BEECH BOTTOM - The old Wheeling Corrugating plant has its first tenant, a Tulsa, Okla.-based pipeline company that will be installing a 40-mile-plus section of pipeline from just north of Washington, Pa., through the Northern Panhandle to Ohio, bringing hundreds of jobs to the region.
Sheehan Pipeline, a union contractor, will use the site as a staging area, with trailers for its administrative offices and doctors as well as equipment storage.
Though its lease hasn't been finalized, Sheehan is already prepping the property - removing tons of rock and laying down some 5,000 tons of base material. Local authorities are working to get them water, sewage and electric service on an expedited basis.
About a month from now, they'll be hiring between 400 and 500 union laborers, Teamsters, operating engineers and welders, fitters, journeymen and helpers, at least half of them local, officials explained.
"It will be their base point in the Northern Panhandle," said Pat Ford, executive director of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle. "They've been looking for months for a site to set up operations - administrative offices, doctors offices, an equipment area it's almost going to be like a small town."
The BDC acquired the former industrial property in November, purchasing the roughly 650-acre site for $200,000. The BDC is teaming with a Los Angeles-based Hackman Capital, which owns the equipment, to market the property.
While Sheehan's work here is temporary - around eight months, unless they pick up additional jobs - when Sheehan leaves, the site will be tenant-ready.
"We'll put in the stone, base rock and cap rock, and when we leave, our agreement with the BDC is that we won't pull that up," said Sheehan's Jim Lovell, crediting the BDC for its efforts. "We'll leave that for the next tenant. So we're taking raw ground and developing it for future use for the organization."
Beech Bottom Mayor George Lewis said the deal is huge "for all of Brooke County, and for the village itself."
"At one time we counted, 53 percent of the village was retired," Lewis said. "With what they'll be bringing in (business and occupation) taxes and jobs for the young people we do have here, it's going to be a shot in the arm."
Lewis said village crews will be doing the water work for the project. The village also is offering Sheehan some tax incentives.
"We're just excited about these jobs," he said, pointing out the new infrastructure "is going into virgin ground, it's never even been used for housing or office space, and now we're getting city water and public sewage to them."
Ford called it a "huge win for Beech Bottom in general, and the Northern Panhandle in particular," and credited the BDC's government and business partners for their efforts, including Brooke County Commissioner Jim Andreozzi, Tax Assessor Tom Oughton and Del. Phil Diserio, D-Brooke.
"This is just a short-term lease, but it's going to have substantial long-term economic impacts in the panhandle," Ford said. "Just in the Beech Bottom site alone, Sheehan is probably putting almost half a million dollars in site improvements in, if they'd had to bid it out, that will remain on the site after they leave. But more important, now we really are starting to see the tide turn in the diversification of the economic base in the panhandle from steel to now include gas and oil and energy."
Ford alluded to the announced expansion at Ergon in Newell, as well as Environmental Solution's presence in Weirton and now, Sheehan, as "small but very positive signs."
"Between the processing, the servicing and piping of the gas and oil in our region, it's only a matter of time before we start seeing these wins closer and closer together," he said.
He credited the BDC's partners with making the deal happen. "Sheehan Pipeline needed a site, we needed to make decisions quickly," he said. "Because of our investment partners in our board, Brooke County Commission, the village of Beech Bottom, Brooke County Public Service District and Hammond Public Service District, we were able to mobilize quickly."
Sheehan Pipeline, in business since 1903, is celebrating its 110th year in business.