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Steve Novotney Says, "If It Comes"

"If It Comes."

Those were the words spoken by former Ohio Gov. John Kasich to Rep. Jack Cera.

"If it comes."

It was Kasich's reply to Cera after the District 96 lawmaker told the former governor he hoped the CNN political analyst would be able to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for the PTT cracker in Dilles Bottom. The two politicos were attending the inauguration ceremony for Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine when the words were exchanged following the swearing in.

"If it comes."

"At all the other events," Cera said, "Kasich has been very positive about this project and always said it would be the largest economic development in the state's history. And it would be. So, I wasn't sure how to take that."

So, what does Kasich know that we don't know?

Or was he just being snarky to a legislator who opposed him time and time again … or was it because the project will now be announced with a new governor in charge? His words are curious to most in the Upper Ohio Valley because utterance serves as the first negative statement made about this economy altering venture.

PTT Global America has been examining its options in Belmont County for more than three years, and since adding Daelim Chemical as a project partner, the cost of the petrochemical facility jumped from $6 billion to $10 billion. The property, the site of the former Burger Power Plant owned by First Energy, has been purchased along with an additional 350 acres, two different design and engineering studies have been conducted, and the Ohio EPA has granted the plant's water and air permits.

That leaves just one more little detail, the same one that has been endlessly delayed for a plethora of different reasons.

THE, "Yes."

The same, "Yes," was delivered by Shell Chemicals in Beaver County Pa., in June 2016, and now, a little more than 19 months later, at least 50 cranes are in operation at the Potter Township site as the facility grows vertically. The Shell cracker is a $6 billion venture and as many as 2,500 men and women have worked the site since earthwork began.

But those officials and residents in western Pennsylvania had to wait much longer than they wanted, too, and now the growing pains are encountered and handled one by one. Here in the valley region, we've awaited the final answer for at least two years, and with every announced delay the skepticism has grown amongst the public.

"If it comes."

It's the same "If" inquiry many of us, from leaders in local government to mothers and fathers when hoping their children will have reason to remain in this region instead of moving away, have been asking since the possibility went public in 2015.

Would it not be wonderful if dilapidated properties were erased with new residential and commercial structures? What if struggling towns, downtowns and neighborhoods bounced back and vacant lots and greenspaces were grabbed up and re-developed?

Could this cracker plant, which is expected to attract manufacturers in the plastics business, too, replace steel and all the other industries that once lined the Ohio River from East Liverpool to Shadyside? Might the overall population in Marshall, Ohio, and Belmont counties actually increase for the first time since the 1940s?

If it comes.