WEIRTON - Lou Anile isn't sure if he's more surprised to be orchestrating a multi-million dollar development project in his hometown, or that he's been able to do it an age when most people are thinking of retirement.
Anile and long-time friend Nick Palavis, also of Weirton, bought into the development game in 2004 when they acquired property on Three Springs Drive that at one time belonged to Weirton Steel Corp. The extensive acreage was among non-essential properties sold at a court-supervised auction eight years ago, just before the bankrupt company's sale to the former International Steel Group. ISG, of course, sold the company to Mittal Steel the following year.
"Really, it was Nick's idea," Anile said. "He's always said he wanted to bring 600-800 jobs here. I tell you what, I think we're close to it now."
EYE ON DEVELOPMENT — Lou Anile, pictured, and his lifelong friend Nick Palavis are focused on developing two more parcels near the Three Springs Drive Business Park. The two already have landed the Wal-Mart supercenter and Bob Evans, as well as two mini-plazas — one of them still under construction. Anile said the challenges of the development game are what “keep your minds off of your aches and pains.” -- Linda Harris
Palavis, he said, realized instantly that the property - flat, with infrastructure already in place and located just off the interstate - was prime for development.
"Actually, there's no other place for it to go," Anile said. "This is the last place that can be developed. This isn't like Pittsburgh, we've got just one chance to do it. If we do it right and get the right things here, it will be more than enough for Weirton."
The two already have teamed up to bring Wal-Mart and Bob Evans to Three Springs Drive and sold 3-plus acres to Bedway Development Co., which already has completed the first of two strip malls and is working on the second.
Now they're fielding inquiries on their final two parcels - about 5 acres situated between Wal-Mart and the mini-plazas, and a little over 2 acres next to DeeJays restaurant.
"I got a call yesterday, from somebody in England," Anile said Wednesday, though quick to point out that it's much too soon to say what the acreage will be used for or who will buy it. "Nothing is etched in stone. All we're getting is feelers. It's going to be exciting to see what comes in. We're just trying to get the best tenants we can."
He said his partner realized early on that landing the Wal-Mart supercenter was going to be key to their development plans, knowing that it would generate the kind of traffic count that other businesses could and would feed off. But it took more than three years and a complicated land swap with the state to make it happen.
"There were times when I felt like throwing in the towel," Anile admits, wryly. "But it seems to be working out pretty well."
Anile said they'd like to bring another restaurant into the mix, but the big names in the industry so far have passed on the idea, at least in part because the economy has made borrowing difficult.
"There's always give and take," he added. "Some days you ask yourself 'how did I get into this?' Other days, you'll see something under construction and know you've had something to do with it, with bringing jobs here."
Anile said it's the up and down nature of economic development that "keeps you mentally young, keeps your minds off of your aches and pains."
(Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)