By Ed Runyan
Mayor Glenn Holmes, real estate agent Dan Crouse and several unnamed investors are betting that 199 acres now owned by Lafarge Construction Materials could be a prime location for a gas and oil processing facility.
Holmes says the land, which is a slag yard that once served steel mills all along the nearby Mahoning River, has all the elements to make it a great location for a “cracker plant.”
A cracker plant converts — or cracks — ethane, a byproduct of natural-gas production, into chemicals that can be used to make a range of plastic products.
Holmes said he thinks a “cracker” plant or some other type of petrochemical facility is going to be built in the Mahoning Valley to serve the gas and oil industry, and McDonald would be a good place for it.
The Lafarge location has three railroads operating nearby — CSX, Norfolk-Southern and Ohio Central. Rail would be important for shipping the chemicals out of the area after they have been “cracked,” Holmes said.
Secondly, the site is close to state Route 11, and that is important because Route 11 could provide the right-of-way for installation of pipelines that could carry the gas and oil to McDonald, Holmes said. Route 11 is in a good location to provide access to the Utica Shale sites in Northern Trumbull County and Marcellus Shale sites to the south, Holmes said.
“You could pipe it in, and then ship it back out by rail or truck,” Holmes said.
The Lafarge land is available because investors, whom Holmes and Crouse wish to keep anonymous, have nearly completed the purchase of the land from Lafarge, Holmes said.
From Holmes’ point of view, the sale of the land to the investors is a win for the community because it reduces the chances that the acreage will be turned into a landfill and makes it available for redevelopment.
“I have a high degree of confidence that something like this will happen in the region,” Holmes said of a gas/oil-processing facility. “I don’t know if it will be in McDonald, but it’ll be here somewhere. In my opinion, we [McDonald] have the best spot.”
Crouse says he and his employer, Routh-Hurlbert Real Estate of Warren, are marketing the land. Two companies already have looked at it, Crouse said.
“They are interested — no contract with anybody, but they are studying the opportunities,” Crouse said. “A lot of people are really interested in hearing more.”
The village of McDonald someday will take possession of 72 acres that formerly belonged to the U.S. Steel McDonald Works site just north of the Lafarge property, Holmes said.
That land could provide additional acreage for chemical-related plants that might want to locate near a “cracker” plant, Holmes said.
A Phase 2 environmental assessment has been completed on the land, and officials are hoping that Clean Ohio funds will be available to clean up the environmental problems that are there, Holmes said.
The village is hoping the economic development team at the Western Reserve Port Authority can help with the project by helping acquire grant money for infrastructure improvements.
Among the improvements needed is an access road that would begin near the Liberty Street Bridge in Girard and follow a dirt road along the edge of the property.
Slag on the property also needs to be removed, Holmes said.
Holmes said the port authority might also play an important role by helping a company obtain bond financing to obtain capital for the project.