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Oil and gas and spin-off businesses

April 16, 2012
By Brett Dunlap - News and , The Marietta Times

PARKERSBURG - A number of businesses are planning to develop locations locally as retail and other businesses remain a strong part of the local economy in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

Cam Huffman, president of the Area Roundtable, said he has been busy doing work on getting information out about the area to people looking to build a $2 billion-plus ethane cracker plant in West Virginia.

A cracker plant converts ethane, a byproduct from Marcellus Shale natural gas wells, into the widely used ethylene. It is a key component for the plastics industry and helps make a range of products, including tires and antifreeze.

State officials have been expecting an upswing in development and jobs in fields relating to drilling for gas from the Marcellus Shale deposit and any related industries.

Huffman said when industrial development picks up so does retail.

"It all plays off each other," he said.

Retail developers usually have an idea of what they want to accomplish and look for areas where they can succeed in those goals. Some retailers will wait for a larger retailer to do the research on an area and commit before they would commit. Some would wait for a big box store to locate to an area before committing to building one of their own businesses in the area.

Those with retail businesses are always looking to see what is going on in the area to see what the "big projects" are, Huffman said of other kinds of development in an area.

Huffman said he has fielded inquiries about the area to a number of potential retail developers.

"We have reached out to them," he said.

However, many are waiting on the national economy to turn around before committing to long-term building plans.

Areas in Lubeck and near Fort Boreman Hill have been marketed as spots for potential development.

Huffman has not heard much about the project in Lubeck near the Western Sizzlin restaurant. It is in the hands of a private holding company.

"Something may be going on there, but no one has talked to me about it," he said.

Plans have been in the works for a proposed multi-use development on 180 acres adjacent to the Marrtown Road exit of U.S. 50 near Fort Boreman Hill.

Huffman said that was one of the spots considered for a new National Guard Armory/city civic center. Many developers were waiting to see if the armory project would move forward on the property before they would commit to anything.

The National Guard recently entered into an agreement with West Virginia University at Parkersburg to build the armory on land adjacent to the school.

Grand Central Mall did see three store closings over the last year - Borders, Trade Secret and Pac Sun - where each was due to bankruptcy or mass closings by their companies.

Work is underway to fill their empty spaces with different companies looking at the available spaces, mall officials said.

A Dunkin' Donuts store is slated to be built on Division Street in the coming months and is expected to be completed by July. The owners of the franchise are reporting they plan to build others in north Parkersburg, Marietta and Athens.

Huffman said downtown Parkersburg has continued to develop with five new businesses located on Market Street with the possibility of more coming. New businesses include a photography studio, antique shops and a bakery.

The Downtown Farmers' Market and The Taste of Parkersburg have continually grown over the last few years and have brought more people to the downtown area.

Parkersburg recently hosted the West Virginia Main Street and ON TRAC Winter Training session at the Blennerhassett Hotel. More than 50 representatives of communities from around the state gathered to discuss and share ideas about revitalization and downtown area development. The participants toured sites around downtown Parkersburg where revitalization efforts are continuing.

Cecil Childress, manager of the Blennerhassett Hotel, said tourism is an important economic engine and having a thriving downtown area can assist in that.

"You are not going to have a viable community until you have a viable downtown," he said.



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