Chester, WV – For almost 80 years, the Taylor Smith and Taylor (TS&T) ceramic pottery manufacturing facility was a major employer in Hancock County. But in 1981 the business shut its doors, and, with the exception of a few minor uses, the property has stood vacant and untouched.
It wasn't long before residents in the adjacent neighborhood began asking for something to be done. As it continued to deteriorate, the TS&T site posed mounting health and safety concerns. Those complaints have continued for almost 30 years.
This week, with the purchase of the site by the Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle, a better future awaits the neighbors of the former TS&T property. The acquisition of the former TS&T site, from the BDC, could not have been possible without the cooperation of Rock Springs Enterprises, Inc. and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
“Our Board recognized that there is a public urgency at the TS&T site,” said Patrick Ford, BDC Executive Director. “The unchecked deterioration of this site would result in an immediate threat to the health and safety of the residential neighborhood, in addition to the economic well being of Hancock County.”
The Brooke Hancock Regional Planning and Development Council has long shared these concerns, and developed a task force to engage in community outreach and visioning for the future of the site.
The BDC plans to involve this group in the remediation of the site and the planning for future uses, Ford said. The BDC also plans to involve state and federal officials in the clean-up process, as well as Hancock County, which has been a regular investor in, and supporter of, the BDC.
The public health urgency and community commitment helped prioritize the TS&T brownfield site among key opportunities identified for acquisition and development in the BDC's recently completed Strategic Economic Development Plan for the Northern Panhandle. The plan was funded by the US Economic Development Administration (USEDA).
Ford said that the BDC is the first organization to step forward with the financial capacity, partners and expertise to remediate a brownfield site of this magnitude in Brooke and Hancock counties.
Those partners include the US Environmental Protection Agency Land Revitalization Team, which was created to assist local stakeholders in tackling projects of this nature, the WV Department of Environmental Protection and the Northern WV Brownfields Assistance Center.
“A development on this site that includes business and housing will help breathe life back into this community,” said Bill D'Alesio, chairman of the BDC Board. “The plan is to acquire the site, remediate it by removing environmental contaminates and raze all existing buildings in preparation for new development.”
Ford added, “The acquisition of this property really highlights the strength of the partnership between the BDC and the County Commissions, in this case Hancock County. The Commissioners were adamant about making progress on this property to eliminate a long standing environmental eyesore for the residents of Chester.”
“It is important for the residents to understand, however, this is only the first step. In order to begin the process of remediating the property, we will need a great deal of collaboration and cooperation from the State of West Virginia, the WVDEP and the USEPA to begin making improvements. We are happy about the acquisition, but there is still a long way to go on this property before residents will see material changes.”
This is the third in a series of job creation and retention successes for the BDC, including the 75 jobs created by the expansion of the Rue 21 distribution center and the 17 jobs created by the adaptive use of the old Wal-Mart building by ITW/Fleetwood Signode. The Wal-Mart project also preserved 35 existing jobs in the county.
About the BDC
Formed in 1993 and chartered as a 501-C3 (private, not for profit) organization, the BDC is a consolidation of five economic development organizations in Brooke and Hancock counties. The goal of the consolidation and creation of the BDC was to create a single organization dedicated to creating jobs and encouraging private investment in the northern panhandle. The BDC gets its support from the WV Development Office, WV Economic Development Administration, Brooke County, and Hancock County.