We can’t look only at our own backyards

We all want to see growth and job creation in our area. It’s something we’ve been looking to happen for years as the main industry of our region began to disappear.

I’m sure there are many ideas of businesses and industries people would like to see come into each of our communities. I’ve seen various suggestions of heavy industries, small businesses and national restaurant chains thrown around from time to time.

We all have a vision for what we would like to have happen to our hometowns in the future.

There are many efforts that have been put together in recent years by many different organizations with numerous interests to provide some path of development for the future.

I’ve seen some have some type of success and others eventually disappear after nothing materialized from their efforts.

Some groups make big splashes with the announcements of their projects, while others prefer to quietly work toward their goals.

We all question what is being done to drive us forward, wondering what is the right way to do something or what the right path will be.

To be honest, I?don’t know that there is a right or wrong answer to the questions we all face these days.

The one thing I think we all need to keep in mind is that we are a unique area and cannot simply look for what will benefit one community or one neighborhood.

The reappearance of the oil/natural gas industry in our region has brought new people to our area, and has resulted in long-time residents temporarily (or permanently) relocating to other points in the region, for example.

I say reappearance, because this industry actually had some big success in the area close to 100 years ago and actually had an indirect result in the growth of our steel industry.

But that’s part of the point. The area has changed in the last 50 to 100 years. It is now easier for us to get around. Technology makes it possible for some of us to not even have to leave home for work in other parts of the country.

People are commuting for work all the time, and yet we seem to look only at the efforts going on in our backyard.

We no longer live in a time where we have to look at what is going on in Weirton, Chester or Beech Bottom as only a benefit to those communities. People from Weirton can find work in Wheeling or Pittsburgh or East Liverpool, for example.

We are a region, and that is how we all have to look at it in order to move forward.

The Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission, for example, looks at ways to improve transportation in the Tri-State Area. While there is an office in Steubenville, they don’t limit their scope only to that city.

The Business Development Corp. is the primary development agency for Brooke and Hancock counties. They promote all of those cities and towns to attract business. At various times, though, if a particular business didn’t seem to have the right fit for those counties and could possibly work somewhere nearby, they would help make contact with groups across the river or below the county line.

Why? Because what affects one area does affect us all. It might not seem so at first, but eventually we do see it.

There are people in West Virginia who had been working at Ormet. There are people in our mills who work all over the area.

Jobs ignore city limits, state lines and other man-made boundaries. Businesses look at all of our schools and colleges, our infrastructure and our resources all over the area. They don’t just focus on what’s available in Weirton, or in Follansbee, or in New Cumberland.

They look at whether a region can provide them with the workforce, land and other resources they need to operate.

When it comes to promoting our region and enticing businesses, we have to do the same.

Fortunately, there are those who already are. We just need to give them time to see results.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)