Weirton gets potential big boost

LOCAL NEWS FEB 2, 2017 CRAIG HOWELL Managing editor         PROPERTY SOLD — The areas highlighted in green on this map represent the land included as part of the 1,100 acres purchased by the Frontier Group from ArcelorMittal. The company announced the completion of the purchase Wednesday morning. — Contributed WEIRTON — A proposed land purchase almost two years in the making, which could open the door for numerous economic development projects in the city, is moving forward. On Wednesday, officials with the Frontier Group of Companies, a Buffalo, N.Y.-based corporation which focuses on the cleanup and redevelopment of large industrial and commercial sites, announced they had finalized the purchase of 1,100 acres of property in Weirton from ArcelorMittal Steel. “We believe the Weirton facility, like other industrial sites we have redeveloped, has tremendous attributes and potential,” said David P. Franjoine, president of the Frontier Group of Companies. “Throughout our due diligence, and as we worked with ArcelorMittal on the details of this transaction, we have been energized by the how well the site fits our expertise.” Terms of the purchase, including the price, were not being disclosed by company officials. The property in question will include the areas of the basic oxygen plant shop and related structures, the blast furnace and ore yard, rail sidings, barge loading and unloading areas, Brown’s Island and miscellaneous other plant structures. Much of the property has been non-operational for several years. Frontier initially entered into a contract with ArcelorMittal for the property in 2015. “ArcelorMittal is pleased to have closed on the sale of approximately 1,100 acres of property in Weirton, W.Va. to The Frontier Group of Companies,” said John Brett, chief executive officer, ArcelorMittal. “We achieved our goal of finding a purchaser with extensive experience in redeveloping a former heavy industrial site into a more productive location that benefits the city and region. We appreciate the patience of our employees and the Weirton community while we finalized this important transaction.” Weirton Mayor Harold Miller expressed excitement for the announcement, explaining there has been a great deal of cooperation in finalizing the purchase between the companies, local and state development officials and the city. “The city’s responsibility is to prepare the area for development,” Miller said, noting efforts to improve infrastructure and streamline the zoning and planning process through the municipal offices. “I think we’ve done that.” Miller said Weirton is in a prime location for development, with access to rail, river and highway transportation, as well as the proximity of natural gas-related developments, and this land purchase will help to attract additional prospects. Pat Ford, executive director of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, agreed, saying there is a lot of excitement at the local and state levels as a result of the land purchase. He said the land being made available as a result of the agreement fits many of the requirements prospective manufacturing companies are looking for with the available infrastructure and larger amounts of land. “We’ve been missing out on these national and international businesses because we didn’t have the available land,” Ford said. “You’re not going to find another site in the Ohio Valley that has it all.” Ford explained many of the prospective companies the BDC talks to are looking for sites with between 50 and 400 acres available, especially those involved in manufacturing and energy-related firms. According to information provided by the company, the Frontier Group has completed a number of industrial, development, energy, mixed-use, commercial and residential projects throughout North America and South America. Among those projects is the ongoing redevelopment of the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel property in Mingo Junction, a portion of which recently was sold to ACERO Junction with plans to restart steelmaking operations at the site. “Our history at Mingo Junction, and how we were successfully able to repurpose an idle industrial site, is an example of how we approach our work,” Franjoine said. “Now that we have completed our acquisition in Weirton, we will immediately get to work on identifying what future development and re-use possibilities exist.”