Huge Project

Cooperation vital on cracker plant

Not many years ago, the thought of officials from Ohio and West Virginia sitting down together to strategize on economic development would have seemed far-fetched. When the issues were relatively limited opportunities, that seemed natural.

But the potential for construction of an ethane cracker plant in Belmont County has brought both local and state officials from both sides of the Ohio River together, for a very good reason: This is big. Really big. It will take both our states to pull it off.

About 80 people attended a Thursday forum intended to provide an overview of the potential project. Held in Wheeling, it attracted representatives of local and state governments, as well as the private sector.

PTT Global Chemical is expected to announce by year’s end whether it will undertake the cracker project in Belmont County. For months, the indications have been good in that regard.

Among concerns about the plan is that, as Belmont County Port Authority Director Larry Merry put it Thursday, our area is “not ready” for the thousands of construction workers who will flood the area for the cracker project. He cited availability of housing.

Finding places to house cracker construction workers indeed will be a challenge. It is so big that it will not be overcome without a united, cross-river effort.

That is in everyone’s best interest for the simple reason that the magnitude of the cracker project — and spin-off industries to come in its wake — is such that there will be plenty of economic opportunity for both the Northern Panhandle and East Ohio.

Maximizing it will be quite a challenge. If the cracker is built, it will not be the only one in the United States. If our region is to compete with others in attracting the chemical, plastics and other manufacturing facilities that are linked to cracker plants, we simply must work together.

Old habits die hard. No doubt there are some in both Ohio and West Virginia who wonder whether their states would be better off to go it alone in preparing for the cracker plant.

Banish that idea. This one is too big — and too promising — for parochialism to be permitted to interfere with something that could be an economic godsend to both the Mountain and Buckeye states.

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