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Our area can go far with teamwork

It was a nice surprise to receive a text message from Pat Ford the other morning, offering to meet up while he was in town.

Many of you will remember Pat as the previous executive director of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle. He left the Ohio Valley a little over a year ago for a new opportunity in Kentucky, where he focused on Main Street programs and community development. Now, he is beginning another adventure with the Frontier Group of Companies and will be relocating to Buffalo.

The Frontier Group (not to be confused with the telecommunications firm which provides phone and internet services to some areas of our state) is a company focusing on industrial redevelopment. They purchased a large portion of former steelmaking property in Weirton a few years ago, and also have had projects in Mingo Junction and other parts of our region.

Among Pat’s duties will be to market the former Weirton Steel property, now being called Frontier Crossing, to business prospects. From what he has said, there already is strong interest for some of the land, which means new opportunities in the next several years.

Pat had his detractors while he was here. Anyone in a public position is going to. However, Pat knows how to promote an area and he knows how to build relationships. It is those skills, from him and others, which brought the Frontier Group here, and contributed to other businesses, such as Bidell Gas Compression and Pietro Fiorentini setting up in Weirton. He worked with municipal, county and state officials, and others, to showcase what is possible.

Not every effort is going to result in a win, but it’s a reminder that you get more victories by working as a team than by going it alone.

Often, we can accomplish more by having a coalition of different groups, with different talents and focuses, than by centralizing everything under a single umbrella.

We have talented, passionate, hard-working people living in the Ohio Valley. Some are good at beautification, some are good at fundraising, or industrial redevelopment, or tourism or strategic planning or the arts. They all have a way to contribute and set the region on a good path. It does none of us any good to only focus on a single community if nothing is being done for the rest of the area, and it does no one any good to have only a small group take the lead on every effort.

But just imagine what could be accomplished if all of these groups, with their different abilities, their different resources and different ideas could work together, communicating with each other, welcoming ideas from other parts of the Ohio Valley and beyond.

Think of it as a chess game. An individual might attempt to play multiple matches against a variety of opponents, but at some point, they are going to take their eyes off of one board to focus on another and get placed into check. The question is whether they are willing to sacrifice one of their kings in order to win the other games. Wouldn’t it be better to have others, with different knowledge, experience and skillsets, pitch in, working together to help reach the goal?

We’re not going to move our region forward through consolidation. We can’t have a couple of groups in control of every single effort being made.

We need cooperation and communication. It’s going to take outreach and teamwork to see the kind of results we want.

(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)

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