Saturday, March 22, 2003
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Colombo seeks another buyer for land after Luigino's pullout


PARKERSBURG - An industrial site at the Parkersburg Business Park will be marketed with the same zeal which brought Luigino's to town, local planners said.

After four years of ups and downs, compromises and kowtowing and two announcements the company was going to build the plant here, frozen foods giant Luigino's dropped its plans to build a $36 million plant and hire 600 people at the business park.

The Thursday announcement from the state development office comes several weeks after reports started arising the company was concerned about C8 contamination.

Luigino's has before axed a deal to build the plant. The original site was in Hibbing, Minn., however, the company and a development board got into a disagreement over the length of time it was taking for Luigino's to renovate a former chopsticks plant.

Time to get back to work and find another company, Mayor Jimmy Colombo said Friday.

''What we do is we pick ourselves up, and we act like we're not carrying a million pounds of weight on our shoulders,'' he said.

The 40-acre site at the business park has been cleared, leveled and is ready to go, said James Kinnett, president of the Wood County Development Authority, the agency involved four years ago in persuading the company to come to Parkersburg. It's the best industrial site in West Virginia, he said.

''It's prepared and the most marketable piece of property in the state,'' he said.

Wood County Commission President Rick Modesitt is confident. That site and a site in Williamstown, both close to the interstate, are prime for development, he said.

''The county remains strong,'' he said. ''We think we're in a good position to attract new business.''

C8 is a non-issue, he said. The site has no contamination and Parkersburg water is safe and free of the compound, Modesitt said.

''I feel safe. I wouldn't be drinking the water if I didn't,'' Modesitt said. ''It's much to do about nothing.''

C8, also known as ammonium perfluorooctanoate, was used in a Teflon process at th DuPont Washington Works for more than 50 years. Residents have sued the company over possible health effects. It has not been determined C8 is a health risk, but it stays in the body for a long period of time.

''We don't have contaminated water,'' said Clarence Cox, manager of the Parkersburg Utility Board.

It's unfortunate Luigino's left, but it did open up another site for development, Greg Smith, chairman of the development task force, part of the Wood County Economic Roundtable

''It does leave us an excellent location for another business to come in and take advantage of the location and employee work force,'' he said.

Other companies have looked at the site in the past four years, Colombo said. The work to install the new water and sewer lines has not been for not, he said.

''The larger water line is definitely needed out there anyway,'' he said.

Luigino's first announced it was building in Parkersburg in June 1999. Construction never started and at one point the project was dead. During that time, the state bought the site for $1.3 million from the development authority. The project at one point was dead.

The site is titled to Stockmeister Enterprises, the company which would have built the plant. The agreement has a reversion clause.


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