SCOTT DEPOT, W.Va. — The most visible business afoot in Putnam County is a 70,000-square-foot Frito-Lay distribution center taking shape near the Interstate 64 Teays Valley interchange.
A steel-girder frame is plainly visible from the freeway, no doubt sparking “What’s that going to be?” questions for passing motorists.
Putnam County Commissioner Ron Foster confirmed Friday that the 15-acre property in Scott Depot will consist of 60,000 square feet of distribution center space and 10,000 square feet of office space. The project will cost Frito-Lay $11.5 million and employ 100 to 150 people when done.
A sign on the property contains a Department of Environmental Protection number to call about the permit and says “Frito-Lay — Scott Depot.” The DEP project description is similar to that of the workers.
Workers on site identified Saad Development of Mobile, Alabama, as developers. Attempts to reach Saad were unsuccessful Friday.
Foster said he is thrilled about the distribution center and other projects going on in Putnam County.
“People want to live here,” Foster said. “They want their families to be here. Our goal is to give Putnam County children the opportunity to make the decision to live in Putnam County. We don’t want them to go somewhere else because they have to. We only want them somewhere else because they choose to.”
Foster said the one complaint he’d heard the most when he ran for commission six years ago was the exodus of county youth. The commissioner said Frito-Lay is just one example of Putnam County progress.
Charleston Area Medical Center is building a facility in Teays Valley and Camping World is expected to take a proposal to the Board of Zoning Appeals.
The biggest of them all, however, might be 450 acres of travel plaza and auxiliary businesses, near the I-64/W.Va. 34 intersection, near Liberty Square.
And the beat goes on, according to Foster. Peterbilt is expected to open a maintenance and repair facility just off the Hurricane interchange. To top it off, Foster said, American Electric Power will break ground soon on a maintenance facility at the W.Va. 34/U.S. 35 intersection.
“It’s a huge project by AEP,” Foster said. “The first phase should be well into the millions.”
AB Contracting, Foster said, is planning yet another Teays Valley subdivision near Sleepy Hollow. That company is owned by Allen Bell — the same developer responsible for Charleston’s Eagle View Apartments and the redo of the old downtown Commerce Bank into condominiums. That land is positioned behind Wendy’s on Teays Valley Road.
Then there’s the county government’s foray into the fiber optic game. Frontier and Comcast are already laying fiber optic lines in Teays Valley. Foster said the county also will put in such lines, hoping to lease the bandwidth to an internet service provider.
Fiber optics differ from cable in that the former is buried in the ground, inside of casing, whereas cable-provided internet runs along poles, like power lines. Fiber optic lines also are faster and carry more information.
“We’re going to put in our own fiber optic system, if nothing else to provide more competition for our residents,” Foster said. “That’s our goal.”
Foster said Suddenlink has, for too long, possessed a near monopoly on internet service in Kanawha and Putnam counties.
“All we have to do to fill up our courtroom when we’re having a County Commission meeting is to put Suddenlink on our agenda,” Foster said. “And it’s not filled up with people who are happy. We have a lot of people working out of their homes; that’s why it’s so important.”
As he continued to run down his list of Putnam’s progress, Foster saved perhaps the most unusual for last. He said a hydroponic tomato production plant is set to take shape in Buffalo, where a $3 million expansion project also is ongoing at the Toyota Motor Manufacturing plant.
“They’re going to have big glass houses and grow them vertical,” Foster said of the tomato plant. “It’s a lot cleaner that way.”