Piersol: Wood County land needs utilities to attract businesses
VIENNA — There is a need for shovel-ready sites with utilities in place in order to build businesses in this area, according to Wood County development officials.
The Wood County Development Authority and the Parkersburg-Wood County Area Development Corporation held their joint annual meeting Wednesday at the Parkersburg Country Club.
Lindsey Piersol, director of Wood County Economic Development, said her office had 47 leads brought to the county from other areas or the state.
Of those, there were 19 prospects who were seriously looking at the area.
“We lost or passed on to other counties several leads because we did not have the building or the site ready to go,” Piersol said. “We have a lot of landowners who are willing to build to suit, but that doesn’t equal the quick turnaround times companies are looking for.
“Therefore, we have had to pass on a number of opportunities. We make sure we always pass them on to contiguous counties, but often times they don’t have it either,” Piersol said.
Many people in the area’s business community are working on these problems, she said.
“We can talk all day, but until we have ready sites for developers, we can’t attract businesses to this area,” Piersol said.
There is a huge difference between having available land and having a site, she said, adding there is a lot of property along the river and local railways, but they have no utilities.
“It takes a lot of money and time to install utilities into an existing piece of land,” Piersol said.
Many companies are looking for those when they are considering locations as they want to be able to build or get things in place within a few months, she said.
“We have had to pass on a lot because we don’t have the existing land,” Piersol said.
Piersol said over the last year one of the biggest developments in the area was Hino Motors buying the former Coldwater Creek facility, outside Mineral Wells, with a $100 million investment that would add 250 jobs to Hino’s existing 300.
“We closed on this,” Piersol said, pointing to a picture of the former Coldwater Creek facility. This was met with enthusiastic applause.
Over the last year, she has done 82 business expansion and retention visits, which led to other visits.
“I still believe that taking care of what we have is the order of business development and expansion efforts,” Piersol said. “Many of the county’s opportunities can be found in our existing businesses. These companies are the backbone of our community. They are just as important as tracking down new businesses.”
Wood County’s Labor Participation rate is 56.9 percent where people are working or looking for a job.
Many area manufacturers, industrial users and other businesses need employees, Piersol said.
She highlighted new businesses to the area, including Five Below, Starbucks, Sheetz, Unity Cafe and H&M.
The keynote speaker for the evening was West Virginia University at Parkersburg President Chris Gilmer, who spoke about coming from rural Mississippi, being the first person in his family to graduate from college and how a good education can help many achieve a better life.
“Education is the great equalizer,” he said.
He talked about workforce development programs at WVU-P.
A total of 217 businesses and industry last year chose WVU Parkersburg’s Workforce Development Office to provide their workforce training, totaling more than 46,000 contact hours for those companies.
WVU-P has a “Learn and Earn” program that has led to paid internships at local companies, Gilmer said. Around 85 percent of those who finished the program are employed in the field they studied in, with many employed at DuPont or Chemours, Gilmer said.
“You can see our commitment is growing the workforce of Wood County and the surrounding areas,” he said. “Colleges should be of and for the communities where they serve.”