WHEELING - There's no mistaking it -- the Upper Ohio Valley is headed in a new direction.
This new direction does not come without some angst as the local region struggles to reshape itself after decades of essentially being in a holding pattern. For example, tens of billions of dollars are being spent in both West Virginia and Ohio - nearly all of it locally - to fuel the natural gas bonanza. At the same time, the nation's coal industry remains under attack from federal regulators, putting thousands of jobs at risk, and the steel industry suffered a near-fatal blow in 2012 with the liquidation of RG Steel.
The same holds true in Washington. At a time when many companies are looking to invest in the nation, the Congress and President Obama continue to point fingers as to why the federal debt has skyrocketed to more than $16.6 trillion - and just why federal spending can't be brought under control. This, in turn, is leading many businesses to withhold those investments until elected leaders can learn to put country first, something Sen. Joe Manchin is attempting to do as co-chair of the new No Labels group.
The Affordable Care Act is bringing a new direction for health care - one that, unfortunately, neither hospitals, consumers nor many members of Congress truly understand.
Public education also is changing, particularly at the state level. West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has unveiled new education measures for the Mountain State geared to bringing student achievement to the forefront, but a fight over how that should happen - from the education bureaucracy, parents and teachers - is likely to take place.
Downtown Wheeling also is looking at a new direction, as land has been cleared for future development and downtown living options are on the horizon. Whether these changes will have a positive impact outside of demolishing buildings and changing the zoning code remains to be seen.
There are many other examples of the area's changing times, all of which are presented in "A New Direction," a six-section publication that debuts in today's newspaper. Our reporters have been gathering input from local business and elected leaders for the publication, which focuses on the following areas: Energy and Industry through our Power Up sections, in today's paper; Get Physical and Hit the Books, which come out on Wednesday; and Leadership and Time Out, set to publish on Thursday.
"We believe 'A New Direction' provides a comprehensive look at just how the local region and the nation are changing with the times," said John McCabe, managing editor of The Intelligencer. "From development of the Marcellus and Utica shale formations, which have the potential to reshape the Upper Ohio Valley, to the future of coal, health care and our nation's moral compass, we looked into the issues we believe you, the reader, care most about. We believe this special publication gives you the depth of knowledge needed to understand many of the challenges our area and our nation face today and in the future."
"For good or ill, many Ohio Valley residents have had to move their lives in new directions during the past several years," commented J. Michael Myer, the Intelligencer's executive editor. "It certainly hasn't been easy, but it really does appear that the hard work and innovation typical of Northern Panhandle and East Ohio residents, combined with dedication to our families and communities, is paying off."