Is the Northern Panhandle experiencing an economic rebirth? More than one panhandle resident thinks so, and is working toward the goal of seeing every abandoned factory that lines the Ohio River Valley repurposed.
53-year-old Patrick Ford has vivid memories of growing up in rural Buhler, Kansas. He remembers family farms becoming obsolete with the rise of corporate farms. It was an economic shift that happened fast. He remembers as a kid, for fun, walking through abandoned homes.
“TV would still be there, photo albums,” Ford said. “There was one [abandoned home] where the spectacles of this old man were still on the table.”
Ford says the scenes of abandoned life are burned into his memory. It shocked him that no one planned for the economic shift, that there was no transition for these families. That’s part of what motivates his work today.
The Private Nonprofit Model for Driving Economic Development
For the past seven years, Ford has been the Executive Director of the Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle. The mission of the private nonprofit is to foster a diverse economy in Brooke and Hancock counties.
Ford sat in his office building in Weirton in front of a white board that lists some 30 priority projects his organization is focused on ranging from helping a small bakery open its doors to repurposing the former pottery plant Taylor Smith & Taylor. Ford says it’s his goal to see new businesses taking over the the abandoned mills that line the Ohio River Valley. And he says he’s not alone…
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