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Ohio officials visit Beaver County to learn about Shell cracker plant

Officials in Belmont County, Ohio, are eagerly awaiting a final investment decision on a cracker plant that could be built there but, in the meantime, they are learning everything they can from local officials who’ve already been through the process.

Officials in Belmont County, Ohio, are eagerly awaiting a final investment decision on a cracker plant that could be built there, but in the meantime, they are learning everything they can from local officials who’ve already been through the process.

Belmont County Commissioners Mark Thomas, Josh Meyer and J.P Dutton traveled to Beaver County on Thursday to meet with the county commissioners.

For about five years, PTT Global Chemical America has been exploring the possibility of building a cracker plant in Dilles Bottom, Ohio. The company has said it expects to make a final investment decision within the next 60 days.

Beaver County Commissioner Tony Amadio told the group to be patient. The process to lure Shell here took about six years, he noted, and it’s important to be ready when the final decision comes down.

“I was in the shower at 6:35 in the morning, and my wife comes over with the phone and says, ‘You better take this,’” Amadio said with a laugh.

Amadio said the group talked about all aspects of cracker development. He said topics during the hourlong meeting at the courthouse ranged from transportation to housing, and workforce development to investment issues.

“They wanted a lot of background information and wanted to know exactly what we went through and how to handle certain situations,” he said.

Belmont County Commissioner Mark Thomas said he reached out to the local commissioners here in the late summer to arrange a meeting.

“From Belmont County’s perspective, our goal is to be as proactive as we can be while being very cautiously optimistic that we’re going to have a $6 billion cracker plant built within the next five years,” Thomas said. “It was obvious that all we had to do was look 75 miles away (to Beaver County) and say, ‘Why don’t we start here?’”

Thomas said his contingent was grateful the local officials took time to meet with them. Thomas added he expects to come back for another meeting “sooner rather than later.”

To that end, Thomas said the commissioners spoke about the need to work together on economic-development issues. After all, the Shell project is already creating regional workforce opportunities, and another plant just 75 miles away could significantly alter the regional economy.

“Down the road, we talked about the need to work together as a region for economic-development purposes,” Thomas said. “There’s no reason western Pennsylvania, the panhandle of West Virginia and eastern Ohio can’t work together to create as many economic-development opportunities as possible.”

Thomas did note there were differences between the two governing bodies, if only because of different zoning laws and ordinances.

Despite that, Beaver County Commissioner Sandie Egley said the two boards had much more in common than not. In addition, the two cracker projects share many similarities, such as location on the Ohio River, access to rail facilities and an abundance of nearby natural gas reserves.

“I think it was a really good collaboration between county commissioners,” she said. “We shared our experiences about the process and tried to prepare them for something we’ve already lived through.”

Egley also said that if eastern Ohio gets its cracker plant, the two boards of commissioners will have much more to talk about in the future. That’s why it was important to make connections now, before the process gets started in Ohio.

“We wanted to make sure we have an open dialogue between the two offices and make sure we’re partnering together,” she said.

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