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Appalachian Power Helps Attract Industry to West Virginia

Appalachian Power is helping turn land into jobs in the mountain state.

By Livability on October 28, 2022

Future Nucor sheet mill site in Mason County, West Virginia
Courtesy of Appalachian Power

There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to Appalachian Power. Most people see employees in bucket trucks, working to maintain the vast network of power lines that weave through 23 counties in West Virginia. The company’s economic development arm, though less visible, plays a huge role in growing West Virginia and its manufacturing industry.

Working with communities and developers to ensure sites are business-ready is a major part of Appalachian Power’s and parent company AEP’s efforts to attract industry. 

Those efforts paid off this year when Nucor Corp., the largest steel producer in the United States, chose a 1,300+ acre AEP Quality Site in Mason County as home for their new $2.7 billion sheet mill.

“We support prospects like Nucor in every step of the site selection process, including site tours, infrastructure time frame and costs, and sharing of labor and workforce data,” says Heather Vanater, Appalachian Power’s economic and business development manager. “Having renewable energy in our generating mix is another essential tool for attracting businesses, one that was key in Nucor’s decision to locate in West Virginia.”

While acknowledging it is great to land a large manufacturer, Vanater says there is tremendous value in welcoming medium and smaller companies. 

“It is sometimes more difficult to identify the medium to smaller manufacturers and businesses that are ready to expand, so we watch emerging industries and target those that will be a match for our state,” she adds. 

Vanater sees both the outdoor recreation and aviation industries as perfect fits for the region, and is working to support their development.

“The New River Gorge National Park is rich in outdoor adventure opportunities, which helps make the surrounding area attractive for recreation industry manufacturing,” Vanater says. “We are working in tandem with state and local economic development organizations to get the area ready for new industry.”

Appalachian Power and AEP are also helping lift aviation industry prospects in the state. A $750,000 AEP Foundation grant supported construction of Marshall University’s Bill Noe Flight School in Charleston, and additional funding is helping give flight to post-secondary aviation maintenance programs in both Cabell and Raleigh counties.

Having business-ready sites with utilities already in place is a must when courting prospects who need to get their business up and running quickly. The West Virginia Department of Economic Development identified three such sites in Appalachian Power’s service area, one each in Mason, Mingo and Raleigh counties. Plans are currently in motion to gain Public Service Commission approval for building out electric infrastructure to the sites. 

“Our efforts to help the state grow are creating jobs for people and increasing the tax base of local communities,” Vanater says. “Plus, growth helps keep electric rates low — the more customers we have, the less each end up paying toward the fixed cost of maintaining our electric system.

“We prosper only as the communities we serve prosper,” Vanater summarizes. “That’s why we’re committed to driving growth in our service area through economic development.” 

More than 1,300 acres of land that made up AEP’s Quality Site in Apple Grove, W. Va., will soon become home to Nucor Corp.’s $2.7 billion sheet mill and an expected 800 well-paying jobs.

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