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Port operation continues to bring attention to Brooke County

PLANS — Scotty Ewusiak, standing at right, discusses plans by Empire Diversified Energy for the development of the Port of West Virginia in Follansbee, while Mike Graney, seated at left, executive director of the West Virginia Department of Economic Development, looks on. Frank Rosso, chief executive officer of Empire Diversified Energy, is pictured on the video monitor. -- Craig Howell

FOLLANSBEE — Officials with Empire Diversified Energy and the Port of West Virginia continue their efforts to promote their plans to bring jobs and business to the Upper Ohio Valley.

The developers, on Thursday, welcomed Mike Graney, executive director of the West Virginia Department of Economic Development, and Jennifer Rohrig, manager of business retention, to learn more about their project in Brooke County. The meeting follows a similar presentation held last week with Mitch Carmichael, cabinet secretary of the Department of Economic Development.

Chip Fenske, director of business development for Empire Diversified, emphasized the company’s intentions for the port development, which currently includes 1,000 acres and 8,000 linear feet of riverfront property, five miles of rail line and 50 employees.

“We’re getting to work,” Fenske said. “We’re focused on Follansbee.”

The company has invested $50 million as part of its initial work, and is hoping for approximately $42 million in assistance from the state.

Follansbee Mayor David Velegol credited Scotty Ewusiak, previous owner of the former Trimodal Terminal and now chief operations officer for the company, for his efforts in getting the development started.

“We’re just really excited about this project,” Velegol said. “It really makes us an industrial hotspot.”

Graney said he feels it is a unique time for development in West Virginia, pointing to positions of influence held by the state’s Congressional delegation and the availability of additional funding through programs established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“We really do have a diversified economy. We just need more of it,” Graney said, thanking the group for their investment. “We share your enthusiasm.”

(Howell can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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