Our opportunities continue to improve

The Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle continues to prove that a public-private partnership can be the most effective way to proceed in redevelopment of former industrial sites.

The reason: Expertise meets leverage.

Expertise is what leads to being able to apply for private, nonprofit foundation grants such as the most recent one, from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation for $370,000 to be used toward redevelopment of sites in Brooke and Hancock counties, as well as in Western Pennsylvania. Not only through its private partners but by partnering with the Riverside Center for Innovation, which is working on sites in Beaver and Washington counties, the BDC has advanced the prospects for as many as 14 sites in the two Northern Panhandle counties.

Those prospects include the former Brooke Glass site in Wellsburg, which the BDC’s executive, Pat Ford, says is the most prepared for redevelopment and likely to be business-ready in a little more than a year from now.

The BDC will try to tap into Riverfront’s experience in securing financing, loans and grants for development of old industrial sites, while it brings to the table experience in acquisitions, such as the former high school stadium properties and the TS&T site in Hancock County, as well as the work that’s already been done at the former Wheeling Corrugating plant, where workers are on the job.

The sites are being primed for their potential use by the energy companies working in the area, expected in growing numbers during the next several years.

Much of the prep work involved in putting old factory sites back to productive use involves environmental studies and cleanup, and that’s where the leverage comes in. The BDC uses the grants it has earned, and will do so again, to leverage funds for the expensive environmental studies required before land can be re-used.

It’s an encouraging development when any organization secures a major grant from a major foundation. It’s even more encouraging when the grant is secured by an organization that has a growing track record of job creation and job retention.