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Hope concerning plants remains

Sometimes, we in the Ohio Valley find ourselves understanding children in the back seats of our cars demanding to know, “Are we there yet?” For years, we have been on the road toward construction of an ethane cracker plant in Belmont County.

We are not there yet.

On Wednesday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and other high-ranking state officials met with representatives of PTT Global Chemical, the Thai company that is the leading partner in the cracker venture. After the meeting, DeWine’s office said there was no “substantive update” to release.

Belmont County Port Authority Director Larry Merry was more optimistic about another meeting, held Tuesday. “They still have strong interest,” he said of PTT.

The large amount of money being spent on laying the groundwork for the plant is reassuring. Still, the sooner PTT and its partner, Daelim Industrial Co., make a firm announcement the plant will be built, the better.

Such an announcement would offer a boost to the Steubenville and Weirton areas, which sit at about the halfway point between the Shell cracker plant being built in Monaca and the anticipated Dilles Bottom facility. That’s a sweet spot, development experts from Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania have reminded us, and the perfect location for spin-off production and transportation facilities.

In the meantime, area officials must continue to work on ensuring proper infrastructure is in place, as state Sen. Frank Hoagland reminded area officials after last week’s meetings. That includes our region’s highway system, as well as continuing to work to ensure high-speed broadband Internet service is available across all parts of the area.

For now, the waiting game continues, and anticipation runs high. “My gut feeling is it’s going to happen,” Hoagland, a Republican from Mingo Junction, said. “When this happens, we’ve got to be ready.”

Based on last week’s discussions, it might even be fair to wonder if those involved with making the final decisions would consider playing Santa Claus.

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