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Study says W.Va. cracker plant would yield billions

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. – Construction of a cracker plant could mean billions of dollars in economic impact for West Virginia over the next four decades, but the state must take steps to realize that potential, according to a study released Tuesday.

“We need to keep our eyes on the prize, and that’s long term,” said Tom Witt, professor emeritus and former director of West Virginia University’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

Witt, the chief economist for Witt Economics LLC, presented the results of his study, titled “Building Value from Shale Gas: The Promise of Expanding Petrochemicals in West Virginia,” to the state House of Delegates’ Gas Works WV Caucus on Tuesday.

“An ethane cracker of that magnitude is going to employ thousands of people in the manufacture of the ethane cracker and the suppliers,” Witt said in an interview with The Parkersburg News and Sentinel Tuesday.

Witt’s study did not focus specifically on Wood County, but looked at the construction of a hypothetical $3.98 billion cracker plant and associated polyethylene plants that would use materials generated by the cracker.

Tom Witt, chief economist at Witt Economics LLC and a professor emeritus at West Virginia University, answers a question during an interview Tuesday at The Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

Odebrecht’s plans include three polyethylene plants in the complex that is proposed to be built at the current site of SABIC Innovative Plastics in Washington, W.Va. That facility is slated to close in 2015, and Odebrecht recently purchased the property for nearly $11 million.

According to the study, construction alone would generate nearly $1.35 billion and create the equivalent of approximately 18,156 job years (one job employed for one full year) in full- and part-time jobs over a four-year period. More than 6,000 indirect job hours and $697 million in economic output would also be generated through related businesses and the economic activity of those companies and their employees.

“The real, critical, long-term, value-added proposition comes after the construction, and that’s in the operation,” Witt said…

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