EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WKBN) — To mark the six-month anniversary of the Feb. 3 train derailment in East Palestine, Norfolk Southern on Thursday announced it would provide the money to help rebuild the village, and business owners are maintaining some optimism toward their futures.
Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw has a sizeable list of individuals he’s met in his six months of dealing with East Palestine’s train derailment.
“I’ve been in businesses, I’ve been in the schools and I’ve been in the homes,” Shaw said.
On Thursday, in a cramped conference room in the back of a church, Shaw told 20 of East Palestine’s business people that Norfolk Southern will give the village $500,000 to develop at economic development plan.
“That’s going to buy us a pretty professional economic development agency that’s going to help us sit down, look at the community and think about how to support business growth here, because that will attract more people. That will help the community thrive,” said Shaw.
After the meeting, some of the business people mingled outside. Most — including Don Elzer, who owns East Palestine’s hot dog and ice cream stand — were pleased with what they heard.
“Everything we’ve heard from the railroad for the last six months has been positive,” said Elzer. “The amount of money they’re going to put into economic development is overwhelming.”
“I think if everyone works together, we’ll be good,” said Steve Telischak.
Telischak owns the East Palestine McDonald’s, where former President Donald Trump stopped during his visit three weeks after the derailment.
“I’m glad Norfolk Southern’s here. They’re keeping their promises, they’re helping out and they’re staying here with us through the whole ordeal,” Telischak said. “That’s the main thing. If they do things the right way, we’re happy.”
“It felt like there was a lot of positivity among the business owners,” said Melissa Smith,
Smith owns 1820 House candle company downtown.
“We’re hoping that maybe, with some direction, that we’ll be able to use some of that funding to help maybe possibly with marketing, business incubation, maybe with helping with direction to attract new business,” said Smith.
Shaw said he’s planning to have an economic summit sometime in September, which would bring in people that know economic development to connect them with people from the community.
Shaw also announced that Norfolk Southern has bought a building from Britton Chevrolet — on North Market Street — right next to the tracks. The plan is to open a Norfolk Southern East Palestine office sometime in the first quarter of next year.