Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle has plans for grant

The Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle wants to use a newly funded regional grant program to help redevelop the old Brooke Glass property in Wellsburg as well as other industrial sites in the area. The BDC has taken title to the former factory, a property community residents want to see cleaned up and reused in a neighborhood-friendly way. Idled more than three decades ago, neighbors think its proximity to a rail-trail makes the property attractive for things like boat storage and retail activities in keeping with the neighborhood. BDC is partnering with the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center, which has developed a new regional Site-Ready Program to address brownfields sites using nearly $380,000 in funding from the Benedum Foundation over a three-year period. The program, which emphasizes inter-state cooperation and collaboration, targets properties based on forecasted demand. Rather than wait until a prospect voices interest in a property and risk losing that opportunity because of the work to be done to prepare it for reuse, the Site-Read Program identifies and prepares specific, high-value properties. The Benedum funding will be used for primarily for site-related costs, which include surveys, market planning, market assessments and identification, and to complete environmental assessments for high-interest properties.There's also a community development component, which includes costs associated with identifying additional stakeholders and gathering community input on re-use options, as well as a regional networking/marketing initiative. As part of the program, the BDC will collaborate with its Pennsylvania counterparts, North Side Industrial Development Group and the Riverside Center for Innovation, on marketing, creative financing and grant writing as well as site-development activities in their four-county service area – Brooke and Hancock counties in West Virginia, Allegheny and Beaver counties in Pennsylvania. “I think Benedum's interest was to see the outputs,” NWVBAC Director Pat Kirby said. “They understand the value of brownfields. This is not a fishing expedition with hopes that if they gave money to the Site-Ready Program there might be results; we've had discussions and (identified) projects and properties that are on the strategic list in those four counties. In three years they will see results, but it's necessary to package it in the Site-Ready platform so we can get the sites prepared and hopefully create a network that will draw people in.” Kirby said the foundation was clearly interested in helping build a collaboration that crosses state lines, “but it was not an easy sell. They were interested in investing, but this partnership between Riverside, the BDC and the BAC had to be just that, a collaborative effort that will bring results and not a one-and-done grant.” RCI Director Emily Buka said the program builds on the strengths of its players: BDC is experienced in developing sites; RCI and the North Side Industrial Development Group emphasize creative financing and grant writing, while the NWVBAC has had demonstrated success in building collaboration among regional stakeholders. “We're all in this Ohio Valley together,” Buka said. “We know they have similar situations, what they are doing is really transformational,” Buka said. “We'll be working with them to help coordinate the program, to publicly promote the program interstate so we can speak with one voice and have an integrat