West Virginia University Strategic Plan will assess the economic feasibility in local counties

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Following a year of meetings between key community leaders within the business community and West Virginia University’s John Chambers College of Business and Economics, the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce entered into a partnership with WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

During the dialogue, Chamber representatives discussed the future for the valley; realizing there are so many positives but very many unknowns, such as the needs for education, housing, infrastructure, and healthcare.

With a desire to have the best information possible The Wheeling Chamber’s Board of Directors engaged the University in the creation of a strategic action plan because they have the ability to conduct such research, and the Chamber wanted to have answers to these questions for the entire valley to maximize the opportunities forthcoming and have roadmap to the future.

With that in mind, Chamber president Erikka Storch and project chairman Andy McKenzie have begun conversations with other local chambers, municipalities, county officials within the 8 county area to be included in the strategic action plan.

The 8 counties include Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, Marshall, and Wetzel counties in West Virginia, as well as Jefferson, Belmont, and Monroe counties in Ohio.

Storch said, “we are taking the mindset the rising tide will lift all ships, and we want a designated plan for action to maximize the opportunities and minimize the challenges our region is facing. With the pending announcement of a second cracker plant in this area (the first one being in Monaca PA), we need to know what 2020 and beyond are going to look like in terms of housing needs, education necessary to have a skilled workforce, healthcare availability and needs, all while dealing with some much needed updates to our current infrastructure and assessing future needs.”

Looking at all kinds of indicators from employment and population, and population growth, education levels. All kinds of different things just to giver an overall picture of what’s happening.”)
Wheeling’s location is unique in relation to the rest of the state. We are just a short drive to larger economic areas such as Pittsburgh or Cleveland. So, that will play a large part in the plan.

ERIC BOWEN – BUREAU OF BUSINESS AND ECONOMIC RESEARCH, WVU

Wheeling’s location is unique in relation to the rest of the state. We are just a short drive to larger economic areas such as Pittsburgh or Cleveland. So, that will play a large part in the plan.

What role wheeling can play in that larger, broader, regional economy. Often times, you’ll get that the economic growth and economic development that you find will be related to the larger regional areas around there. So that’s a really important thing for us to look at.

ERIC BOWEN – BUREAU OF BUSINESS AND ECONOMIC RESEARCH, WVU

Bowen says there are some hurdles they will have jump, first. One being strongly looking into the hit the Ohio Valley’s economic plan took when OVMC and EORH closed their doors, and how to rebuild the community.

The closure of the Ohio Valley Medical Center has been a pretty big blow to the area. Those were a relatively large number of jobs in a pretty well-paying sector. So that is going to be something that is going to come up for sure

ERIC BOWEN – BUREAU OF BUSINESS AND ECONOMIC RESEARCH, WVU

But Bowen stresses that you won’t see the change instantly. In fact, once the process is started it could take six to eight months just to create a plan.

Strategic planning is not a quick fix for an area. So, you know, I think that once these recommendations go into place it’s going to take a while for them to start being implemented and for us to see the results

ERIC BOWEN – BUREAU OF BUSINESS AND ECONOMIC RESEARCH, WVU

The Strategic plan is based loosely around the approval for the Ethane Cracker Plant in Belmont County. Bowen and his team started the plan a few months ago, but say it isnt a quick fix for the area, So, you can expect to see changes start in a few years.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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