It will be late 2016 before we learn whether an ethane cracker plant will be built in Belmont County.
So right now, optimism is running high, but it’s all speculation.
If it happens, it will change the Ohio Valley–the communities, roads, schools, even churches and recreation facilities.
Sue Douglass, executive director of the Belmont County Development Department, said she loved small towns when they offered everything you could possibly need.
She says in that respect, we might see history repeating itself.
“We’re going to see our educational institutions rev up their opportunity offerings,” noted Douglass. “We’ll see the growth of hotels, restaurants, goods and services.”
The enormity of an ethane cracker is hard to fathom.
It would dwarf the former R.E. Burger Plant, covering hundreds of acres.
At its peak, construction could require 8,000 to 10,000 workers.
That’s more people than there are hotel rooms or RV parks.
“There will probably be workers staying in Cambridge, staying in Washington, Pa,. maybe Pittsburgh, Parkersburg, all of those areas,” said Larry Merry, Belmont County Port Authority executive director.
“The commissioners recognize that this is potentially the largest economic project ever to be built in the State of Ohio,” said Mark Thomas, county commissioner.
They acknowledge nothing is one hundred percent good.
“I mean, you can even eat too much ice cream, I guess,” chuckled Merry,. “So yeah, there will be growing pains.”
“You know, an increase in traffic, waiting in store lines,” said Matt Coffland, county commissioner. “But it’s positive. You know, we’ve gone a long time with this county declining in workforce and jobs. This is a turnaround. This is a plus.”
“The only thing I’m worried about is whether they buy out all the people in Dilles Bottom,” said Melvin Bigler of Centerville. “Because I know I wouldn’t want to be sitting on top of a gas plant.”
“I think it would be good for the area,” said Sandra Britt of Wheeling. “More jobs, which would be good. More lines at restaurants, which would be good. And more money spent in our area.”
Local officials are already looking at what else can come from it–not just more places to have lunch or get a haircut, but entire spinoff industries.
“You know, maybe we can become the plastics valley instead of the steel valley,” said Merry.
“Well for me, I think it’s a great thing for the community,” said Aaron Hulbert of Powhatan. “Money will be coming in. And because I work for the highway, that’s a lot of job security for me as well!”