Mountaineer releases land for development

NEWELL – Northern Hancock County's inventory of developable land is expected to grow considerably in the new year with Mountaineer's decision to release more than 1,300 acres of surplus property. Most of the land is adjacent to or in close proximity to Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort, along state Route 2 from New Cumberland to Newell. A “best use” plan suggests multiple uses for the land, whose lots range in size from a couple acres to 400 acres. The uses include retail, professional, residential, medical and light industrial, said consultant Ted Arneault, former MTR Gaming Group CEO. Article Photos A bulldozer flattens a pad for the construction of a C.H.A.N.G.E., Inc. medical facility in Newell. The 6-acre site formerly was owned by Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort, which is releasing more than 1,300 surplus acres along state Route 2 for economic development purposes. — Stephen Huba   “This is prime acreage that's been put together over an extended period of time,” Arneault said. “Rather than sit on it, Mountaineer has decided to make it available (for lease or sale) so that additional economic development can happen.” Arneault, who has a professional services agreement with Mountaineer to market the properties, said Hancock County currently suffers from a scarcity of available land. He said he plans to work with local municipalities, Hancock County officials and private investors to bring business and industry to the sites. Officials say there could be some major announcements in 2016. “One of the problems in Hancock County is the lack of available land,” Arneault said. “These are eight good parcels of varying sizes that can support different businesses. … From an economic development standpoint, the jobs and potential for growth are greatly enhanced by this property being available.” Mountaineer's sale of some surplus land to C.H.A.N.G.E., Inc. in October, for the construction of a medical facility in Newell, is a harbinger of things to come, officials said. Among the available plots is the former Jefferson Elementary School in Newell, Arneault said. Other pieces include large sections just east and northeast of Mountaineer, on the opposite side of Route 2, and a large section to the south, on the opposite side of Dry Run Road. The latter is the only portion designated by the site development plan as light industrial. Arneault said the plan was put together when he was still CEO, in anticipation of Mountaineer expanding the resort portion of the business. The decision to release the land for potential sale or lease was made in coordination with Gary L. Carano, CEO of Mountaineer parent company Eldorado Resorts Inc. “The land that is available for sale is non-core to our business at Mountaineer, and we have always explored options to divest non-core holdings,” said Mountaineer General Manager Chris Kern. Patrick Ford, executive director of the Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle, said Mountaineer's announcement will be a boon for Hancock County. “It vastly expands our inventory to market to business and industry, not only regionally, but also nationally and internationally,” Ford said. “What we're excited about is the fact that when we're out there showing the properties, it's almost tripled our inventory to show these businesses.” While the BDC already has shown some of the properties, it now will work in concert with Arneault, Ford said. Arneault said he will coordinate his efforts with the BDC and state and local government. “This development is vital not only to the tax base of our municipalities and our county, but also to the ability to provide jobs for our youth, to stop the out-migration that is occurring,” he said. “We're looking for businesses that want to come in and create jobs.” Unlike other available land in Hancock County, the Mountaineer sites are considered environmentally compliant and “shovel ready.” Most of the properties have access to water, making immediate development possible, Arneault said. “These are greenfields, not brownfields,” Ford said. Companies that service or supply the natural gas processing industry-companies that are interested in development in the Ohio River valley-have already had their eye on the Mountaineer properties, officials said. “We continue to see prospects (despite the drop in natural gas prices). The activity's not slowed down at all,” Ford said. “We don't see a trajectory other than up.” Ford said the Mountaineer properties benefit from their size and their proximity to intermodal transportation-a state route, a railroad and the Ohio River. “There's not very many properties left in the Ohio River valley that are 240 acres or larger that are intact, with rail and river access,” Ford said. “I think it's just going to be a matter of time before they start making some big announcements.” Arneault said Hancock County's markets include: energy, natural resource treatment and refinement, and natural resource storage and transportation.- See more at: