A New Life for a Legacy Industry
The site of Beech Bottom Industrial Park was home to Wheeling Corrugating, a steel corrugating factory that went out of service in 2012. Acquired by the BDC in 2012-13, the Beech Bottom Industrial Park was a $4.4 million acquisition. A U.S. EPA Mid-Atlantic Region Targeted Brownfields Assessment (TBA) was used to do a site assessment, and a $240,000 U.S. EPA Mid-Atlantic Region Cleanup Grant was used to do site remediation. The site was entered into the WVDEP Voluntary Remediation Program in 2017 and the Certificate of Completion was received in 2020. Now, Jupiter Aluminum Corporation, Tenaris, and Southwestern Energy (SWN) are tenants at the 40.5-acre park. There is more available space for any interested prospects.
BEECH BOTTOM — Officials and developers in the Northern Panhandle have praised the announced expansion of Jupiter Aluminum as a sign of the rebirth of heavy industry in the area.
Illinois-based Jupiter Aluminum recycles aluminum scrap into coils destined for the primary markets of building and construction, license plates and recreational vehicles, which use a lot of aluminum in their construction. After an initial stint in Brooke County, the company announced its intent to invest $12 million locally and to expand its work force.
The company worked alongside the Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle to secure the site of the old Wheeling Corrugating Steel Plant, now the Beech Bottom Industrial Park.
The corporation has engaged in several such projects to clean up the eyesores left behind by older industries to make way for new businesses and amenities. However, Executive Director Pat Ford said this achievement ranks near the top.
“The reason why is because this is the largest of the abandoned factories we acquired,” he said, adding that the BDC got the 480,000-square-foot site in 2012. “As with all of these factories and the cleanup involved, they can’t be financed through regular means. It’s not like we have $3 million just laying around.”
Millions of dollars in cleanup and renovation were required to make this happen, which was accomplished through grant funding and partnerships with the U.S. Economic Development Agency, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. EPA, which paid for the clean-up work.
Ford said it was then a matter of working with California-based Hackman Capital Partners to attract investors to the site, which is how Jupiter Aluminum established itself initially in the village of Beech Bottom in 2014.
“Our town was built by the mill owners a hundred years ago. It’s always been the center of our community, and when it went through bankruptcy, it was just very bad news for everybody here,” Mayor Becky Uhlly said, adding that Jupiter’s initial plan was to move the mill paint line it acquired back to Illinois, but instead ended up staying in Brooke County. “I always said it was divine intervention that we ended up getting Jupiter here in the first place. I think it’s just going to be a win-win for everybody here.”
Uhlly said Jupiter Aluminum is looking to attract more tenants to the huge mill site. While she hopes to attract a diversity of businesses there, the most likely candidates for now will be ones engaged in the oil and gas industries due to the proximity of one cracker plant under construction in Butler County, Pa., and a possible second in Belmont County, Ohio. That will mean downstream business development for the Ohio Valley.
“We’ve got 200 acres of flat land here which is very rare to have (in West Virginia),” she said. “I don’t know what’s going to come but I think it’s just a matter of time before we have a bog venture coming into Beech Bottom.”
Uhlly said investments such as Jupiter Aluminum’s are a sign that heavy manufacturing which once dominated the Ohio Valley is making a come-back. The company isn’t the only one investing in the old steel mill site.
“In addition to expanding at the Beech Bottom location, we are equally excited that Jupiter Aluminum will work with the BDC to move forward on a $3.2 million U.S. Economic Development Administration-funded renovation project that will adapt the former steel mill into one of the most marketable and ideally situated industrial parks on the Ohio River,” said Brooke County Commissioner AJ Thomas.
Ford said Jupiter Aluminum became the first tenant at the industrial park and while the BDC is looking to attract others, Jupiter has committed to renovating 140,000 square feet of the grounds and it plans to boost its current workforce from about 24 employees to more than 60.
“Jupiter Aluminum was born on the remains of a bankrupted company and since 1992 kept growing in the United States, so we know what it takes to revive and grow a business,” said Paul-Henri Chevalier, president of Jupiter Aluminum.
“Beech Bottom comes as a natural expansion of our painting capabilities. The Northern Panhandle’s extensive experience in manufacturing has allowed us to increase the plant personnel six times since its humble beginning in 2014. We are very happy to be a part of the community and look forward to continuing to expand our business.”
Ford said it was forecast 10 years ago that the Northern Panhandle had room for growth in the energy, chemicals and value-added metals sector, but what surprised him is just how much the metals businesses have taken off. Other examples apart from Jupiter Aluminum, he said, are Bidell Gas Compression, based out of Canada, and Italian-based Pietro Fioentini.
Furthermore, Ford said Jupiter’s $12 million commitment is equal to the investments previously made by Pietro Fioentini and Bidell.