Follansbee chamber, BDC sign partnership paperwork
FOLLANSBEE — The Follansbee Chamber of Commerce and Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle have agreed to work together to seek new businesses for the city and support the development of the former Follansbee Steel property.
Chamber President Tony Paesano said the chamber will serve as an economic development task force for the BDC, which is in keeping with its goal of creating a positive business climate in the city.
He and Pat Ford, the BDC’s executive director, also signed a Good Neighbor Agreement calling for the chamber and economic development group to work together to seek funds for the development of the Follansbee Steel property.
The agreement calls for the BDC to keep the chamber informed of all construction activity there.
The BDC has made plans to pursue an environmental cleanup of the 22-acre site since it purchased the property and other, smaller lots for more than $1.3 million last fall.
Ford said the agreement isn’t required for a grant sought for an environmental cleanup of the site but helps to show community involvement or support for the effort, something federal and state environmental officials look for.
The site near state Route 2 and the Ohio River is being eyed for industries involved in metal-related services, such as those that cut or coat steel coils; energy, including oil and gas; and transportation logistics, such as distribution centers.
On Tuesday the chamber also was asked to work with the BDC and the First Microloan of West Virginia program to hold a seminar for aspiring entrepreneurs and heard of new developments in the career technical program of Brooke County Schools.
Ford introduced Tim James, a loan officer for First Microloan of West Virginia, a program of the Washington County Council on Economic Development.
A public-private partnership, the economic development group was formed in 1988 to attract new businesses to that Pennsylvania county.
James said the group can help existing and potential small business owners secure loans of up to $50,000 for the creation or expansion of a business.
He said the group is planning to hold three “business boot camps” in Hancock and Brooke counties to share information on developing a business plan and seeking loans for their business projects.
Ford said the group hopes to hold programs in Chester, Weirton and, pending assistance from the chamber, Follansbee. He asked chamber members to consider hosting the program at a date to be determined.
The chamber also heard from Scott Abercrombie, career technical and adult education director for Brooke County Schools; and Larry Jones, welding instructor at Brooke High School.
Abercrombie noted the upcoming addition of engineering, electrical technology and cosmetology programs to the school’s vocational department and said he hopes to make courses in those areas and welding, already offered at the school, part of the adult education program also.
He said such a move would allow adults to gain new skills for the workplace and students in the program to further their training.
Abercrombie said partnerships with local colleges provide opportunities for students to earn college credit while still attending the high school. He said he hopes through another partnership to make it possible for the school’s welding students to earn an associate degree before graduation.
Jones said welding is a highly valued skill used in many fields, from the oil and gas industry to construction.