More than a year after their liquidation by bankrupt RG Steel, the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel plants in both Martins Ferry and Mingo Junction continue to sit quiet.
Wheeling-Pitt's longtime headquarters in downtown Wheeling came off the market this week, as Harvey Goodman Realtor sold the 1905 structure to New Albany, Ohio-based Access Infrastructures for $800,000. However, the Upper Ohio Valley continues waiting to learn the final destiny for the once-thriving industrial centers along the Ohio River.
In Martins Ferry, Mayor Paul Riethmiller waits to see what Wheeling businessmen Quay Mull and Joseph N. Gompers plan to do with the plant they paid $2 million to acquire last year.
UNCERTAIN FUTURE — The final destiny for the now closed Mingo Junction RG Steel plant remains uncertain, as owner Frontier Industrial continues searching for options. -- Casey Junkins
"Anything is better than nothing - and nothing is what is there now," Riethmiller said. "At one time, the parking lot would be totally filled. Now, you just see a couple of trucks."
Riethmiller said the steel mill once served as the city's largest water customer, in addition to being one of its top taxpayers. Since the mill's closure, he said Martins Ferry has faced some difficult choices in its city budget.
"We still have some pretty large water customers with the hospital (East Ohio Regional Hospital) and United Dairy. But not having the mill running has really hurt us."
Both Mull and Gompers have been unavailable for comment regarding their plans for the property.
"I had one conversation with Quay Mull. I don't know what he plans to do with the place," Riethmiller said. "I told him he would be crazy not to get into the oil and gas business."
Considering the Marcellus and Utica shale natural gas industry burgeoning in Ohio and West Virginia, the land's location along the Ohio River - along with the nearby rail and highway access - could make it attractive to some type of drilling-related business.
"We would love to have the steel mill running again, but we also realize that may not happen," Riethmiller added. "As far as I know, the equipment used to make steel has all been removed from the place."
Another Belmont County deed shows a $500,000 sale of land in Martins Ferry from RG to an entity called Aldiny LLC, which later changed its name to "4K Industrial Park LLC." This company maintains a mailing address of 117 Edgington Lane in Wheeling, which is also the address of the Gompers & Associates accounting firm.
Esmark Inc. purchased the former RG Yorkville mill out of the RG bankruptcy last year with intentions to revitalize it as the Ohio Cold Rolling Co, but has cited market conditions as a reason why it has yet to restart the facility.
A final destiny is also yet to be determined for the large Mingo Junction plant, which Buffalo, N.Y.-based Frontier Industrial purchased out of the bankruptcy for $20 million. The facility contains the electric arc furnace, which itself cost $115 million to install in the mid-2000s.
Though his company's website states it specializes in "demolition" and "industrial gutting," Craig Slater, general counsel and vice president for Frontier, has said his crews have removed some material from the Mingo mill, but not everything that would be used for making steel. He said he hopes to enter an agreement with someone who can operate the plant.
Slater, who could not be reached for this report, previously said steelmakers from India were among those looking at the Mingo facility.
In Steubenville, the rusting structures of the former Wheeling-Pitt plant are now mostly gone, thanks to the demolition efforts of Wheeling-based Strauss Industries, which bought the plant for $15 million.