Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

March 3, 2013

Growth on John Nash Boulevard to focus on energy, transportation

BLUEFIELD — Property the city of Bluefield owns along John Nash Boulevard and near Interstate 77 could become one of the springboards into two sectors of the economy — energy and transportation, one economic development volunteer recently told local Rotarians.

Bluefield native L. Allen Peacock III is a member of Blue Momentum, an economic development group created by former Bluefield Economic Development Director Greg Shrewsbury. Peacock participates in the group’s industrial development branch. This includes businesses that are not retail or connected to downtown Bluefield, he said. Peacock spoke recently to the Bluefield Rotary Club.

The city recently annexed property it acquired along John Nash Boulevard near I-77’s Exit 1. Work is underway to move the Bluefield Transit Authority there, and there is space for businesses seeking sites close to the highway.

“It’s certainly a starting point and a focus,” Peacock said. “I think there are areas throughout the city we will be looking at.”

Blue Momentum’s industrial volunteers are focusing on transportation and energy sectors, he said. First, he focused on the possibilities offered by the transportation sector.

“It is an exceptionally broad assortment of companies. The transportation component would build upon the existence of Interstate 77 and the Norfolk Southern Railroad with the intent to diversify companies that are doing business in Bluefield that rely on one of those two transportation sources,” Peacock said.

These businesses could include warehousing, trucking companies and any other businesses that helps move goods around the eastern half of the United States. Southern West Virginia is within a day’s drive of approximately 65 percent of the nation’s population.

Bluefield is already the home of a major Norfolk Southern rail yard, so Blue Momentum will continue looking at opportunities to attract freight companies that rely on railroad transportation. This could conceivably lead to changes such as the old Bluefield Freight Station being used as a freight station again, Peacock said.

The next economic component — energy — could cover a variety of manufacturing businesses. Bluefield has been a “one energy town,” he said. Coal is still a vital fuel source, and it continues to comprise part of the nation’s energy production. However, companies focusing on other energy sources could play a role in the city’s economic development.

“We want to reposition ourselves toward recruiting companies that are involved in all energy sources,” Peacock said. These sources include natural gas, hydroelectric power, wind and solar power.

For instance, Bluefield could attract companies that manufacture windmills and their parts and service them. Peacock said he was not endorsing a wind energy farm for the Bluefield area; however, this does not mean that companies servicing the wind industry could not operate in the city. The same idea could apply to energy sources such as hydroelectric power and natural gas; Bluefield could be a place for companies servicing those industries.

One component that could tie transportation and energy together is the “Pickens Plan” created by billionaire oil man T. Boone Pickens, Peacock said. Pickens calls for making greater use of America’s natural gas reserves by using that fuel to power vehicles. Natural gas is cheaper than diesel fuel, and using it could reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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