BELMONT AND Harrison are neighboring counties and the resources underfoot exist irrelevant of their common border. The Times Leader chose to ask county leaders about ways they might work together to better take advantage of the boom of out of state businesses venturing into the area.
Harrison County Commissioner Don Bethel said that the two counties have maintained a positive relationship and have already worked together on several issues. In one example, he cited their cooperation with the Sargus Juvenile Center they are both affiliated with.
"At this point in time, I think Harrison County is doing a good job attracting businesses and making sure businesses come in and hire local workers," Bethel said.
T-L Photo/ROBERT?A. DEFRANK
COUNTY?COMMISSIONERS, like Belmont’s Ginny Favede, Chuck Probst and Matt Coffland agree that cooperation between neighboring counties can be beneficial.
"There's always going to be growing pains. There are always issues that come up with expansions," he said. "Most of time, what we do as commissioners is not only monitor businesses or corporations but handle issues that people have."
"We're willing to work with any county to help create jobs or create a better atmosphere for living in our county," said Belmont County Commissioner Matt Coffland.
"It would be a good idea for us both to get together and bang heads and share our information. We've done that on different scenarios," Bethel said.
He noted that cooperative and information sharing is underway on a larger scale. The commissioners from theirs and many of the other surrounding counties have committed to attending meetings held by the oil and gas companies.
"Both commissions have their hands full with day-to-day activities and the influx of businesses going in," Bethel said. He added that some of the major concerns include ensuring that they obey regulations and attempting to promote the use of local workers for the projects.
"We are all on the same page and have the same issues," he said, adding that he sees value in brainstorming to compare the needs and wants of their respective communities. He noted the presence of oil and gas interests has precipitated occasions of contact. "We're already in communication."
To name one area of cross-county cooperation, the Belmont County commissioners recently heard an employment report that touched on such issues as the Workforce Investment Act. The related Council of Government has
Mike Schlanz, WIA/Belmont County Connections One Stop manager, pointed out that the common concerns, interests of the oil and gas businesses and common job opportunities have precipitated collaboration. He added that information about new jobs is often exchanged through an e-mail network that includes the four participating counties including Belmont and Harrison.
He added that among the four counties of Area 16, the six WIA performance measures were met or exceeded as of 2011-2012. These include employment, employment retention and average earnings for adults and dislocated workers.
"We're on a very good relationship with the Belmont County commissioners and I respect all of them. We're all going though the same things. Sometimes you feel as if you're trying to stay ahead of the curve," Bethel said. "We're dealing with the same companies."
DeFrank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org