HUNTINGTON — Several economic development announcements, acquisitions and labor trends highlighted the local business scene in the Tri-State in 2022. The Herald-Dispatch looks back on the top local business stories of the year.
Nucor to build steel mill in Mason County
In January, Nucor Corp. announced its plans to build a new sheet steel mill on a 1,300-acre site at Apple Grove, along W.Va. 2 and the Ohio River about 28 miles north of downtown Huntington.
Nucor Corp. is a Fortune 150 company based in Charlotte, North Carolina, that produces steel by recycling scrap metal in electric arc furnaces.
Nucor said construction is expected to take two years pending permit and regulatory approvals. Additional sites in northern West Virginia are also under consideration for a transloading and processing facility.
Nucor said in its announcement that when operational in 2024, the mill will have about 800 employees and could increase that number to 1,200 once production begins.
Mountain Health Network adds Pleasant Valley Hospital
In October, Mountain Health Network completed its acquisition of Pleasant Valley Hospital in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.
Pleasant Valley signed a letter of intent in June to join Cabell Huntington Hospital, a member of the Mountain Health Network. The acquisition was completed Oct. 1.
The announcement said Mountain Health will seek ways to boost operations and services at Pleasant Valley. Pleasant Valley and its board of trustees are to contribute an estimated $14 million to be used by Cabell Huntington toward capital improvement projects at Pleasant Valley. A total of $39 million is to be invested in Pleasant Valley over the next five years.
Labor trends include labor shortages, remote work
In March, labor experts said the top three trends to look for this year were the ongoing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, continued severe labor shortages and an increasing adjustment to remote work.
Huntington Chamber of Commerce President Tricia Ball said one local manufacturer told her it had more than 50 positions available. Ball said Cabell County Schools told her it had a number of open jobs for professional services and substitute teachers. She was also aware of the nursing shortage that was not just a local issue, but a nationwide problem.
Blenko Glass in Milton announces changes
In October, the 129-year-old Milton glassmaking company Blenko Glass announced it was facing economic challenges, so it would stop accepting wholesale orders until next year.
Dean Six, vice president of Blenko Glass, said costs for everything used in the glassmaking process had increased and the COVID-19 pandemic also added financial concerns over the past two years. Six said the company also faced supply chain issues and massive spikes in its natural gas pricing. He said Blenko had to make the difficult decision to increase its prices.
Six said Blenko needed to get more skilled workers and worked with the U.S. Department of Labor and West Virginia economic development officials to start a federally approved and regulated apprenticeship program for glassworkers.
Lesage Natural Water to supply the first all-ADA-compliant hotel
In July, LeSage Natural Water announced it would provide water to the Schoolhouse Hotel in downtown White Sulphur Springs — the first all-ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant hotel.
LeSage Natural Water employs 38 people with developmental disabilities. Most are from Cabell County, but other counties served are Wayne, Lincoln and Mason. LeSage Natural Water distributes water throughout West Virginia and the United States.
Progress continues on new Marshall business school building
In October, Marshall University officials, including members of the College of Business Advisory Board and other guests, took a tour and participated in a steel beam-signing ceremony Thursday at the new Brad D. Smith Center for Business & Innovation in the 1400 block of 4th Avenue in downtown Huntington.
The 78,000-square foot building will have nine classroom spaces, computer and finance labs, a makerspace, and student service and professional engagement centers. An atrium/auditorium can hold more than 360 people for dining and receptions, and it can be turned into separate spaces for multiple events at once.
Construction company officials said the project is on schedule and on budget. The center is expected to welcome students from the Lewis College of Business in spring 2024.
Cabell County Schools transfers field to HADCO
In December, Cabell County Schools transferred ownership of the former Huntington East High School practice field to the Huntington Area Development Council so HADCO could have two adjoining parcels within Huntington city limits for economic development.
David Lieving, president and CEO of HADCO, said HADCO plans to market the 7.18-acre site for sale or lease to light manufacturing businesses, warehousing and distribution companies, professional offices, a possible child care center and those in the health care industry.
Solar Holler marks 1,000th installation
Solar Holler hit a major milestone in November with its 1,000th solar installation in Appalachia. The West Virginia-based solar provider, which launched in 2013, put the final panel in place on the Markun family home in the 1100 block of 11th Street in Huntington.
Solar Holler has installed more than 30,000 solar panels that are estimated to save families, businesses and organizations $17 million over the life of the systems, according to its founder and CEO Dan Conant.
Business booms in Barboursville
A public notice published Thursday, Sept. 15 in The Herald-Dispatch showed Barboursville’s budget was not only balanced, it had over $5 million in surplus funds. The village had slightly more than $15.7 million in revenue and just under $10.3 million in expenditures for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, according to the legal advertisement.
“We had a record year in B&O (business and occupation) and sales tax collections right at $3.664 million and that was after the first full year of a reduced B&O taxes on our businesses,” said Barboursville Mayor Chris Tatum. “We see that trend continuing.”
Cannabis dispensaries open in West Virginia
At one time the sale of marijuana — also known as cannabis — was illegal in any form in West Virginia. This year, several cannabis dispensaries opened in this region.
TerraLeaf opened at 2018 3rd Ave. in Huntington in the former Stadium Frame building. Trulieve was the first to open a medical cannabis dispensary in West Virginia. That was in November 2021. Earlier this year, the company said it planned to open seven new dispensary locations throughout the state. In May, it opened two of those locations — one in South Charleston and one in Parkersburg. The Landing cannabis dispensary opened in Barboursville in September.