CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Every community and state struggles to attract more business, more jobs, more prosperity -- and sometimes the effort seems questionable. Some startup firms get large government loans, then stumble into bankruptcy. The mid-Kanawha Valley has lost tens of thousands of jobs since the 1960s, despite constant "economic development" work in the capital region.
However, occasional successes -- such as creation of the Toyota engine plant in Putnam County, or reopening of Ravenswood's aluminum plants -- brighten everyone's hopes.
Tuesday's announcement that a Spanish corporation will lease the long-vacant South Charleston stamping plant and hire hundreds of local workers was a joyous boost for the region's economy.
The million-square-foot plant has been kept in superb condition, thanks to major investment by owner Ray Park and a $15 million state loan in 2007 (now repaid). The shiny, enormous facility attracted Spain's Gestamp firm, which has 120 factories around the world, making body parts for most car manufacturers.
Gestamp promises to invest at least $100 million in South Charleston and employ about 175 people in the first year or so. It hopes to have 400 to 500 employees within three to five years, and eventually contemplates a 700-worker force.
This is good news for the Charleston area. If 700 good-paying jobs are gained, the "multiplier effect" will create hundreds more spinoff jobs in stores, restaurants, theaters, schools, banks, garages, housing and other businesses serving the added families.
The huge stamping plant has a spotty record. Over four decades, it has been leased by American Motors, Chrysler, Volkswagen, Mayflower and Union Stamping & Assembly. The latter declared bankruptcy in 2006, and the last of 800 jobs were lost. It has been vacant ever since.
Kanawha Commission President Kent Carper said the large plant might have been razed and bulldozed, like other empty valley factories, if it weren't for the determination of owner Park and political leaders. They deserve praise for their diligent effort.
This is a happy week for the mid-Kanawha Valley. We commend Park, Gestamp, Gov. Tomblin, state Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette, South Charleston Mayor Frank Mullens and all other parties involved.
Gov. Tomblin said West Virginia has gained several other major economic boosts in the past year or so -- "In January alone, we attracted investments totaling $1 billion."
Bravo. Let the good times roll.