Some reasons to celebrate

Our area’s economy is undergoing some exciting changes, as the growth in the oil and gas industry in our region demonstrates.

Many of the businesses that are coming into our area and the types of jobs they are generating were not really on the minds of area residents 30 or 40 years ago. And, while it’s important to recognize the economic transformation that’s going on across our region, it’s also important to honor those companies that have served our area for a long period of time.

Businesses that fit into both categories were recognized Tuesday evening when the Weirton Area Chamber of Commerce held its 78th-annual membership meeting and banquet.

The couple of hundred or so people who gathered at the Serbian-American Cultural Center heard some exciting news from President Brenda Mull, who said the chamber had welcomed 61 new members in the past year, and that certainly bodes well for the present and, hopefully, the future. The chamber also recognized three area businesses that have served the region for many decades and have helped area communities grow.

United Bank, for instance, has had several different names since it was founded 175 years ago, but it continues to serve our region’s financial needs. That Bill D’Alesio accepted the award for the bank was fitting – a longtime fixture in the Weirton business community, he also was recognized for his 20 years of service on the chamber board.

First Choice America Federal Credit Union, meanwhile, is marking its 75th anniversary by continuing to serve a growing number of members. Founded in 1939 as the Steel Works Employees Security League Credit Union, First Choice has continued to expand under the direction of Scott Winwood, president and chief executive officer.

Also recognized was Weirton Medical Center, which has continued to expand and serve residents from across the Tri-State Area since it was founded as Weirton General Hospital in 1953. And, Local 246 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the city of Weirton were honored for their efforts to make the community shine during the Christmas holiday season.

As our area’s economy continues to evolve, the efforts of chambers of commerce on both side of the Ohio River to promote the Tri-State Area and the services they can offer to their members are critical for further growth.

There’s a line on the cover of the book “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs and Dangerous Days at Sea” that helps to put the story of Richard Phillips into perspective.

Those words, which are attributed to the publication Booklist, are simple and succinct:

“For once, the good guys won.”

Phillips shares with readers his story of survival after he was taken hostage by Somali pirates who had hijacked his ship in April 2009. It’s a book that’s tough to put down, as Phillips and co-author Stephan Talty go into great detail about what it was like to be held captive in that small lifeboat, negotiations that involved the Navy and the FBI and, finally, the rescue executed by members of one our most elite forces, the SEALs.

Residents of the Tri-State Area will have the opportunity to hear Phillips tell his story, which served as the inspiration for the movie “Captain Phillips,” and share lessons learned at 7:30 p.m. Thursday when the Herald-Star, Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Speaker Series continues in the Steubenville High School auditorium.

Reserved seat tickets to see Phillips cost $20 and can be purchased by contacting the Herald-Star at (740) 283-4711 or the Chamber (740) 282-6226. Copies of “A Captain’s Duty” can be purchased for $12 plus tax by contacting the newspaper or the chamber.

Thursday’s presentation will offer residents of our region the chance to learn about a point in history from a person who actually lived through the incident.

We hope you’ll take advantage of that opportunity and join us Thursday evening.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)