MCRA year in review: ‘I am very proud of our work’
Bruce Justice (Mingo Messenger) Dec 30, 2023
A plethora of economic advances and successes in Mingo County during 2022 was the focal point of discussion during the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority’s last regular meeting for the year, held on Dec. 1. These advances and successes were detailed via a PowerPoint presentation, which was headed with the acronym MORE (Mountains of Opportunity, Recreation and Energy), by Executive Director Leasha Johnson. Johnson said MORE validated by “tangible outcomes” from the development of the Redevelopment Authority’s many projects, the various grants the agency has managed to procure during the past year, as well as the many investments having been made in the county by others. “We decided to do this sort of end-of-year presentation … because it’s good that we have something we can report as a win every month, but when you look at it as a whole from the year’s perspective, it’s a lot,” she said. Johnson said the actual outcomes now being realized owe their current successes to the MCRA’s Land Use Master Plan which, for the past 25 years, has facilitated the creation of expansive, post-mined development sites that in turn have brought into line potential economic diversification. “The master plan has facilitated all our large development, such as the Harless Industrial Park, the Appalachian Regional Airport, the King Coal Highway development, the Twisted Gun Golf Course, and of course most recently the Twin Branch Drag Strip,” she said.
“So, really, for the past 25 years,” she continued, “the economic development and tangible outcomes that we’ve been able to accomplish the past year originated and were facilitated by our master plan.” Regarding business creation, Johnson said Mingo County led the state in business growth with 24 new business registrations in August, which represented a 2.67 percent increase in new businesses. She said much of this growth could be attributed to the MCRA’s Business Assistance Program, which was funded by a $50,000 grant from the USDA’s Rural Business Development Program. She said the 2022 effects from just this one program, headed up by Small Business Coach Bryan Shaw, resulted in the assistance of 38 companies and entrepreneurs, securing a little more than $1 million in startup/expansions capital, assistance in the creation of 49 new jobs, and assisting in the retention of 63 jobs. Because of these encouraging results, Johnson said the MCRA applied for and was awarded another $50,000 grant to continue the program for two more years. With respect to business expansion, Johnson said the Facing Hunger Food Bank just executed a five-year lease of the MCRA’s Miller’s Creek warehouse in November and will be utilizing a $1 million grant to renovate the building into a major food distribution hub that will service Mingo and surrounding counties. She said the operation would initially create five new jobs, with that number eventually increasing to 10, as well as provide the MCRA with an additional $60,000 in yearly revenue. Johnson said Coal Mac LLC, which already had an existing leasehold at the industrial park, further expanded the company’s operation there in 2022 when company officials leased two of the former flooring plant buildings — the 101,000 square-foot main warehouse and another 29,200 square-foot building to launch its new trucking company.
This expansion project resulted in the creation of 35 new jobs, a $300,000 private sector investment in Mingo County, and additionally provided the MCRA with nearly $170,000 more in annual revenue. Other business expansions included JP Technical Services leasing the 6,000 square-foot warehouse and office building formerly leased to Intertractor, which Johnson said created 20 new jobs, a $450,000 private sector investment, and $36,000 in additional revenue for the MCRA; a lease agreement with Mingo Paving & Sealing agreeing to operate a rock quarry at the industrial park that will create two new jobs, $50,000 in private sector capital investment, and $18,000 additional annual revenue for the MCRA; and the construction of a new substation by AEP at the industrial park which represents $14,000,000 in capital investment. J
ohnson said a multi-million-dollar coal to fertilizer facility at the industrial park — a project being undertaken by Alternative Clean Energy (ACE) and non-profit Wind Hollow Foundation Inc. both West Virginia corporations — began pre-construction in 2022 as well, with plans for a two-year construction phase to be completed by 2025. Infrastructure expansion, she said, included a $3.3 million Congressional Direct Spending Appropriation that will complete the last 1.7 miles of the Appalachian Regional Airport’s access road; a $2.1 million U. S. Economic Development Administration Economic Adjustment Assistance Award to construct a wastewater treatment plant at the airport; the completion of the Twisted Gun Gap Recreational Area Water Extension project, also funded by an Economic Adjustment Assistance Award and that is expected to facilitate more than $2 million in capital investments; and the long-awaited opening of the Twin Branch Drag Strip, which translates into a $1.5 million capital investment.
Project developments included a solar system being installed at the Blue Acre Appalachian Aquaponics, which translated into a $90,000 capital investment; and a $60 million investment by AEP ($30 million in Mingo County) to begin construction of the Mingo/Logan Broadband Pilot project that will bring “fiber-to-the-home and wireless broadband solutions” to more than 13,000 un-served homes, businesses, schools, healthcare and government offices in these two counties. In total, Johnson said, the MCRA’s successes and outcomes in 2022 resulted in the creation of 35 new businesses, more than $1 million in capital expansions as a result of the Business Assistance Program, 111 direct jobs, $282,000 more in revenue for the Redevelop Authority than the previous year, $44 million in grant awards, and nearly $18 million in capital investments. “To say there is more going on in Mingo right now is an understatement, and I’m very proud of our work,” Johnson said.