Access road opening in Mineral Wells

MINERAL WELLS – An access road being built near West Virginia 14 will open up land for an expansion of one company and opportunities for others.

Work began Monday on the road, which will provide access to 25 acres of property owned by Conley Fabrications, which makes truck bodies, semi trailers and other metal products. Construction is being done by Williamstown-based Alan Stone, and the project is being funded by $300,000 from West Virginia’s Industrial Access Road fund.

The company was founded in 2010 after Benson International Corp. closed. Owner Roger Conley and his son, Jeff, had worked for Benson for years and started their new venture in that company’s former location in Mineral Wells.

As demand has increased, the company has outgrown its current space, Roger Conley said.

“We definitely need the room,” he said.

The company has ordered a 30,000-square-foot building and plans to start laying the foundation in a couple of weeks.

“We’re hoping it’s under roof by the end of the year,” Conley said. “Not only are we going to have more room, we’re going to have so much more efficiency.”

Conley employs 16 people, but that’s expected to change when they move into the new space next spring.

“We hope to double our workforce as soon as we move over there,” Conley said.

In addition to its truck bodies and trailers, the company has an opportunity to branch out with products for the booming oil and natural gas industry, Conley said. They recently completed an order for three semi loads of steel skidding for an oil and gas operation.

And if all goes according to plan, Conley said, his company won’t be the only source of new jobs as a result of the access road.

Conley’s operation will only take up five to six acres, meaning there’s plenty of space for other construction. Conley envisions the area as an industrial park and said he’s already received some interest from other companies.

“We just kind of have to keep our eyes and ears open and see what’s best for us and the community,” he said. “We sure want to bring some good-paying jobs to the community.”

Conley said talks about what else may be coming to the property can proceed now that the road is under construction.

“It’s a whole lot easier to come to a finality when the road is actually being built,” he said.

State funding for the road was applied for by the Wood County Development Authority.

David Cramer, staff engineer for the West Virginia Department of Transportation, said the $300,000 was based on cost estimates for the project. To qualify, a project must provide a 10-to-1 return in terms of development. Since the initial plans did not have that $3 million amount, Cramer said the company had to provide a surety that it will forfeit if $3 million in development is not realized within five years of the road opening.

“We’ve never had to claim one (surety), and I don’t expect we will this time,” Cramer said. “I don’t think he’ll have a whole lot of trouble getting additional investment in there.”

The road is slated for completion by Oct. 31.