MADISON, W.Va. — During an interview with the Coal Valley News Feb. 11, Kris Mitchell, director of the Boone County Community and Economic Development Corporation (EDC), stated plans are moving ahead for the eventual development for the former Hobet mine site.
During his Jan. 13 State of the State Address, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced the development of the property on the border of Boone and Lincoln counties.
Tomblin noted, “We are also proposing to develop the largest industrial site in West Virginia history at the former Hobet surface mine in Boone and Lincoln counties. With 12,000 acres located just off Corridor G, this site is largest enough to fit virtually every major economic development project in recent history…”
The 12,000 acre site is reportedly big enough to house an airport the size of Atlanta International Airport twice over.
During the bankruptcy of Patriot Coal, most of the Hobet surface mine site was purchased by the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund (VCLF).
In his speech, the governor also announced the state’s application for $140 million in grants to help spur its development; however, bad news quickly came in form of a denial for the grant.
Mitchell reported the W.Va. Department of Commerce is taking the lead on the project who recently conducted a meeting with development authority leaders in Boone and Lincoln counties.
“Frankly, the project is moving more quickly than I imagined,” noted Mitchell.
Mitchell commented that the site has been surveyed and multiple locations with flat land have been chosen for development.
“There are a lot of one acre sites for smaller businesses and there are sites that range up to how far your imagination can go,” added Mitchell.
The land currently being developed was reportedly last mined in the mid-1970s and early 1980s and has long since been reclaimed.
The most recently mined areas of the Hobet site are located in Lincoln County and are still in the process of reclamation.
However, the reclaimed lands that are currently being developed are close US Rt. 119 in Boone County.
Mitchell explained the site is meant to be multi-use, but Mitchell stated, “We are looking at..light to medium manufacturing.There is so much land up there, just about anything could be put on it,” added Mitchell.
With the decline of the coal industry in region, one bright spot has seemingly emerged in the development of the Hobet Mine Site.
Mitchell explained, “The coal industry shutting down is horrible and no one wanted it. There’s a saying of making lemonade out of lemons — this is what we’ve got. Ten years ago, this project would not have been reasonable…that’s changed. This is the first time I’ve seen a project like this with so many moving parts with everyone focused on it. Everyone is working together to make this a reality. The VCLF owns a lot of property, but…hundreds of people have some say in some part of the property. Everyone is on-board. Everyone is agreeing.”
When asked about a timeline for the project, Mitchell added she believes a lot of progress will be made on the project before Gov. Tomblin leaves office at the end of the year.
Mitchell ended the interview saying the site is not yet ready for business, but added, “They are already teasing it to businesses. People from other states are watching this. Business are watching this. I know it’s hard with how things are right now, but you’ve got to have hope.”
Owen Wells is a reporter for Civitas Media. He can be reached at 304-369-1165 ext. 1661 or by email at [email protected]