Industrial parks busy in Belmont County

A barge passes the Bellaire Industrial Park Sand Terminal on Guernsey Street, just north of MPR and Muxie Distributing.

BARNESVILLE — Belmont County’s industrial parks are centers of activity, and the influx of oil and gas interests has meant a rise in occupancy as businesses are drawn to those locations.

Port Authority Director Larry Merry pointed out many areas and many of the communities in Belmont County have developed industrial parks and have extended infrastructure to them.

“When you go around the county, you have Martins Ferry — a lot of that area has been developed in their industrial area, and we continue to re-work it, trying to re-develop the steel mill down there,” he said, noting close to 8 acres of land are available for development there. “The company that has it is working to improve it and get projects in there.”

He also cited potential further south along the Ohio River.

“You look at the two areas in Bellaire. They’re continuing to develop and fill in. Redevelopment is a part of that, and also re-using the buildings that maybe businesses have moved out of,” he said, adding that 15 acres are available in Bellaire’s industrial park, with 8 acres along the river.

“There’s been a lot of changes. There’s still areas, especially in Bellaire, that can be developed. The areas along the river are hard to find good sites. … We continue to work in Martins Ferry and Bellaire to finish filling the available ground,” Merry said. “That area is really geared toward logistics-type businesses — moving freight. The railroad’s there. Route 7’s there. … Businesses that are tied to transportation and logistics are probably what’s most suited, but manufacturing could probably be there because of the logistics.”

Merry also cited the potential of a proposed ethane cracker plant in the Shadyside area as “a sign of investment in the county.” PTT Global Chemical is studying the site of the former R.E. Burger electric plant and the surrounding area as a possible location for a plant that would “crack” ethane and process it for use in plastics and chemical applications.

“If and when the decision on the cracker comes, that is going to cause a tremendous amount of growth in the valley and in Belmont County, and we need to be working every day to develop future sites for companies that will come as a part of that project, and that’s going to create hundreds and even thousands of jobs that will be a result of the oil and gas industry as we continue to get investment. Literally billions of dollars are being invested in Belmont County,” he said.

Merry said the oil and gas industry still has the potential to bring a great deal of development to the region.

“A lot of them are tied to the oil and gas industry. A lot of those businesses are tied to the oil and gas companies or tied to the exploration or the production of the oil and gas, and some of the companies are normal economic development growth companies in the distribution of material and the manufacturing of material.”

Other related companies are also being drawn to the area.

“The plastics industry is looking, just because they would be so close to the raw product that they would need to produce their products. We’re seeing a lot of interest by those types of companies also,” he said.

“None of this will happen without roads, extension of sewer and water, of the utilities, and it’s got to be a continued effort by the governments in Belmont County and the state and the federal government to use dollars to invest in this community so that we can take advantage of the oil and gas industry and what’s being produced here,” he said.

Belmont County Commissioner Mark Thomas pointed out that utility service has been directed to those areas.

“We’ve had the good fortune in Belmont County over the years to have a number of different areas to which we could identify as a commerce park or as an industrial park,” he said citing Fox Commerce Park east of Morristown that was started in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Belmont County developed the project in conjunction with the county department of development. “We ran infrastructure to that 125-acre site. … We’re happy to say that today that park is full of tenants and buyers that have created a number of different jobs. There are hundreds of jobs at that site.”

Thomas added that about eight years ago, the county then considered more development in the western portion of the county.

“We found about 200 acres between I-70 and the village of Barnesville, and that’s the current Eastern Ohio Regional Industrial Park that has been developed and has continued to be developed,” Thomas said.

He said the county has worked with Warren Township trustees, the village of Barnesville, the county port authority and other entities to run infrastructure to that site.

“There are employers there. There are private developers who have purchased acreages and are developing it as we speak, so the future looks bright there. We’re looking at exercising an option to buy another 200 acres at that site,” he said.

“We still look for other sites in the center part of the county. We have also been blessed to work with the village of Bellaire and also the city of Martins Ferry,” he added.

Thomas pointed said the industrial parks along the Ohio River benefit from the county’s work with the port authority and department of development to help develop those sites.

The Belmont County Department of Development reported that the Fox Commerce park is filled to capacity. All 125 acres are now in use.

“The Fox Commerce Park is now a completely private functioning industrial park,” Sue Douglass, department of development executive director, said. “We’re happy it’s filled. We have a diversified number of businesses in there. It’s in a steady state of change due to all the different opportunities coming in the valley. We continue to work with county people, county officials and private individuals to find additional properties to develop. As of now, Fox Commerce is filled to capacity and is a private park.”

The Barnesville area also boasts other industrial parks. T.J. Jefferis, site owner, said the parks have proven popular.

“We’ve got two industrial parks,” he said, pointing out one on Ohio 147 east of Barnesville under Jeru Real Estate LLC. It includes one older building and five new ones. “Right now we have six buildings leased and four lay-down yards. … Right now that park there is almost full. We have a 3-acre lot that’s all that’s left.”

Regarding the park located north of Ohio 800 on the north side of Barnesville between the village and I-70, Jefferis said this area is being newly developed.

“We’re on our third building now,” he said, adding that the building is for lease or sale. “We have one other lot that is empty.”

He added that nine more lots are being prepared and leveled for construction purposes.

“We’re just getting started on that park. We’ve only owned that ground for about a year and put two buildings up in that period of time,” he noted.

Jefferis said the majority of incoming businesses are related to the oil and gas industry.