PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell is staying positive about the potential for a large petrochemical development in his area.
Last month, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin joined officials with Odebrecht in Wood County to announce the company’s exploration of the possible project that could include an ethane cracker and three polyethylene plants along with the associated infrastructure for water treatment and energy.
Newell says he wasn’t there in person, but he was there in spirit, and is still over the moon about the project, which could bring in billions of dollars to the area, in and around Washington, in the coming years.
“The company has done a lot of due diligence over the last year. They’ve already invested a lot into looking into these properties down here,” according to the Mayor.
He admits he has heard from the naysayers about the project called Ascent, which stands for Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise.
“There is some skepticism by some people, but most people are feeling really good about it. They believe it is coming,” says Newell. “I do too. I share that thought.”
If the project does get off the ground, Newell said he believes it will transform the entire region. New businesses will pop up, tax collections will increase and there will be opportunities for the area’s young people to stick around after college, he said.
Newell joked they may have to build a few hotels to hold everyone. “It may be a problem, but it’s a good problem,” he laughed.
Newell said he understands why Odebrecht is taking its time with the project and the site selection. Dutch Shell’s proposed ethane cracker in southwestern Pennsylvania got a lot of attention several years ago, but so far nothing has come from it.
The mayor says it’s better to be a little cautious when you’re talking about billions of dollars. “We know it’s going to take a little time for it to gel. There’s still a lot of work to be done,” said Newell.