It looks like the Wetzel County Commerce Park in New Martinsville could have a new tenant-and one planning to make significant improvements.
By a unanimous vote of those present at a special meeting March 13, the membership of the Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce authorized the officers of the organization to apply for a loan in the amount of $450,000 for renovations and upgrades at the Commerce Park for a new tenant who will be signing a long term lease.
WCCC President Don Riggenbach said that while he cannot divulge the potential tenant until the deal is finalized and lease agreements are signed, he did say it is "a prominent oil and gas business in Wetzel County." "It's hard to keep my excitement at bay," admitted Riggenbach.
While the chamber has about 150 members, the vote needed a simple majority of those in attendance at the special meeting-approximately 20 who all agreed with the measure.
Riggenbach and Steve Hunt, who has been acting as a volunteer community development specialist while the chamber is without one, said the group has done their due diligence in the matter and believe the tenant is reputable. The paperwork will assure the tenant, not the chamber, is responsible for the loan.
"The chamber, on its own, really can't handle this," said Riggenbach, saying the loan must be made the responsibility of the tenant, or the deal would not work.
He said the lease is currently being reviewed and written by Attorney Logan Hassig with consultation by Eric Peters, Tyler County's Development Director.
The tenant is looking at signing a five-year lease for the building and three acres in the commerce park. Five years is also the term of the loan that will pay for improvements to the building and land-including graveling the lot for a presumed staging area. The potential tenant also has plans to install lighting and fencing, as well as doing some renovations to the building.
The lease is for $3,000 per month for the building and $1,500 per acre per month for the land. This is in addition to the loan payment. The tenant will also be responsible for paying all utilities and the city's business and occupation tax.
One attendee at the meeting noted that the lease amounts were rather low. Hunt said the price will be renegotiated with any lease renewals.
"We anticipate that there will be increases in their renewals," said Hunt.
One board member said the potential tenant said they plan to be in Wetzel County for 50 years.
Also, there is benefit to the chamber in this deal as all improvements at the property must stay there whenever the lease period is over.
Six financial institutions are members of the chamber, so they solicited each for bids on the loan. Four submitted bids and the WCCC Board of Directors selected the lowest bid as the first choice for the lender.
"The county wants to lease for five years with two renewals of five years each," said Hunt." They want long term so we want to accommodate them as best we can."
"Our park is sitting empty at this time, we want it to happen as soon as possible," said Riggenbach.
Hunt said this lease deal, if it comes to fruition, will give the chamber the ability to do more development thanks to the steady income. For instance, they would like to hire a full time executive director, like neighboring Marshall and Ohio counties each employ.
Believing there is some divine providence in this opportunity, Hunt said he believes other good blessings may come along for the chamber thanks to this deal. "I think it's a good time for the chamber," he said.
"This will enable us to take it to another level," said Riggenbach.