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Officials mark completion of infrastructure project

Representatives of the public and private sectors gathered along Progress Drive on Wednesday morning to celebrate the completion of the $3.4 million Phase 1 Infrastructure Project. The work will serve the new Riverfork West Industrial Park that is under development on Huntington’s southwest side. Mayor Richard Strick called the project “a great collaborative effort that has been moving across administrations and jurisdictions here in our community.” One of his responsibilities, the mayor said, is to ensure that the community keeps moving forward and “taking that next step so we can continue to be competitive in the global marketplace.” “We do this with strong partnerships,” he continued. Work on the project dates back to December 2018, when the City Council first approved plans to greenlight Project Skyfall. “I ran in 2019 to keep this as a priority for our community and make sure we stay diligent in pursuing days like today,” Strick said. “We doubled down on it in 2020, despite the uncertainty of what was going on around the rest of the globe, once we saw Congress address matters economically.” Discussions with Teijin began in 2021, and that resulted in a land transfer in March 2022, and ground was broken on the firm’s $110 million facility on the 30-acre track between Progress Drive and State Road 9. More than 200 jobs are expected at the new facility, Teijin’s second in the City of Huntington. “That’s four years of groundwork and preparation and one year of construction to bring us here to this one shining moment,” Strick said. The ribbon cutting marks the end of Phase 1, but, the mayor said, plans are already taking shape for Phase 2 of the project. It is important to have continuity of vision and effort across administrations to avoid having disruptions stemming from “political shenanigans,” Strick said. Many played a role in the project, he continued. Among those were the Huntington County Economic Development Corp., the Huntington County Council, Engineering Resources, Brooks Construction, Huntington County Commissioners, Keller Partners and more, the mayor said. HCEDC Executive Director Mark Wickersham said economic development is a team sport. “The local economic development team and various mayoral administrations since 1980 have dreamed about an industrial park at this location,” he said. “The teamwork between the city, the economic development community, the county, local lending institutions and the previous property owners combined to create this exciting opportunity that we dedicate today.” Wickersham praised former mayor, Brooks Fetters, and others for their vision with the land. “They envisioned the process for development here that absolutely requires a collaborative approach,” he said. “No one individual has the authority, the way this is structured, to make decisions about this. We all have to make decisions together. “I like to say we have the best team that we could ever put together, and it’s exciting to say we have that type of teamwork all the way down to the people who plant the grass seed, from the contractors to the first responders and fire department.” He also praised the speed – roughly 14 months — with which the project was completed. County Council member Charles Chapman said one of the first things people generally ask him is what is being done to improve Huntington? “Today, I can point this park and say this is what we’ve done. This is one of the things we’re doing to improve Huntington,” he said. “Decades ago, these acres were identified to be developed. It seems to be generations since it’s happened. But this is a generational project. “This park will be filled and will be serving Huntington for generations after we’re not here. It’s humbling to be a part of this process.” County Commissioner Rob Miller called the infrastructure the backbone of Riverfork West, noting “what’s good for Huntington city is good for Huntington County.” Quoting President John F. Kennedy, Miller said, “A rising tide lifts all boats. But a rising tide doesn’t raise people who don’t have a boat. We built a boat today. “This basic infrastructure will allow us to rise with the tide.” As part of the project, the city reconstructed 1,550 feet of County Road 200 N, and constructed 1,110 feet of the new Progress Drive. It also installed 1,900 feed of new sidewalk and 2,100 feet of new water mains. Turn lanes also were added to southbound State Road 9 and CR 200 N. Industrial parks in the City of Huntington – Riverfork Industrial Park, Riverfork West Industrial Park, Commurcial Road Industrial Park, Park 24 Industrial Park and the Erie Neighborhood Industrial Park – account for more than 50 percent of the community’s property tax base. Employers in those parks also are providing job opportunities for nearly 40 percent of the overall work force.