Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ten Years of Walmart Impacting Steubenville, Ohio

This is an op-ed piece that was submitted to and ran in the Herald Star newspaper in Steubenville, Ohio.

A milestone anniversary is approaching. It’s one worth marking.

Ten years ago--September 27, 2001--with a blown up version of an aerial photo behind us, the Jefferson County Commissioners and I joined in announcing a 600-job, $75 million Walmart Food Distribution Center would be built outside of Steubenville in Island Creek Township. Walmart's investment in Steubenville started that day, ten years ago.

The local story was huge. In addition to two days of Herald Star headlines, the news was carried live on WTOV-9. Plus, a national story and a Pittsburgh Post Gazette story ensued too. It was a feel-good news story for the Valley, really the whole nation, just two weeks after 9/11's tragic events had unfolded.

The first look at Jefferson County for a site had been in February 2001 and the September announcement was the culmination of a lot of hard work by more individuals than could be named. All of Jefferson County, from the community roundtable that met with the execs to the mall workers who unknowingly showed the strength of the area’s workforce to Walmart during an impromptu visit to Fort Steuben Mall, really fired on all cylinders during those six months in order to land that project.

How often do you get to announce a project with the employment matching 1/6th of the size of the county's employment level at that time? How often do you get to announce the largest distribution buildings to ever be built within the Pittsburgh region? How often does a down economy see such a huge capital investment?

Progress Alliance can forever count the Walmart deal among its greatest legacies. I've worked on a lot of deals before and after and, though some were numerically bigger in one way or another, this clearly is the most-impactful economic development project in my career.

Walmart invested every penny they promised, and more. They created every job they promised, and more. As promised, the company has become among the largest philanthropic givers in the community too. Thousands of people have benefited over the years from what started ten years ago.

The community is much for the better having welcomed Walmart. And I'm proud to have played a part. Good luck for another ten and beyond!

Google Maps shows how it looks today.

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