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Picking ourselves up from a bad year

We’ve just completed our Christmas celebrations, which means the year will be coming to an end in just a matter of days.

Many of us, I’m certain, are ready to put 2020 behind us, although, realistically 2021 is sure to provide challenges of its own.

Much of the news of the last year has focused on the events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic as it spread around the world, as well as the presidential election (and those of other offices on the national, state and local levels). Those weren’t the only things that happened, though.

Two big announcements were made, for example, when it comes to the future of industry in our region.

Just last month, Gruppo Fanti, an Italian manufacturing firm, was joined by representatives of the Business Development Corp., Gov. Jim Justice and various other officials in announcing its plans to locate a facility in Weirton’s Half Moon Industrial Park. The $30 million investment in a currently unused building is expected to create at least 40 jobs when the operation begins in 2022.

In April, One Sun announced its intention to build a 40-megawatt solar farm on Brown’s Island, unveiling its plans with representatives of the Frontier Group of Companies and the City of Weirton.

Both projects are moving forward, although they will take time to complete. Either way, they indicate the kind of potential our area has for new business opportunities and are another sign that companies, both domestic and international, are paying attention to the Ohio Valley.

The Top of West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Summit Art Gallery moved to a larger location in downtown Weirton, with the plan to not only expand on some of its services but to better promote the region.

Several of our communities are investing in their public utilities in order to either address long-standing problems or expand their available service.

The Park Drive business development is moving forward, after several delays, with officials expecting to break ground and begin construction sometime in 2021. This is an interesting project for our area, described as including both retail and residential, as well as areas for possible community activities.

From what I’ve heard, there’s more to come, as well, with a variety of potential opportunities in the works throughout Hancock and Brooke counties.

Our local chambers of commerce worked to continue their support of the area business community, providing vital information and coming up with new programs, while many of their usual events were canceled.

The new Ohio River bridge crossing just south of Wellsburg continues to take shape, and will provide a vital link in our region’s infrastructure when complete — both for motorists and bicyclists.

A variety of small businesses have opened in the last year, and some have even grown to the point they’ve needed to look for larger spaces.

The biggest thing to happen was seeing the way our Ohio Valley has found ways to come together during a difficult time. From residents encouraging the patronage of local restaurants, to civic organizations supporting our schools to churches and other organizations providing meals for some of our older residents, we continue to come together and gain strength through both the good and bad times.

This past year has given us several obstacles. In some instances, it has set us back in ways we probably never imagined. At the same time, there continue to be efforts to move us forward, and with the support of our neighbors, we’ll find ways to grow.

(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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