Vacant sites shown off to WV officials

April 5, 2019 GMT

HUNTINGTON — There have been several manufacturing companies interested in purchasing a 100,000-square-foot shell building at a business park in Green Bottom.

In the building’s 11-year history, it has come close to being sold but deals have fallen through for one reason or another, said David Lieving, president and CEO of the Huntington Area Development Council (HADCO).

“We’ve been to the altar more than once, only to be left standing there,” Lieving said.

Lieving gave a tour of the building and several of the other vacant properties Wednesday to West Virginia Secretary of Commerce Ed Gaunch and Mike Graney, executive

director of the State Development Office. They also toured Alcon Inc., a Swiss-owned eye care company, housed in a 75,000-square-foot facility inside the business park. The park is located on 17 acres of former farmland along W.Va. Route 2 near Lesage.

Gaunch and Graney were invited to tour the industrial sites by Cabell County Commissioner Kelli Sobonya, who wanted to put the shell building and properties “on their radar” when potential companies come to them looking for a county to invest in.

“It’s different from seeing the industrial sites on a database,” Sobonya said. “You can come out here, walk it, you see, and it might be on the forefront of your minds. We would love to have those jobs and opportunities for our people.”

Lieving said the shell building was built in 2008 for a company that later pulled out of the deal following the economic decline of the late 2000s. The building has since been for sale for $3.2 million.

Several years ago, a major manufacturing company based in Japan was interested in buying it, but declined in favor of locating to Tennessee, he said. HADCO had agreed to lower the cost for the Japanese company after it wanted a 60,000-square-foot building.

“The issue is what I call the ‘Goldilocks effect,’ ” Lieving said. “It’s either too big, not big enough or there’s something wrong with it that it’s just not exactly right.”

Graney, who has met with companies from different industries, said West Virginia is often criticized for not having building-ready or shovel-ready sites. Companies want to have access to materials, cost estimates and geological surveys on hand before looking at a potential property.

HADCO presented a large binder of the estimates, surveys and environ mental assessments during a presentation at its offices.

Graney said when companies come to West Virginia looking to invest in certain parts of the state, he also mentions other opportunities that are available in other areas.

“If they are looking for a 100,000-square-foot building, this is the one we’re going to bring them to,” Graney said.

HADCO announced last year it had spent approximately $500,000 to extend utilities to the land and shell building. It also constructed an access road off W.Va. 2. The investment in the properties and shell building was purchased with revenue from tax increment financing previously approved by the Cabell County Commission.

Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.