By JESSE MANCINI
PARKERSBURG - A frozen foods company that touted 600 new
jobs has dropped its plans to build a new plant at the
Parkersburg Business Park. David Satterfield, the
executive director of the West Virginia Development Office,
issued a two-sentence statement early Thursday afternoon
saying he received official notification that Luigino's Inc.
''has discontinued plans to build a food processing plant in
Parkersburg.'' No reason why was given.
Luigino's planned a $36 million, 250,000-square-foot plant
at the business park on West Virginia 14.
It is not the first time the company has pulled out of a
deal to build the plant and not the first time the project in
The deal with Luigino's - founded by Jeno Paulucci, the
2002 Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year - went as far as
a gala announcement in November, complete with the Parkersburg
South High School band, Gov. Bob Wise and Paulucci. That was
the second time the company announced the plant: the first was
in June 1999 when a bevy of company, state and local officials
joined former Gov. Cecil Underwood at the Wood County Airport.
Wise "and the appropriate officials continue to work
closely with the company as well as Wood County officials to
explore and access (sic) the current situation,'' the
Wise will have no comment other than the statement from the
development office, his press secretary, Amy Shuler-Goodwin
Ron Bubar, president of the company, issued a one-sentence
''We've decided to re-evaluate our existing capabilities to
meet our near-term requirements,'' Bubar said.
Alan Stockmeister of Stockmeister Enterprises, the company
building the plant, was not available for comment.
The Parkersburg News and Sentinel has asked the company for
the past two weeks about the status of the project,
specifically citing the company's problems with C8
contamination and the company halting its plans. The
company, state development officers and the Parkersburg
Utility Board representatives met March 7 to discuss the
contamination and were told the Parkersburg water supply was
Luigino's would have been one of the city's largest
customers. It was concerned its competition would use C8, also
known as ammonium perfluorooctanoate, against its products,
officials asking not to be identified said. The contamination
and a related lawsuit filed by residents in the area of the
DuPont plant have been locally reported for several years. The
Columbus Dispatch carried a story several weeks ago, then the
meeting was held with the state.
C8 was used to make Teflon at DuPont's Washington Works for
more than 50 years. Its affect on humans has not been
determined, although it remains in the body for long periods
The site at the business park contains no contaminants, is
miles away from DuPont, and the Parkersburg water system has
no detectable levels of C8.
''The excuse is C8. Whether that's true, I don't know. I
don't buy it,'' said Sam Davis, business manager for the
Parkersburg-Marietta Building Construction Trades Council. ''I
think they wanted out,'' he said.
The plant would have been built with local labor from all
the trades, Davis said. He wasn't surprised of the
''I knew it was coming,'' he said.
Other sources said the company also is considering an
industrial site near Wellston, Ohio, a few miles from its
existing plant in Jackson, about 75 miles southwest of
Parkersburg. Mayor John Stabler and Jackson County
Commissioner Wendell Brunton said they were unaware of a
project there, but said they would welcome the company.
The project was first announced June 1999. Construction
never started and the state bought the site for $1.3 million
from the Wood County Development Authority. The project at one
point was dead.
The state's financial commitment to the project was a $6
million loan from the state Economic Development Authority,
and loans to the Parkersburg Utility Board of $4.7 million
from the Water Development Authority and the Revolving Loan
Fund to run new water and sewer lines to the site. Neither
loan will go through.
The utility board will be counting expenditures so far
related to the project, such as design and right of way
acquisition, which aren't a total loss when another company
with high-water demands locates at the site, utility Manager
Clarence Cox said.
''It's disappointing,'' Mayor Jimmy Colombo said.
Colombo has not been in contact with Paulucci or Bubar and
doesn't plan to call them.
He also is uncertain whether the name of the road to the
site, Jeno's Drive, will be changed and the sign removed.
''Our goal now is, since we have the best development site
in the state of West Virginia, is to try to fill it,'' he
Local officials involved with the project were
''We've been working since Day 1and it's hard to believe we
haven't been taken advantage of,'' said Greg Smith, chairman
of the development task force, part of the Wood County
''It's a shame that the decision not to bring Luigino's to
the community seems to be based more on speculation than solid
evidence,'' Smith said. ''This is a good area. Ask any of the
businesses here, this is an excellent area to do business and
raise a family.