Port Authority: No cause for alarm on PTT

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont County Port Authority Director Larry Merry said Wednesday that he sees no cause for alarm in the wake of PTT Global Chemical America’s announcement that it will take the rest of the year to evaluate engineering plans for a proposed cracker plant.

He made the remarks as he reported on his department’s activity in 2016 to the Belmont County Board of Commissioners and the public. Merry noted that PTT has been very open throughout the process, despite being under no obligation as a private company to provide information to the public.

“It’s neither bad news nor good news. It’s just news,” Merry said, adding that larger and more complicated projects are frequently subject to delays. “This is nothing unusual, and I see no reason to be alarmed.”

“Belmont County will continue to grow, will continue to do well, regardless of what happens in Dilles Bottom. While it’s a very important project, not only for Belmont County but the entire Ohio Valley, we will proceed daily,” Commissioner Mark Thomas said while giving a nod to JobsOhio and the associated businesses that have worked with the port authority toward the cracker plant project. “Everybody’s working as a team, the private sector and the public sector, and JobsOhio has been a great partner to Belmont County. We appreciate what they’re doing.”

Commissioner J.P. Dutton also recommended that the public not read more into PTT’s press release than the wording.

“Multi-billion-dollar investments take time,” he said.

In other matters, Merry noted that MPR Supply Chain Solutions had continued to lease the former U.S. Armory property. The port authority had purchased the property several years ago. Merry added that as of Jan. 31, MPR exercised its option to purchase the armory property. Merry said the project and expansion created 10 new jobs as part of the riverfront project, including a new frack sand distribution terminal.

He also touched on two joint economic development districts. The one at the Eastern Ohio Regional Park has seen some changes with the first tenant, Hennebert Trucking Co., having sold its facility and land to R&J Trucking and purchased one of the newly completed buildings from Jefferis Real Estate.

“Part of our efforts was creating two joint economic development districts that involve Warren Township, the village of Barnesville and the commissioners, and those two joint economic development districts have grown very nicely, one of them being the industrial park along (Ohio) 800. That currently has three buildings in it, two of them occupied and a third one, I think, is very close to have a lease on it, too, and having a company move into it.”

Merry added that Jefferis Real Estate already has another site leveled off.

“The intentions are to sometime this year probably put up another building,” he said.

Five new buildings have been completed on the second industrial park district located east of Barnesville, with seven different companies having operations there. These include Force Inc., M&M Pump Supply, Red Dirt, Whitco Supply, Stewart Petroleum, Sunland and Otis. The village of Barnesville benefited from more than $20,000 in added income tax revenue for 2016.

“An eighth business is getting ready to move into it,” Merry said, adding that during the past several years the port authority has worked with the county toward the purchase of added property to combine into the district with the hopes of attracting more businesses.

Another project he discussed was paving for the Bellaire Industrial Park on North Guernsey Street. The work began in March and is nearly complete. The project was funded with grants from the Ohio Development Services Agency, the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Ohio Department of Transportation, along with assistance from the county’s Transportation Improvement District, the village of Bellaire, the Ohio Mid Eastern Governments Association and the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth.

“We were able to improve that road that has a tremendous amount of traffic and commerce going on in it,” he said, adding that two businesses in that area have also been able to expand.

The Belmont County Board of Commissioners meets at 9 a.m. each Wednesday at the courthouse in St. Clairsville.