STEUBENVILLE - Local development leaders are taking advantage of the fact the new owner of a 111-acre industrial property near Third Street with river, rail and interstate access is willing to consider doing more than just turn it into a scrap heap.
Progress Alliance Executive Director Ed Looman said a steady stream of prospects have been wowed by the potential of the property, now owned by River Rail Development, part of Wheeling-based Herman Strauss Industries.
Strauss paid $15 million for the former RG Steel Steubenville plant, most of it for the machinery and buildings, while a New York-based salvage company, Frontier Industrial, dropped $20 million on the Mingo Junction plant.
Frontier has said it will consider leasing certain high-value parts of the Mingo operation, and has consulted capital funds about potentially restarting operations.
"The good news for us is our vacant properties are hot," he said during Tuesday's partners meeting, hosted this month by the Jefferson Regional Planning Commission. "The former RG Steel property (in Steubenville) is drawing an extremely large amount of interest from companies outside the area looking to relocate here. We're taking numerous prospects to tour that site, and Strauss also has prospects coming to look at that site. When you see the folks visiting there, they're just like kids at Christmas when they walk in and see what's available, the size of the buildings, the river's right there, the rail, the highway are there - the three R's we always talk about.
"Going forward, I think that property is going to be huge for our county, as is the potential for the Mingo Junction property going forward. Even though they're not making steel at this point - though they could end up making steel at some point along the line - Strauss has been extremely cooperative, they're always willing to work with us. That's good news for us."
Looman said the two sites "are drawing a lot of interest."
"To hear about the property is one thing; seeing the property, their eyes get wide open when they look around and see the possibilities," he said. "And Strauss is showing it, too. They've welcomed us with open arms. They've talked with all the prospects. They've worked with us. So far it's been a real good experience, and I think it's going to lead to some exciting things for Jefferson County."
Looman, though, told the business leaders in attendance that interest is high in properties throughout the county, including the industrial park, and applauded the efforts of state government as well as the county commission to grow jobs and the economy.
"We're also working with a company located in the northern end of Jefferson County, looking at a nice-sized expansion project," he said. "Our state contacts were here last week to meet with them to move that forward. It's an exciting project for us."
Looman also told members nine shale-related companies had current job orders with Jefferson County Connections, pointing out the agency had assisted four others in hiring workers.
Information from Ohio's Office of Workforce Development also showed unemployment at 10.6 percent in August, down a full percent from the same period in 2011.
He said employment has been above 28,000 for three consecutive months; in January, 27,100 Jefferson County residents were working.
Looman, meanwhile, said they're awaiting word on potential funding for a second access road at the industrial park. They've already secured a $200,000 grant from the Governor's Office on Appalachia and are working on securing addition funding through JobsOhio and Ohio Department of Transportation.
Consideration also is being given to resurrecting the organization's annual "Best of the County" banquet, he added.
(Harris can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)