SHADYSIDE - Belmont County suffered a setback earlier this week when hopes for a Shell Oil cracker plant were disappointed. The company chose a site outside of Pittsburgh for the construction. Locally, a 300-acre area in Belmont County had been under consideration.
The project calls for 10,000 construction jobs during two years, followed by 200 permanent jobs.
Port Authority Director Larry Merry said the county first heard news of the project's interest in July. The preparation process included gathering information about the site, area and community. It was a lengthy process and the county auditor, engineer, school districts and others helped the county and port authority board.
Merry said he heard of Shell Oil's decision to go with the Pittsburgh area Wednesday.
He said there was some discouragement, and he regretted the loss to members of the public hoping for increased employment opportunities.
However, he added that the county will continue to move forward. He noted that the county has much to offer in terms of rail, barge service and highway access, and the preparatory work will be applicable for possible future projects. The area has been submitted to JobsOhio for review so other companies might take an interest.
"We're very, very well-prepared. We have a lot of information about the site. We've had a good practice round and hopefully we can win this game," he said, adding that results from JobsOhio will not be immediate. "We're trying to take a bad situation and turn it into a good situation."
In addition, the county like the entire region in a radius of 100 miles still stands to benefit from the cracker plant's presence.
"It's still going to effect the workforce. This is a regional impact project," he said.
Merry noted that further developments are on the horizon as the oil and gas interests provide opportunities.
"It's an exciting time," he said.
"We're disappointed we didn't get picked as the site for the cracker plant," said County Commissioner Matt Coffland. "We'll continue to work. We're trying to work very hard to bring new development to the county."
"It's not going to have a direct impact on our school district as we had hoped, but oil and gas will have an effect on Shadyside and Belmont County," said Shadyside School District Superintendent Terry Brinker. The district had hoped for an increase in population tax from the project. He added that the possibility of other interests in the site remained. "That would help our revenue stream."
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