Shell Chemical's decision to pick a site at Monaca, Pa., for its multibillion-dollar ethane cracker plant was a big loss for West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and the other leaders who expended a massive effort to land the facility.
At stake was the possibility of hundreds - possibly thousands - of jobs the cracker plant could have provided to residents.
Tomblin and state Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette weren't just on the sidelines. They flew to Texas earlier in the year to personally make a pitch for the plant to Shell corporate officers. The West Virginia Legislature passed a slew of tax breaks to lure the project here.
Given this is an election year, it is no surprise that Shell's decision to locate elsewhere has created a political storm in the Mountain State. Morgantown businessman Bill Maloney, who lost a close race for governor to Tomblin last year and is again running for governor this year, wasted no time in blaming the governor and the Legislature for doing "nothing to fix the fundamental problems that job creators face in West Virginia."
There is something to Maloney's charge because there certainly aren't a lot of businesses knocking on West Virginia's doors.
However, if speculation is correct, Shell's decision had little to do with politics and more to do with location. Shell's preferred location in West Virginia in Marshall County included part of the Mountaineer Racetrack and Casino, which would have had to be relocated had the cracker gone there.
U.S. Rep. David McKinley, D-W.Va., who represents the 1st District, was in Parkersburg Thursday when Shell's announcement became public. While he didn't know much of the details about the decision, the congressman said the state should resist the urge to become angry and instead try to learn from it.
McKinley suggested holding an "exit interview" with Shell to understand the reasons behind its decision and what the state could have done differently. This, he believed, would help the state in the future.
"We need to learn from the competition and how did they beat us. We can apply that to Plan B," he said.
McKinley also made the sensible suggestion the next time officials visit a corporation's headquarters, the delegation also include congressional members. This makes sense. We can only speculate what a meeting in Houston may have accomplished with a group that included McKinley, Sen. Joe Manchin, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito and Rep. Nick Rahall.
We recommend the state take McKinley up on his idea. Another company is looking at another site for another cracker plant and we have a chance at another bite of the apple.
Will Tomblin agree? Unlikely.
The rule in politics is take credit for the good things and blame others for the bad.
But had West Virginia landed the cracker, or is successful in the next attempt, there would be more than enough credit to go around for every politician.