Julia Roberts Goad
WILLIAMSON - The Mingo County Redevelopment Authority (MCRA)is currently making upgrades to their strategic plan, working to make the county appeal to manufacturing in order to bring new businesses into the county.
“We are looking for high intensity energy users,” MCRA board member Terry Sammons said. “Now that we have flat land, we have highways and infrastructure, we want to take the next step, and look at the next 50 to 100 years in our county.”
The Authority’s mission statement was created in 1990 when the group was first formed. In order to better address the development and diversification needs of the current economic development environment, MCRA is working on a strategy that is more suitable to the business environment in Southern West Virginia in 2013.
The new plan will build on education, transportation and energy resources, and focus on things unique to Mingo County.
“West Virginia’s past and most likely future are defined by energy,” MCRA’s plan boldly states.
In 2011, coal contributed one third of total employment, and half of all wages in the county, so coal is a major component in the overall vision for Mingo’s future.
In addition to coal, gas is an energy option, and both are staples in Southern West Virginia. Gas pipes run through the southern part of the county, a small oil field is located in the northern part of the state. There are also some Marcellus Shale wells in the county, most to test possible production capacity.
Renewable energy sources have traditionally not been part of Mingo’s energy picture, but MCRA is examining how to exploit what is available.
Wood byproducts, geothermal and wind energy were examined by the Marshall University Center of Business and Economic Research, and none were likely to provide fuel or electricity at a lower cost than coal and oil. However, technology is not predictable, MCRA said improvements could occur. The Authority plans to monitor research in these areas in order to make use of any potential developments.
MCRA’s vision is to keep developing post-mine-land-use, to find alternative uses for coal, oil, gas and timber, to capitalize on the region’s competitive electricity prices and look to further develop timbering and logging.
New highways have expanded the transportation outlook in Mingo County. Currently, 12 miles of the 73/74 Corridor, known as the King Coal Highway, have been completed in the county, with an additional three miles set to open within the next two years.
Railroad traffic is another component, with both Norfolk Southern and CSX operating systems in the county. The Mingo County Air Transportation Park is being developed, with a 5,000 foot runway and 500 acres adjacent to the airport suitable for development.
MCRA will work to upgrade and expand the King Coal Highway, collaborate with the Wayne County Redevelopment Authority to incorporate their intermodal facility for industrial development, and work with the Mingo County Airport Authority and Air National Guard to develop strategic initiatives to use the airport.
In the area of education, MCRA has been working with Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, calling the institution “a diamond in the rough,” and plans to work with Southern and the Mingo County Board of Education to develop programs that stimulate change and are congruent in relation to workforce supply and demand.
MCRA board member Terry Sammons said the county’s future will include manufacturing, but that he sees the future of manufacturing to be in smaller and more specialized areas. The Authority’s new plan also includes branching out into agriculture, tourism and small business and entrepreneurial development.
“Its an exciting time,” Sammons said.
MCRA Chairperson Steve Kominar agreed.
“The more I look at our bigger picture, the more viable Mingo County appears,” Kominar said. “Everything just fits together.”