With the support of Smart Growth America’s Cool & Connected workshops, Weirton, West Va. hopes to use its steel manufacturing heritage to attract new investments to the community. For much of the 20th century, the Weirton Steel Corporation served as the backbone of the city’s economy, attracting a wide range of European immigrants in search of well-paying jobs and a bustling community.
During the steel industry’s heyday, Weirton’s population peaked at 28,000 residents. It has declined since then and as of 2013, Weirton is home to about 19,000 people. Today much of the former Weirton Steel property sits vacant near Main Street, and the company employs just a few hundred workers.
Now, Weirton is working to recast its steel legacy to attract new businesses, and the Cool & Connected workshop is strategizing ways to preserve the town’s history through art and public space at the former steel mill property. Workshop participants came up with an action plan to activate the town’s riverfront access and renovate some vacant storefronts.
Throughout the summer of 2017, the Cool & Connected workshop team will work with communities beyond Appalachia, extending as far as New Mexico, Texas, Indiana, Arkansas, and Maine.