The Joint Finance Committee met on November 13, 2023, in Wheeling for its interim meeting.
The Committee heard from the Department of Revenue. The State’s revenue and debt has been reviewed by rating agencies. The feedback was positive with a rainy-day fund of $1.2 billion, an almost fully funded public employee retirement system, and the teacher’s retirement system being funded at almost 75 percent. The state’s workers’ comp debt is retired with the account having a balance of $7 million.
The rating agencies are interested in the state’s income tax reduction plan, economic development achievements, and tourism achievements. The state’s economy is diversifying. Currently, only 2.9 percent of WV’s economy is coal and timber; meaning over 90 percent of the state’s economy comes from other drivers.
The City Manager of Weirton presented on the area’s economic development. Economically, Weirton is doing well. He called Weirton the Holy trinity of logistics: road, river, and rail.
Three Springs Drive, an area that was previously a closed K-Mart and Walmart, has seen development and business expansion. The area brought in national and regional chains, as well as local suppliers. Forty new businesses have moved to Three Springs Drive, including coffee shops, restaurants, dress shops, and tech companies.
The Park Drive Project Development is also underway in Weirton. Improvements to infrastructure, including utilities, paving, and a large community green space are attracting retail and residential development. There is a possibility of a conference center being developed on Park Drive.
The City Manager spoke of Weirton Steel, remembering when it was the state’s largest employer and how the company built the city. Weirton Steel went all over the world and when discussions of the plant closing began, the city struggled. Now, the Weirton Frontier Crossing development will be built on the site where Weirton Steel resided not so long ago. Form Energy’s development has started. A $750 million investment which is tied to 750 jobs. The plant is expected to begin operation in 2024. Annually, the plant is expected to contribute over $155 million to the state’s economy.
The Brooke County Commissioner spoke of investments in the area. In the last several years, 305 jobs have been created with a total of $138,814,597 being invested in area businesses from public and private investors. The Beach Bottom Industrial Park was abandoned in 2012. It is 120 acres of developable property. The county applied for grants to remediate the land. The former brownfield is now home to Jupiter Aluminum, BISCO Refractories, Pure Watercraft, and Tenaris.
Brooke County’s revenue is increasing, and its commission is making improvements to government properties. The County is developing a Judicial Center, a 911 Centralized Dispatch Center, a new EMS Station, and upgrading ambulances.
The final presenter spoke of Economic Developments across the state. He said when WV wins, we all win. Economic Momentum can be seen all across the state, including Wheeling Streetscape, WVU Medicine – Regional Cancer Center in Wheeling, Marshall University – West Liberty University Flight School Plans, Thirumalai Chemical Plants in Marshall County, Ohio Valley Industrial and Business Development Corporation, High Caliber Shooting Range Experience at The Highlands, Nucor in Mason, and Form Energy in Weirton.