I really don’t want to be a wet blanket here, but this week’s announcement about a possible ethylene cracker plant coming to Wood County…is just that: a possibility. West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin came to WVU-Parkersburg on Thursday, accompanied by representatives of a company called Ode-brecht…to discuss ASCENT- the Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise. The governor said that Wood County is the ”proposed site” of a “possible” cracker plant, which would take the output of Marcellus and Utica shale sites and turn it into useable products. When you hedge a statement with phrases like “proposed” and “possible” in the same sentence, you know this is far from being a done deal. State Commerce Secretary, Keith Burdette, told me he puts the percentage of likelihood that the plant will be built, well above 50%. He also says a lot of work is in the process of being done that will increase that percentage very quickly. A cracker plant would be a major economic boon to the Mid-Ohio Valley. I’m sure it will also create some problems that no one can even foresee at this point. But I am reminded of a news conference a number of years ago here in Wood County, where the Luigino’s Company announced its intent to build a food-processing facility here. Luigino’s got a more lucrative offer somewhere else, and the local project never came to be. Cam Huffman of the Mid-Ohio Valley Roundtable assures me that no other location is in the running for this project. If it’s not built here, it probably won’t be built anywhere. But there are so many things yet to be discussed: possible tax cuts, labor flexibility, land costs…and the list goes on and on. Any one of those could de-rail this whole project and leave us empty-handed again. I applaud the efforts of the governor, Burdette, and others who have been working hard to bring the project this far. I wish them luck as that effort continues. While we are excited about the “possibility” of this major facility coming to the valley, we would be well-served to keep this in mind: It’ll be a done deal ONLY when the facility is actually up and operating. That’s this week’s editorial.
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