Wood County officials mull utilities to help power up new developments

PARKERSBURG — Officials are looking at ways to bring utilities to desirable pieces of property for development.

Lindsey Piersol, director of Wood County Economic Development, told local business and development officials about the need for shovel ready sites with utilities already hooked up last week during the joint annual meeting of the Wood County Development Authority and the Parkersburg-Wood County Area Development Corporation.

Many companies are looking for a quick turnaround time, meaning things like utilities need to be in place when a location is being considered.

“Typically, landowners would be responsible for installing utilities on their land–that price can later be passed on to a tenant via a higher price per acre for their land or through a lease; however, utilities are incredibly expensive to install,” Piersol said. “Plus, it’s often not a quick process especially on a large-scale project.

“In some rare instances, a company will pay to put in utilities on a great piece of property; however, I personally have not seen that happen often.”

Given the scale of a project, including employment numbers, capital investment and total full-time employees, states are sometimes able to step in to help with infrastructure costs and installation, she said.

However, budgets are tight for many states, counties and cities. The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) can provide some assistance on qualifying projects or in qualifying areas but it’s typically a slower process, Piersol said.

“The sites that we typically receive inquiries for involve people looking for barge access, rail access, barge and rail access but almost always–quick interstate access or at the very least, visibility,” she said. “Flat land not in a floodplain is a high priority as well.”

Local development officials speak often regarding economic development projects and obstacles.

Piersol and other local development officials from the City of Parkersburg, the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council and the Southeastern Ohio Port Authority have discussed setting up a meeting to pursue available EDA funds.

“We are missing out on projects because we don’t have available buildings or sites fitting what prospects are looking for; perhaps it’s time to follow the mantra ‘if you build it, they will come,'” she said.