Tempering our expectations

I thought the June 4 editorial comments in the News and Sentinel were confusing. The writer started by telling us that Wood County residents should get themselves better educated about what the new “cracker” plant was all about. Only after educating ourselves can we make better plans and decisions about what to do with this industrial opportunity.

How can we plan or decide anything when nobody has projected a construction start date on this factory, let alone a completion date. I have yet to hear anything firm about the anticipated employment level when construction is complete.

Also, we’ve heard about possible subsidiary operations utilizing the ethylene monomer from the cracker but this speculation has been as vague as everything else attached to this project.

The newspaper quoted Parkersburg City Councilwoman, Sharon Lynch, as saying, “I see us growing, growing and growing and nobody seems to want to give us any money.” Ms. Lynch seems to think that’s terrible. I think it’s smart. Why should anyone provide up-front money for infrastructure and services when nobody has defined the size, scope and timing of this project? How is anyone expected to define any shortfall in infrastructure and services when all of that important information is missing?

Why does anyone automatically assume the Mid-Ohio Valley is short on essential services anyway? Once upon a time this area supported a large industrial/manufacturing base, but much of that base has disappeared in the past 40 years. Those long-term industrial and people losses were economically disastrous when they happened, but it doesn’t necessarily mean their supporting infrastructure has completely disappeared

There are a lot of people who think the “cracker” will be a big, long-term employment windfall for the area. I hope they’re right but I have my doubts. A cracker is a refinery operation. Will it be capital intensive? Yep! It sure will! But will it be people intensive? Not likely! That’s the nature of a refinery. That cracker, by itself, will be hard pressed to reconstitute the manufacturing base that existed in Wood and Washington counties 40 years ago. I think everyone should temper their expectations.

Ralph Chambers