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Smith Fastener moving to South Charleston

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Smith Fastener Co. Inc. has broken ground for a new building in South Charleston, Mayor Frank Mullens said.

The company plans to move its 41 employees and its nuts-and-bolts distribution center from the eastern edge of Kanawha City to a lot near the former FMC hydrogen peroxide plant and the fly ash pond, said Jim Smith, the company's president.

Mullens announced that Smith Fastener had broken ground during the monthly meeting of the South Charleston Economic Development Committee at Little Creek Country Club.

Smith talked about the company's plans in a phone interview following the meeting.

"I can confirm what the mayor said -- site preparation is under way," he said. "We're still in the design stage for a building and hope to have that completed in the next four or five weeks. We'll proceed from there."

Smith Fastener has been at 7500 MacCorkle Ave. S.E. in Kanawha City since 1971.

"We need more space," Smith said. "We've outgrown the building and we're landlocked."

Paul Tennant of Associated Architects Inc., Charleston, is project architect, Smith said. Terradon Corp. of Poca is in charge of the site preparation.

Mullens told the committee last month that Smith Fasteners had submitted site plans and the city had approved them. Mullens said then, "That's a strong small business. We're lucky to get them in South Charleston."

During Tuesday's meeting, Mullens also noted that Target is in the process of remodeling its store in the Shops at Trace Fork and that he is continuing to discuss the extension of South Charleston's sewer service from the Holiday Inn Express, which is between The Shops at Trace Fork and Dudley Farms Plaza, south to Lincoln County.

Corridor G south of the big box shops "is the only place for us to grow," Mullens said. "It's absolutely essential for us." He said he met with representatives of U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito's office a few weeks ago and has met with representatives of the Regional Intergovernmental Council.

The city is taking baby steps to move the project forward and is looking for funding for what appears to be either a $16 million or $20 million extension of the sewer line, Mullens said.

"It certainly would be a coup for us if we can get that done," he said. "What you now have are little package plants going in (to treat sewage). "They serve a purpose but they are not the long-term fix."

Also during the meeting, Kevin DiGregorio, executive director of the Chemical Alliance Zone, spoke about the importance of the chemical industry to South Charleston and the Kanawha Valley.

"Some people think the chemical industry is gone" but that's not true, he said. The chemical industry still has about 11,000 employees in the state and the average annual wage tops $75,000.

The mission of the Chemical Alliance Zone is to create and maintain jobs. "We attract new chemical and related firms, we support current manufacturing with programs like workforce development initiatives, and we represent the chemical industry to groups like yours," DiGregorio said.

The zone partners with others in everything it does, he said. It played a role in Kureha Corp.'s decision to locate a specialty plastics plant in Belle, helped Progenesis, a Huntington startup, and assisted the Governor's Office in transitioning the ownership of the West Virginia Regional Technology Park from The Dow Chemical Co. to the state.

"The tech park is the key element" in the area's economic development because "you have facilities there, labs and pilot plants, that you can't easily find elsewhere," DiGregorio said. "We saved 550 jobs when we (the state) got the tech park and we have the potential for growth there in the future."

DiGregorio believes the area will attract one or more ethane crackers. Each would represent an investment of $500 million to $4 billion. "It would be an economic development grand-slam for West Virginia," he said. "We need to have a long-term view. Shale gas (some of which is rich in methane) will be around 20 to 30 years. We could have an announcement in six months. We could have an announcement in five years. And we could have announcements both in six months and in five years.

"We still have companies looking," he said. "We came close to having a couple of announcements two years ago."

Committee member Rick Atkinson said he has a friend who is familiar with the location in western Pennsylvania where Shell announced last year it wants to build a cracker. "He told me nothing is happening there," Atkinson said.

DiGregorio said some companies like to announce their intent before they do a lot of homework and other companies like to complete all of their due diligence work before making an announcement.

"When Shell announced, there were other companies much further down the road with their due diligence," he said.

During the meeting Bob Anderson, South Charleston's business recruiter, said:

* Television characters SpongeBob and Big Bird will appear in the Armed Forces Day Parade on May 18 and the Liverpool Legends, a Beetles tribute band, will perform during Summerfest in August.

* Ayerson Financial Group and Advantage Home & Environmental Inspections have opened offices on the corner of Third Avenue and E Street.

* "Hairs to You" Salon has opened on Third Avenue.

* Damous Psychological Services is expanding its building and parking lot on the corner of Third Avenue and D Street.

* The city has asked South Charleston hotels to show a video promoting the city on one of the television channels guests receive in their rooms.

"We have approximately 80,000 people staying in the hotels annually," Anderson said. "This would create a tremendous amount of business for our city and surrounding areas." Contact writer George Hohmann at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.


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