Steubenville Herald Star. Banking, housing, construction, legal services and other business sectors throughout the region could see substantial impact from the potential $6 billion Belmont County ethane cracker, and academic and industry leaders will convene in Wheeling next week to discuss the implications.

“It could be the most significant thing to affect our valley and manufacturing jobs in a generation,” said David H. McKinley, president and managing director of McKinley Carter Wealth Services, an organization which serves as one of the sponsors of the 2017 Wheeling Area Economic Outlook Conference. “With this year’s conference, it is our intent to prepare leaders from the business community and government for the new challenges and opportunities we’ll face.”

The event, which includes a breakfast buffet, is set for 7:30 a.m. Wednesday at Wheeling Island Hotel, Casino and Racetrack. Tickets are available in advance or at the door. For information, call (304) 233-2575.

“Maintaining the gas and oil processing in the Ohio Valley is critical. While great wealth can be created with drilling, the long-term sustainable second chance for our community comes with the downstream and midstream processing and other opportunities,” said Erikka Storch, president of the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce. “This event will provide business leaders with the most comprehensive package of relevant decision-making data they need to best position their companies to make the most of the advantages presented” by the natural gas and oil industry.

Thailand-based PTT Global Chemical is expected to decide by the end of this year whether to build a giant petrochemical complex along the Ohio River at Dilles Bottom. The company has acquired some of the land needed to build the massive facility, although negotiations continue with some who own other portions of the proposed development area.

Officials estimate the ethane cracker would generate thousands of construction jobs, as well as hundreds of permanent jobs once the plant enters operation. Hundreds or even thousands of spinoff jobs could also result from the ethane cracker’s presence, officials have said.

In September 2015, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and PTT officials gathered at the Statehouse in Columbus to announce plans to spend $100 million for engineering and design work for the ethane cracker project.

PTT spokesman Dan Williamson has said it likely would take up to five years after an affirmative investment decision for it to enter service.

John Deskins serves as director of the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economic Research. Along with McKinley, he is among those scheduled to speak at the conference.

“This information about the broad macroeconomic context is absolutely crucial for any business or community leader as she leads her organization forward,” Deskins said.

In addition to Deskins and McKinley, conference speakers and panelists are scheduled to include: Javier Reyes, dean of WVU College of Business and Economics; Kristopher Hopkins, executive director of the West Virginia Development Office; Matt Cybulski, director of Shale Energy and Petrochemicals for Jobs Ohio; Joe Eddy, president of Eagle Manufacturing; Mike Jacoby, vice president of business development at Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth; Kathy D’Antoni, associate superintendent of the West Virginia Department of Education; and Steve Hedrick, president and CEO of the Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research and Innovation Center.

By Casey Junkins

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