Council continues support for BDC

WEIRTON – The City of Weirton will continue with its support of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle following Monday's city council meeting. Following the recommendations of the city Finance Committee, council voted 6 to 1 to authorize financial support in the amount of $25,000 to the BDC. Ward 4 Councilman George Ash Sr. voted against. Pat Ford, executive director of the BDC, and Bill D'Alesio, BDC board chair, updated city officials on the agency's progress during the past year and requested consideration to renew the annual investment. Article Photos     “Just over the past four years, your involvement and investment has leveraged the preservation of 151 jobs in the city of Weirton and the creation of 260 jobs, which has translated into $7.8 million of new payroll and $4.53 million of preserved annual payroll. Your investment has also leveraged $28.3 million of public and private investment. For every dollar that the City of Weirton has invested in the BDC over the past four years, it has leveraged $283. That's quite a return on that investment, and we've been working on a number of deals in the past year,” Ford said. He highlighted some of the BDC's recent projects, such as forging a deal to transform the former Weirton Heights volunteer fire station into a Domino's pizza restaurant. Ford said that development will preserve 11 existing jobs and create 20 more paying anywhere from $22,000 to $50,000 per year. The restaurant should be open in January, and Ford said Weirton will be the first in the region to experience the new “pizza theater” layout which will eventually be implemented at all Domino's locations. Ford also mentioned collaboration with Barney's Bakery on a new Three Springs Business Park location. The $1.6 million investment will yield a groundbreaking in the spring. “At the end of 2015 Pietro Fiorentini will be moved into their new location in the City of Weirton. That investment alone will be $7.1 million, and they will be hiring 41 people,” Ford said. “We've also been working with Center Point Terminals to grow their tank farm in the Half Moon Industrial Park, and that's upwards of $7.5 million. They also are hiring up to 10 employees now. Ford said the final current project is the former Jimmy Carey Stadium, which he noted has attracted interest from many parties. Ford said he hopes to have an announcement ready sometime in 2015. He noted that the BDC secured a $90,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up contamination at the stadium site. Ash expressed concerns, saying he often is unaware of the BDC's activities and efforts in the community. He noted, in particular, a potential business for the downtown area of the city. “I started getting all these phone calls about a battery recycling company in that area where there's residential around it, and everyone was asking me questions. And I had no idea how to answer. As an elected official, how am I going to give you my vote for $25,000 when secrets are kept from me, when I don't know what the hell's going on when residents call me?” Ash asked. “I don't want to be kept in the dark anymore.” He was referring to media reports released on Nov. 7 that stated Georgia-based Metal Conversion Technologies LLC will use the 8-acre Jimmy Carey stadium property to expand its battery recycling operation. Ash pointed out that Mayor George J. Kondik and City Manager Valerie Means are on the board of the BDC, and therefore he felt that members of city council should be made aware of what the corporation is doing. “That was a premature announcement,” Ford explained. “We're extremely far off from a transaction. We would probably be well into negotiations for another 18 months before we iron things out, because we're still far from closing on this property.” Ford reiterated that a nondisclosure agreement was breached in this instance. City Attorney Vincent Gurrera thanked the BDC and United Bank for their part in bringing the Domino's expansion to the city. “You guys went way beyond to bring this business to Weirton. You both really made this work, so I appreciated working with you,” he said. Ward 7 Councilman and Parks Director Terry Weigel also thanked Ford for his and the BDC's efforts in the city. “It's nice to see some of these projects come to fruition,” Weigel commented. Council members also voted 6 to 1 to authorize a contribution in the amount of $2,500 to the Brooke-Hancock County Veterans Memorial Park. Ward 3 Councilman Fred Mars