NEWS9 Special Assignment: Back to the Future

On Wednesday, we took you back to the past of Weirton Steel.

On Wednesday, we took you back to the past of Weirton Steel.

We told you the stories from the people who built the industry and survived the downfall of that once-booming business.

Now, we’re taking you back to the future, showing what federal funding, company intrigue, and pure potential has done for the city of Weirton.

For a long time, the remnants of the past sat in the soil, making opportunities for new life slow to come.

"Ya know, we’re talking about brownfields, and I think, a lot of times as West Virginians, we have to fight harder for what we wanna get," Weirton City Manager Travis Blosser said.

"We worked in high temperatures,” former steelworker Robert Ridgway said. “We melted steel. Steel would get up to about 2,900 degrees."

Those conditions were merely bracing the employees for a harder time to come -- the day it all stopped.

"It was sad to leave, but it was also a relief because I knew something better was coming," Ridgeway said.

The time for the future is now. Petrochemical companies have located in the valley during the past 4 years, mostly in Brooke and Hancock counties.

"Everybody has been looking at this site for years, but no one wanted to tackle it. A lot of this business is being in the right place at the right time. A little luck always helps," Business Development Corporation Executive Director Pat Ford said.

As Branch Rickey famously said, “luck is the residue of design.”

One company may have been there at the right time, but it had also done its homework.

"We knew the steel industry was more or less shutting down and the natural gas industry was increasing, and that’s what brought us here," said Dan Martin, vice president, Bidell.

"All we needed to do was jumpstart it, and bring life back into it, and again, remind people of why industry was here to begin with," Ford said.

So, a community forged by steel, after fighting for its future, is finally seeing big changes.

"Contaminated properties have a lot of legacy issues that banks avoid, developers avoid, and investors avoid,” Ford said. “They do not want to move into a property and have to take on all of that liability."

The liability was not something Martin and Bidell spent time getting hung up on.

"We’re builders,” he said. “That’s what we do. Renovating a building is nothing to us, it’s just bricks and mortar."

“We got the keys February 14, 2017, and we were producing gas compressors in early October. It was a pretty quick turnaround."

And cleanup efforts continue to make room for other companies to move in on the land, a choice that was easy for Frontier Industrial Corp, which owned the land, and Bidell.

Frontier sold the highlights. It knew people were looking for things like rail and water access, industrial use, a large section of property, a good sense of community, and a friendly government.

"They always said we were in a good position here because we have the river railroad and highways,” Ridgway said. “I see good things happening for us. We have a future ahead of us, I’m sure.”

The downfall of the steel industry sucked jobs away from the community, but Bidell is spitting them back out, saying it owes it back to Weirton because Weirton has given it so much.”

“West Virginia invested a lot of time effort and money to help get us to Weirton, so it’s almost an obligation to give something back," Martin said.

“We’re hiring local suppliers, vendors, and it just generates money in the community. We’re in this community. We’re living here, and we feel that’s where the money needs to go into the community."

“They brought on a lot of jobs and hope to bring a lot more jobs. It was a great opportunity for us. It’s something we liked to replicate," said Craig Slater, general counsel to Frontier.

Nearly all of Bidell’s workforce is Mountain State residents. Some of them even are working inside the very same building when the mill was thriving.

Bidell instantly brought 55 jobs to the city.

"And that’s important,” Blosser said. “That’s what getting companies into this area is all about."

"You know, there’s life after Weirton,” Ridgway said. “But I look for great things to happen around here. The future’s bright for anyone who wants to make it that way."

A look back is a step forward as Weirton launches into the future.

“I wouldn’t be fearful of anything moving here," Martin said.

"No place like home,” Ridgway said. “Weirton is our home."

West Virginians are committed to their communities, and now the new and future businesses coming to Weirton are committed to rebuilding this community.

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