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Development outlook good

Sometimes, we in the Ohio Valley find ourselves understanding children in the back seats of our cars demanding to know, “Are we there yet?”

For years, we have been on the road toward construction of an ethane cracker plant in Belmont County.

We are not there yet.

Last week, on Wednesday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and other high-ranking state officials met with representatives of PTT Global Chemical America, the U.S. division of the Thailand-based company that is the leading partner in the cracker venture. PTTGCA has purchased about 500 acres of property in the Dilles Bottom area, south of Shadyside, wight along the Ohio River. Much of the land is the former site of FirstEnergy’s R.E. Burger coal-fired electrical power generating station.

PTTGCA has invested millions of dollars in property acquisition, feasibility studies and site preparation and made its way through Ohio’s permitting process. After the meeting, though, DeWine’s office said there was no “substantive update” to release.

Belmont County Port Authority Director Larry Merry was more optimistic about another meeting, held Tuesday. “They still have strong interest,” he said of PTT.

Other state and local officials seem to agree. Ohio Sen. Frank Hoagland, for example, is concerned about preparing the region’s infrastructure for such a large and complex development. Hoagland, R-Mingo Junction, attended the session along with Belmont County Commissioner J.P. Dutton. Both said they stand ready to help the project and that they believe the final investment decision ultimately will be positive.

The large amount of money being spent on laying the groundwork for the plant is reassuring. Still, the sooner PTT and its partner, Daelim Industrial Co. of South Korea, make a firm announcement the plant will be built, the better.

Wonder if they would consider playing Santa Claus?

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