We can’t afford to be exclusionary

The Ohio Valley is forever changing.

Each community is looking for its future identity; to see what types of businesses and civic components will be available.

But, for whatever reason, it still seems to be an “us versus them” mentality when it comes to building that future.

It’s not that way for everyone, but I do hear quite a few comments made that, basically, if something is located outside of the limits of your community then it doesn’t exist.

It’s almost as if they believe there is some mystical barrier that should keep people in one town.

I hear this most often when discussions of business or civic and social organizations crop up.

A group of people are discussing a type of business they would like to see in Weirton, for example. In these thoughts, each community should have several major restaurant chains, their own hardware stores, movie theaters, grocery stores, etc.

It doesn’t matter if that same type of business is located within a 15-minute drive. It’s not in Weirton. It’s not in Chester. It’s not in Wellsburg. Therefore, that community needs one of their own.

In some ways, it would be great to see so many businesses opening in our area. However, we also have to understand the uniqueness of our area of the Ohio Valley, and each of our communities going head-to-head to attract businesses probably isn’t going to help us out in the long run.

But that’s the appearance some of our more vocal residents give off. Businesses are welcome, but only if it’s something “we” want here.

“We” want big manufacturing plants that can guarantee hundreds of jobs at once. It doesn’t matter that most major manufacturers aren’t building new plants right now. Nor does it matter that those plants that are being built might not be able to afford such large employment numbers when they first start up.

That’s what is wanted, and it has to be in our own neighborhood. It can’t be across the river or in the next town over.

It doesn’t matter that every new business has an opportunity to contribute toward the success of our entire region.

Why should this newspaper print information pertaining to Chester or to Bethany or to Burgettstown? It’s the Weirton paper, so it should only have Weirton news, right? Wrong.

There are people from Weirton who go to events in these other communities, just as there are people from these other communities who come to Weirton.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a new business, a charity race, a church activity or even a program at one of our local schools. There are people all over the area who are interested.

People from Burgettstown, for example, are members of some of the civic clubs in Weirton. People from Weirton are part of groups in Follansbee and New Cumberland.

These arguments have even been used to counter some of my thoughts.

Several months back, an individual commented on our website, basically saying that where I live negated any opinion I might have about the Weirton community.

It doesn’t matter that I’ve worked at this newspaper for more than 12 years, or that my house is only a few hundred yards away from the city limits.

It doesn’t matter that I was actually born in Weirton and lived in a house on Booker Street until I was about 6 years old.

No, because I now live in an area with a Colliers postal address, that individual apparently considered me to be an “outsider,” and, therefore, not important enough.

There are no invisible walls or magic barriers. We can’t exclude the ideas of others if we are going to survive.

Some of those who have come from other areas have contributed in great ways to the Ohio Valley, just as some from our own backyards have found ways to bring us down.

We have to remember that, at one time, our towns didn’t look or function anywhere near the way they do today. Change happened, and it happened because new people came here.

The Weir and Follansbee families weren’t originally from this area, nor were most of the people who came to work in the steel mills they built.

But they came here anyway and they built these towns, and change happened.

It didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t even happen within a few months.

To build a prosperous future, we can’t close ourselves off to new thoughts or to new people.

We can’t treat people poorly just because they aren’t from around here.

We need to perform our due diligence, or course, and make sure they can keep their promises. They, too, need to understand what our residents are expecting.

But, we need to be willing to listen to new ideas, work together as a region not just a single town, and be willing to accept the possibility of starting out small and building our way back up.

If we truly are to prosper, we can’t afford to be exclusionary.

(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)