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Meeting focuses on Wood County development

Lindsey Piersol, director of Wood County Economic Development, talks about the business openings and other business development Wednesday evening during the Wood County Development Authority and the Parkersburg-Wood County Area Development Corporation’s annual meeting. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

VIENNA — The Wood County area saw business growth over the last year as well as other opportunities come to the area, local business development officials said Wednesday evening.

Business and community leaders gathered Wednesday at the Parkersburg Country Club for the Wood County Development Authority and the Parkersburg-Wood County Area Development Corporation’s annual meeting.

Lindsey Piersol, director of Wood County Economic Development, said there was a lot of activity in the area over the last year with 47 properties being sold or leased. Her office had 39 leads brought to the county from other areas of the state with 22 prospects of people having conversations about property in the area, she said.

“We have had an incredibly busy year in our office,” she said. “We are thankful to have had that. We have had a lot of exciting things.”

The Wood County area had been awarded $480,000 in Industrial Access Road Grants for projects for industrial use, Piersol said. The area was originally awarded $400,000 and Hino Motors and the state highway department provided matching funds to make up the rest. A total of $280,000 will be used to erect a stoplight at the end of Hino Drive leading to the new plant. The project is expected to be completed within the next year, she said.

Kate Reed, alumni coordinator for Leadership West Virginia, was the keynote speaker for the Parkersburg-Wood County Area Development Corporation’s Annual Meeting. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

Another $200,000 was allocated for Ohio Valley Water Resources on Butcher Bend Road to repair the road as it is heavily used to transport water used in the oil and gas industry, Piersol said.

Her office had 71 business retention and expansion visits which resulted in over 200 meetings about companies in the area looking to expand. There were 10 expansions and 14 ribbon cuttings the office participated in, she said.

They had 3,719 website sessions (people visiting Wood County Development’s website) where each visit lasted an average of two minutes and 24 seconds.

“You are looked at before anyone ever contacts your office,” Piersol said. “We are working to make sure our website reflects what we need to get businesses here.”

Piersol said other highlights over the last year were the National Main Street came to town and talked with businesses and community leaders about what they want to see in the area; the Starbucks, Hobby Lobby and other businesses opening; creating an Opportunity Zone perspective, a first in the state, with ideas that can appeal to developers; West Virginia Secretary of Commerce Ed Gaunch was in town two days in August meeting with businesses, and Contour Air coming to the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport.

Over the summer, Hino Motors celebrated the grand opening of its Mineral Wells facility. During the grand opening celebration, the company announced an additional $40 million investment into the new facility that will add 250 jobs in the next three years, bringing the total employment to 800 by 2021.

Piersol said the office held business retention visits to talk with existing businesses about how things are going, including what is going well, what they might need help with, and to talk about state money available for training and equipment purchases.

“Existing businesses are the backbone of our economy,” she said. “Most of where our growth is comes through existing businesses.”

The keynote speaker for the evening was Kate Reed, alumni coordinator for Leadership West Virginia.

Leadership West Virginia is a program to develop, strengthen and connect leaders in the state. It is a training and professional development program. Around 50 people are selected statewide to participate each year from diverse backgrounds, industries and geographic locations. They discuss the challenges and successes in the state.

Piersol graduated from the program over the last year.

Alumni of the program continue to engage with one another to move West Virginia forward by addressing many of its challenges, Reed said.

There are 1,400 graduates, including business leaders, government leaders, nonprofit representatives, legal and medical professionals and educators.

“We bring together emerging leaders who represent a broad spectrum of professional, personal and geographic diversity,” Reed said. “We actively participate in finding solutions that will enhance West Virginia’s future growth and prosperity.”

Brett Dunlap can be reached at bdunlap@newsandsentinel.com

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