Commerce park at full capacity

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – During their Wednesday meeting, Belmont County commissioners heard an update from Belmont County Community Improvement Corp./Department of Development Director Sue Douglass on the status of Fox Commerce Park. She announced that the sale of all lots at the park was complete.

“There is no longer any property at the park available for sale,” she said, noting the last deed was recorded last week. There are now approximately 18 businesses operating in the 125-acre park. Some are multiple entities and expansions of longtime businesses. Others are in the architectural design stage.

“We have continued interest in property development in Belmont County,” Douglass said. “As far as business development at the park, it’s in a very, very active state.”

Douglass noted that the Fox Commerce Park project began in 1998. The first business took up residence in 2005. Since then, a variety of businesses have set up operations.

“The park continues to be a home to small hometown business as well as large entities that have moved into the local area,” she said, adding that operations include Chesapeake and Gulf Port Oil and support services.

Before 2008, five businesses operated with an investment of about $6 million in the park, creating about 200 full-time jobs and 160 part-time jobs. Since then, as many as 12 businesses have been added, considering that some businesses operate under several names.

“The numbers of employees, we don’t see that going anywhere but up,” Douglass said.

She noted that the ownership of the lots becomes private. Currently, the county owns the park, pond and trails, which have proven an attraction for employees.

Douglass added that every business has a minimum of two years to commence operation.

“It’s the beginning of business development as we’re going to see it in Belmont County,” she said. “The park is a symbol of the diversity and the economic development here. In one snapshot in this 125 acres, you can get an excellent read on exactly what’s coming into the area.”

Commissioner Matt Coffland thanked Douglass and her department and inquired if there were any further prospects for land development. Douglass said development depends on infrastructure available. In addition, much of the funding and grants used during the set up of Fox Commerce Park are no longer available.

Commissioner Charles R. Probst Jr. agreed that readily available land was a priority. The county is looking into land to develop and sell, but added that the price per acre has increased.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” he said, noting that some property could be developed in the western part of the county. Business on the river is also on the upswing.

Douglass said her department would attempt to help any business interested in investing in the county to find a location.

“It’s a new day in Belmont County,” said Commissioner Ginny Favede, pointing out how far the county has come in a few years. She also noted the sense of solidarity among park businesses and the community. She also spoke about the need of the state and federal government to reinvest in the county. “We are experiencing economic opportunities unforeseen in the past. In order to capitalize on that, we need a lot of those funding opportunities returned.”

Port Authority Director Larry Merry concurred that there are prospective sites in the western part of the county that may be marketed.

In other matters, commissioners motioned to advertise for bids for 12,000 feet of 6-inch blue PVC waterline for upcoming Development Fund project for the Belmont County Sanitary Sewer District.

Commissioner motioned to accept a proposal from Motorola Solutions for $51,799.50 on behalf of the county’s Emergency Management Agency for radio communications equipment to replace 15 portable radios.

Also approved was a request from the county tourism council to forward an additional $50,000 from lodging tax receipts for March for its 2013 grant program. This is in addition to the monthly $20,000 allotment for operating expenses.

Commissioners motioned to approve a 3 percent pay increase from $12.33 to $12.70 per hour to Dog Warden Verna Painter and $10.11 to $10.41 per hour for Assistant Dog Warden Lisa Williams.

The town hall meeting set for 6 p.m., March 11, has been moved to the Barnesville Senior Center, 229 East Main St.

The March 20 meeting of commissioners will be held at 9 a.m.

DeFrank can be reached at