Official: Countys story is getting told

NEW CUMBERLAND – Hancock County's recent successes with economic development are starting to attract attention outside the Northern Panhandle, county commissioners learned on Thursday. A national brownfield conference in September will feature a video and podcast about local brownfield cleanup efforts, including projects in Chester and Newell, said Patrick Ford, executive director of the Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle. Ford said the video will be used in September for training purposes at the Brownfields 2015 conference in Chicago, which is sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Article Photos TRAINING VIDEO — A film crew working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency interviews Mike Paprocki, left, executive director of the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission, at the former site of the Taylor, Smith and Taylor pottery in Chester Thursday. The interview will be part of a training video showcasing local development efforts by the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle and set to debut at the National Brownfield Conference in Chicago. — Craig Howell   “This will help other municipalities understand that it is possible for a small community like ours, with a two-person economic development staff, to attract $100 million in investment,” he said. The film crew producing the video, working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has been in the area since Tuesday, interviewing residents and public officials in Beech Bottom, Wellsburg and Chester. Joseph Nowak, EPA project manager, noted projects such as those being worked on by the BDC protect the environment, clean the community and strengthen the market. “We want them to remain clean and vibrant for the future,” Nowak said. Nowak noted it was the network of partnerships constructed by the BDC, including city and county officials, residents, civic organizations and more, which can serve as an example for others across the country. In addition to the Chicago conference in early September, the video also could be shown at the West Virginia Brownfields Conference in Morgantown. “We're also going to make it available as a training video,” he said. Ford credited commissioners with getting the ball rolling in 2011 with a $500,000 loan for the cleanup of the old Taylor, Smith & Taylor pottery site in Chester. The upper part of the pottery was cleaned and demolished in 2012, and plans are underway to clean up the adjacent riverbank later this year or early in 2016. Other brownfield sites in Hancock and Brooke counties have been assumed by the BDC for future development, including the former Newell Memorial Field and the old Jimmy Carey Stadium in Weirton, Ford said. Those properties have begun to create an “inventory” of available land that can be marketed to corporate prospects, he said. “There's been some frustration in our region as to what we can do, or what we aren't doing, to create economic development opportunities in Hancock County,” Ford told commissioners on Thursday. “You created a model by which we've been able to go after half a dozen brownfields in Hancock and Brooke counties. That half a million dollars has leveraged $70 million of private investment into … once-historical abandoned and dilapidated properties.” Commissioners were quick to deflect the praise onto other public and private partners. “We're like the quarterback on the running play,” Commissioner Mike Swartzmiller said. “All we do is take the ball and hand it off.” Government doesn't create jobs, Commissioner Jeff Davis said. “We are there to provide the infrastructure so that entrepreneurs will go out and create the jobs and building the businesses,” he said. “If we had more property in Hancock County, I guarantee you we'd be jumping on projects.” Swartzmiller said the seeds of economic development are sprouting particularly on a five-mile stretch of state Route 2 – the new 911 Dispatch Center/Office of Emergency Management under construction in New Cumberland, the recently-completed smoking pavilion at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort, and the new Hancock County Chrysler dealership under construction in Newell.