Focus on local work, not national battles

As part of a recent hearing before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin questioned why more information wasn’t forthcoming about West Virginia’s November 2017 memorandum of understanding with China Energy.

The agreement was valued at $83.7 billion, with the information provided at the time being that the investments from the company would help to spur development in West Virginia’s natural gas industry.

Former state commerce secretary Woody Thrasher, who is now running against Gov. Jim Justice for the Republican nomination in next year’s election, traveled to China twice to work out the details.

Since it was announced, various groups have been trying to get details on the agreement, with very little to show for it except some speculation on possible projects.

Within a couple of weeks of the initial news, there were reports a natural gas plant to be located in Brooke County could have been one of the first projects involved with the deal.

Now, I know that when it comes to economic development — especially with massive, international operations — there often is concern over information getting out there before the company is ready. Most times, there actually are non-disclosure agreements involved, and everyone — the company, developers, even some local officials — are required to sign them.

I do find it interesting, though, that a U.S. senator allegedly has not been able to get any new information on its status. Usually, it wouldn’t be an issue for someone at that level of government to get some tidbit. One would have to wonder if this is some kind of political gamesmanship on someone’s part. With the climate we have today in our various levels of government, it wouldn’t surprise me if there is some form of subterfuge taking place.

On top of that, one would wonder how much the current trade issues between the U.S. and China have affected this MOU. I doubt it would take much for any of the groups involved to walk away, especially since the China Energy project wasn’t focused solely on West Virginia.

I, of course, have no real insight into any of this, only the bits and pieces discussed in various news articles over the last couple of years.

If something does come of any of this, it will be reported on.

Until then, we focus on the opportunities we have locally.

The City of Weirton recently took steps to actively begin the streetscape project for the Park Drive development. The first phase of this long-discussed project will see the creation of space for retail and restaurants, with the idea later added to also include residential opportunities on top of the businesses. There’s also been talk of a possible hotel and maybe a few other surprises.

I have been able to see some designs, and if it all works out the way it’s been proposed, it will be a nice addition to the Weirton community.

Pietro Fiorentini also is getting ready to open its doors and begin manufacturing at its new location in the Three Springs Business Park. We’ll have more on that later this month, but we certainly welcome them to Weirton.

The Frontier Group also continues with its work to demolish some of the former steel-making properties in the city, and putting together plans to attract new development. There are a lot of moving parts there at the moment, and none of it is going to happen all at once.

So, for now, let’s look at what is happening in our own back yard. Everything else will happen whenever, or if, it’s meant to.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)