Shameful: Officials dangled hope to help Trump
Mid-Ohio Valley residents had heard this story before. They could have told the rest of the state how it might turn out. Still, it was exciting to hear, a year-and-a-half ago, that China’s Energy Investment Corp. would be spending nearly $84 billion in West Virginia over the next 20 years.
At the time, Gov. Jim Justice was very convincing:
“It would not surprise me, within my 10-month window of today, to see shovels in the ground,” he said.
His commerce secretary at the time, Woody Thrasher, said “This time next year, you will see construction activity taking place.”
Those who long-ago gave up waiting for the project that was touted as the savior of our local economy, a promised $4 billion ethane cracker to be built in Wood County by a Brazilian firm, could have filled in the blanks after that. (The project was considered dead by state politicians by early 2018, with the minority chairman of the House Finance Committee declaring at the time, it “wasn’t to be.”) The still-empty industrial property by the Ohio River seems to cement that fact.
In retrospect it seems as though we should have been prepared for the falling-apart (or, at the kindest, stalling out) of what was simply a memorandum of understanding hastily thrown together by officials in a state who hoped to help the president they supported have a successful visit to China.
Thrasher –who, to be fair, is now running against Justice for governor — told CNBC the calculations were thrown together in late 2017, with the “back of a napkin” figure worked out “in a couple of hours,” so the deal could be rolled out weeks later during Trump’s China visit.
“The temptation was too great not to sort of announce that deal,” Thrasher said.
It is a shame the temptation to help the president make a big splash outweighed consideration for the people of West Virginia, who are so very tired of having what little economic hope is offered to them disintegrate before it ever comes to fruition.