Editorial: Infrastructure is vital to restoring economic growth | Opinion
Another sign of growth in southern Mason County could be seen as county officials get closer to building a public sewage treatment system for the Apple Grove and Mercers Bottom areas.
The construction of the system is directly related to the projects of Nucor Corp. to build a $2.7 billion steel mill in this region. The county received a $1.3 million state grant a few years ago to design the system in part to help prepare the Nucor site for future development. This work has been done. However, the county has so far not had the $13 million to $15 million to build the system, Mason County Commissioner Rick Handley said.
“We were waiting to see how to finance it. Nucor arrives and – surprise! — we get the money,” Handley said.
The grant to build the system is part of a package the Legislature approved in a special session in January to attract Nucor. The system isn’t just for Nucor, though. It will serve another 200 to 250 customers in that part of the county, Handley said.
The sewer system will serve Apple Grove and Mercers Bottom communities and nearby areas, including an elementary school, Handley said. The treatment plant will be near the Jerrys Run Road water plant, he said.
It appears other industrial facilities will connect to the system as American Electric Power purchases property on W.Va 2 from Nucor, Handley said. AEP is targeting residential properties in the Hereford Lane area near open space that AEP already owns, he said. The idea is to sell these lands to companies that want to be close to Nucor and the steel it makes.
“They’ve already had three or four people interested, which is why they’re buying more properties,” Handley said.
He said John Farris, president of Nucor West Virginia, told him that when Nucor built a plant, other companies moved near the plant so they could use Nucor’s steel to make other products. , “which creates more jobs”.
One thing history has taught this region is that the future of no manufacturing operation is guaranteed. All factories are vulnerable to changes in markets or technology. It is therefore important to have sites ready for new industries and to be ready to build the infrastructure they need. These two needs converged in Mason County.
It is also a fact that the industry needs a certain level of infrastructure that is available or can be available before considering a site. The Apple Grove area did not have all the infrastructure that Nucor wanted, but the Governor and Legislature stepped in and promised to build that infrastructure as Nucor reached certain investment goals. The first of these objectives has been achieved, so the construction of the infrastructure can begin.
This process works when large, established businesses are interested in a site, but it doesn’t always work when smaller businesses are looking around. They need the infrastructure in place, and too many places in West Virginia just don’t have it. As Handley said, the Apple Grove area had a sewer system designed, but it didn’t have the critical mass of customers to get it built.
It is too early to tell what impact the new sewer system in southern Mason County will have on this specific area. As construction at Nucor begins, other infrastructure will need to be upgraded. Transportation and internet service will be high on this list. Improving infrastructure and economic growth go hand in hand. It’s not easy to have one without the other.