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Guest column/Reflecting on 10 years of Wal-Mart’s impact on Steubenville

September 25, 2011
By RICK PLATT , The Herald-Star

A milestone anniversary is approaching. It's one worth marking.

Ten years ago - Sept. 27, 2001 - with a blown up version of an aerial photo behind us, the Jefferson County commissioners and I joined in announcing a 600-job, $75 million Wal-Mart food distribution center would be built outside of Steubenville in Island Creek Township. Wal-Mart's investment in Steubenville started that day, 10 years ago.

The local story was huge. In addition to two days of Herald-Star headlines, the news was carried live on WTOV-TV.

Plus, a national story and a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story ensued, too.

It was a feel-good news story for the valley, really the whole nation, just two weeks after 9/11's tragic events had unfolded.

The first look at Jefferson County for a site had been in February 2001 and the September announcement was the culmination of a lot of hard work by more individuals than could possibly be named.

All of Jefferson County, from the community roundtable that met with the executive's to the mall workers who unknowingly showed the strength of the area's work force to Wal-Mart during an impromptu visit to Fort Steuben Mall, really fired on all cylinders during those six months in order to land that project.

How often do you get to announce a project with the employment matching one-sixth of the size of the county's employment level at that time? How often do you get to announce the largest distribution buildings to ever be built within the Pittsburgh region? How often does a down economy see such a huge capital investment?

Progress Alliance can forever count the Wal-Mart deal among its greatest legacies. I've worked on a lot of deals before and after and, though some were numerically bigger in one way or another, this clearly is the most-impactful economic development project in my career.

Wal-Mart invested every penny it promised, and more. It created every job it promised, and more. As promised, the company has become among the largest philanthropic givers in the community, too. Thousands of people have benefited over the years from what started 10 years ago.

The community is much for the better having welcomed Wal-Mart, and I am proud to have played a part.

Good luck for another 10 years and beyond.

(Platt is the president and CEO of the Heath-Newark-Licking County Port Authority. He served as executive director of Alliance 2000, which is now Progress Alliance, from 1996 to 2002.)

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