Impact of Procter & Gamble facility discussed

MARTINSBURG – In acknowledgment of the hard work and cooperation all of the Berkeley County entities contributed to secure the county as the new location for Procter & Gamble’s manufacturing facility, the Berkeley County Development Authority hosted a local celebration Tuesday as a gesture of appreciation.

Held in the Gourmet Cooke at P-51 at the Eastern Regional Airport, the celebration included the local government, utilities, Development Authority board members and all agencies involved in the project, known locally as Project Independence.

“It couldn’t have been a stronger team effort. Every step of the way we’ve really encountered nothing but a cooperative team effort, from all of the utility providers and the county engineering and planning were extremely helpful, as was the county council to the state agencies,” said Stephen Christian, executive director for the development authority.

Berkeley County Development Authority Executive Director Stephen Christian, left, Berkeley County Council President Douglas Copenhaver, middle, and BCDA President Anthony Zelenka, right, celebrate P&G’s announcement.

The plant will be at least 1 million square feet, residing on nearly 450 acres, in the Tabler Station Business Park in Martinsburg. Procter & Gamble’s initial investment in the project is $500 million.

Considering the scope of the project, Berkeley County Council President Douglas Copenhaver said the project will have a profound impact for the county and its citizens, from increasing economic development and interest to creating jobs and increasing the county’s tax base.

Although the announcement lists job creation as about 1,000 temporary construction jobs and 700 permanent jobs, Christian believes those numbers are extremely conservative and predicts the true job counts will be higher.

In addition to bringing jobs to the county, the facility will be offering not just jobs, but careers, he said.

“These are going to be careers, true careers in high-tech manufacturing. They’re going to be one of the premier employers people are going to work for. People work for Procter & Gamble for generations. They have families that have been working there for generations. This is a real step up for us,” Christian said.

In addition to aspects like job creation and economic stimulation, the project will also impact the educational facilities in the county, Christian said. He said P&G has been in communication with area educational facilities like Shepherd University and Blue Ridge Community and Technical College to create or enhance programs focusing on the technical needs of the employee base.

While saying he would have been excited for an economic project of this size no matter the company, Christian said the value of the project increased with the knowledge the company was P&G.

“It’s always great when you’re working with a blue chip company, someone that is well known. In the case of P&G, we’re talking about an American company with a 175-year history of success, whose brands and products and services touch all of our lives,” Christian said.

Although it was not announced which P&G brands will be manufactured in the Martinsburg plant, Christian said the brands will likely be a family of products revealed at the groundbreaking ceremony in May.

According to Anthony Zelenka, board president for the Development Authority, the final financials of the deal are not available yet, but the gross was about $18 million in sales. After the authority pays its debt, it should gain about $9 million, he said.

“The importance to the authority is that we need to strategically define and determine where we need to go from here. With that kind of asset, we will have the capability of doing a lot of things in bringing more jobs to Berkeley County and maybe using it as seed money. It’s funny because two years ago, we were worried about keeping the doors open,” Zelenka said.

According to Christine Thiel, executive director for the Berkeley County Public Service Water District, the district will need to spend about $1 million in improvements and extensions to service the project. Curtis Keller, general manager for the Berkeley County Public Service Sewer District, estimates the organization will need to spend between $1.5 and 2 million for the project.

The groundbreaking ceremony will be held in May, with a projected completion date of 2017.

Staff writer Samantha Cronk can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 132, or twitter.com/scronkJN.

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