Parkersburg port up for vote

PARKERSBURG – The effort to develop a port in the city is expected to get officially under way later this month.

A provisional local port district designation for Parkersburg is on the agenda for the West Virginia Public Port Authority Board’s July 22 meeting, Mayor Bob Newell said.

It had been an item on the June 24 agenda, but there was not a quorum at that meeting.

A letter from the port authority says information submitted by the city meets criteria set for in the authority’s procedures manual.

Newell started pursuing the designation in 2012 when the West Virginia Division of Highways announced it was moving its District 3 offices from Depot Street to the former Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie site on Lubeck Avenue.

“I literally the next day called Charleston to start the process of trying to get control of that 15 acres along the Little Kanawha River,” Newell said. “The idea was to revitalize the industrial area that’s in the central part of downtown, that being the Depot Street area.”

The mayor was primarily thinking of companies being able to ship goods via the river, but he soon learned the concept of a port wasn’t limited to one mode of transportation.

The West Virginia Public Port Authority promotes intermodalism, utilizing rail, highway and water transportation to enhance economic opportunities.

Newell noted the Depot Street property is across the street from CSX rail yards and just minutes away from U.S. 50 and Interstate 77.

While the port would start as a city venture, with the mayor and council approving members of a local port authority board, Newell expects it to grow beyond the city limits. He cited the Wood County Development Authority, the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport and the City of Vienna as potential partners.

The port would consist of a specific geographical area in which tax incentives related to port development could be offered, Parkersburg Development Director Rickie Yeager said. The designation would let businesses know the city is focusing on the needs of importers and exporters.

“It would put us on the map in terms of intermodal transportation,” Yeager said.

Newell said there are 40 businesses in Wood, Jackson and Pleasants counties that export goods. With the growing oil and gas business and the anticipated multibillion-dollar ethane cracker plant and related businesses, the need for port facilities will be even greater.

“Parkersburg becomes a point of transfer for goods from all over, well, the world probably,” Newell said.