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Persistence may pay off for West Virginia

State Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette remained upbeat after Royal Dutch Shell announced it chose Pennsylvania over West Virginia as the site for its ethane cracker plant, which turns natural gas into other chemicals, most notably a feedstock for plastics.

Burdette addressed the Charleston Rotary Club on July 16, 2012, just after that disappointing news. He said there were more prospects on the horizon..

"We have our financial house in order," Burdette said. "We can say there is some stability in West Virginia you can't necessarily find elsewhere. That's an awfully good place for us to be in recruiting. Around the country, I can tell you, companies are paying attention."

On Thursday, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced the exploration of the construction of a cracker as part of a petrochemical complex in Wood County by Odebrecht, a Brazilian conglomerate consisting of diversified businesses in the fields of engineering, construction, chemicals and petrochemicals.

Besides the cracker, the plans call for three polyethylene plants. Tomblin called it a game-changer, which may be an understatement.

"The complex, Ascent — Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise — would include an ethane cracker, three polyethylene plants and associated infrastructure for water treatment and energy co-generation," Daily Mail Business Editor Jared Hunt reported. "A purchase option on the anticipated project site in Parkersburg has already been secured."

This is an overnight success that was 20 years in the making as the state got its financial house in

order, going from having zilch in the bank to having two of the nation's healthiest rainy day accounts.

There are many things to be worked out including the long-term supply of natural gas, financing, regulatory approval and government support.

This is not a done deal, but the announcement shows that Burdette was accurate when he said companies are noticing West Virginia — and in a positive manner.


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