Stein Shares Vision Of Thriving Downtown
The vision of a thriving, unique downtown New Martinsville was shared with New Martinsville city council during their regular meeting Dec. 6.
At the request of the Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce, Lou Stein of Valley Ventures, a business development company, spoke of his past successes and plans for the Parlor City.
WCCC President Don Riggenbach introduced Stein by saying his project was one the chamber is extremely excited about. “When you hear his whole project, you can’t help but get on the bandwagon,” assured Riggenbach.
While the chamber has yet to sign a contract with Valley Ventures, he said Tuesday it is pending. “We are going to do that,” said Riggenbach. “It’s just a matter of doing the paperwork but we wanted to wait until the first of the year.”
Valley Ventures is a private non-profit 501(c)(3) in existence for a little over three years. It covers approximately seven counties: Jefferson, Belmont, Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, Marshall, and Wetzel. “We’re always expanding because there is so much interest in what we’re doing,” said Stein.
He may also be known locally as he was an economic developer in Monroe County from 2000 to 2005. Stein has been a commercial real estate developer for about 30 years. He has been doing revitalization in Steubenville, Follansbee, and Wheeling – recreating downtown area. He said he was also instrumental in developing Marietta’s Front Street area.
“The best predictor of success is to look at what has been done in the past,” said Stein. Riggenbach said the chamber has checked references and received mostly positive feedback. Stein said he has probably created about 3,000 new jobs, providing a track record of successful development.
Stein was referred to the WCCC by The Benedum Foundation and the West Virginia Department of Commerce.
Saying his work is different than other developers because he creates an implementable master plan-key word being implementable. Often cities contract with professional planners from outside the area and when the plan is finished they take it and deliver it, collect their money, and go back to where they came from. There is no thought to implementation.
“My job is to come in and create success,” said Stein. He develops a plan in 90-120 days, taking into account what is there and what needs to be there. He then develops a 36-month implementation plan as soon as it is presented to the community. “Importantly, all of this development is done privately,” said Stein. He works directly with business owners, investors, entrepreneurs, and anyone who wants to see their community redeveloped.
“It’s like putting a puzzle together-you have to know what the finished picture will look like before you can begin,” explained Stein. “Each city develops totally different. You want to create a unique atmosphere that people aren’t going to get anywhere else.”
While the historic downtown area would be a focus, the chamber also wants Stein to look at the industrial park and Steelton area. There have even been some discussions beyond that to some of the smaller communities throughout the county.
Stein said he works closely with the people in the community to find out what they feel is missing in the community
“You want to create a pedestrian lifestyle center,” he emphasized. Malls were created in the 1970s and most trends have a 30-year cycle Now people are looking for ‘neat little areas’ where they can shop, eat, and be entertained, all within walking distance. You have a lot of great assets here already,” said Stein.
“I work with anybody who wants to work with me,” emphasized Stein. “Most of the development comes from within so there’s no competition.”
Stein will help any existing business that needs his help to expand their business-financing, marketing, management, or help get new equipment/facility. He also helps individuals who want to start a new business from concept to open in 90-120 days. “We’re very motivated to help cultivate jobs,” said Stein.
“The key to making this work is bringing all these people together,” said Stein, calling it a win-win-win situation. His “nominal” charge will be paid for through the chamber and he will help them raise some money and get grants.