than a little truth in the old maxim, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

Bob Miller, Marshal County commissioner

Miller, a Marshal County commissioner, is convinced West Virginia can maximize its development opportunities by locating shared resources on prime industrial sites along the Ohio River and developing manufacturing opportunities on higher ground.

Miller, who calls it the “Hi-Lo Multi-Plant Logistics Model,” said it would increase the number of available industrial sites and acreage within the four-state region — Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and, of course, West Virginia — looking to capitalize on shale opportunities, particularly with one ethane cracker being built in nearby Monaca, Pa., and another under strong consideration in Dilles Bottom, Ohio, not far from Moundsville.

But, at this point, it’s still in the conceptual stage. Potential suitors seem intrigued, but no one has bought into the idea.

“About two years ago, the Kammer Power plant was shutting down,” he said. “Looking at the site, it hit me what a waste it would be to just put one plant on the Kammer site … It should be where the logistics are — it has rail, water and highway access to get products out.”

Miller said the idea is gaining traction within the development community.

“I think it makes the most sense, and it opens up a lot more opportunities,” said Bryce Custer, NAI Spring Real Estate Advisor, Energy Services.

Custer, who is marketing properties, says the former Weirton Steel works, the former Kammer power plant and another site in the Newell area each have tremendous potential. The Weirton site alone encompasses more than 1,100 acres.

“It’s a new way of thinking, nobody has said it cannot be done,” Custer said. “(Companies) recognize this is an area where they would like to be. There’s a company we’ve been talking to … that are probably five years out from a decision, but they’re kicking the tires, waiting to see what’s going to happen with Shell and PTT.”

Shell is spending upwards of $6 billion to build an ethane cracker in Monaca, Pa. PTT is edging closer to a decision on whether to build a cracker in Dilles Bottom, Ohio.

“If you go to the different conferences and talk to people, everybody wants 250 to 1,000 acres of flat land along the Ohio River,” Custer said. “There’s only a few locations where that really exists on either the Ohio or West Virginia side. With hi-low, you can have property along the Ohio River with barge facilities and rail to move the product uphill, depending on location.”

Miller said siting shared facilities on hard-to-come-by flat parcels with river and rail access and using more abundant and lower-cost sites on high ground for manufacturing processes “can greatly increase our potential and accelerate engagement by potential manufacturers.”

Transforming one site like the former AEP Kammer site on the Ohio River in Marshall County as a major shared Hi-Lo logistics center “has the potential, if properly utilized … to be the ‘new industrial land’ with a total valuation many times greater on the Marshall County property tax books than the combined $1.5 billon valuation I’ve repeatedly heard quoted for Toyota, Macy’s and Procter & Gamble combined,” Miller said. “Multiply this by the countless current sites throughout the entire quad-state shale region needing considered too small for manufacturing sites but never considered as potentially being the right size for a Hi-Lo Logistics center for multi-plants on above ridges.”

Custer figures hi-lo makes sense in both West Virginia and Ohio.

“Flat land is a premium if even available for projects,” he said. “We can easily piece together 200-400 acres (but) trying to piece together upwards of a thousand acres along the river is very difficult.”

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