Dwight Williamson: Native of China has big plans for Logan | Opinion
The buzz around the town of Logan lately has basically been, “Who’s that Chinese guy, anyway?”
Well, his name is Dongming Pan and you might say “Pan has a plan”. It’s a plan that some might say is just too good to be true. On the other hand, optimists may consider his concept of Logan’s transformation a boon. Either way, the rather tall, thin entrepreneur who supposedly hadn’t even heard of Logan a year ago is quickly turning heads in a coal mining town where vacant apartment buildings had become the norm instead. than the exception.
Pan’s “plan” is to revitalize Logan with manufacturing jobs and end homelessness in the once bustling town. So the question is, why did the 54-year-old New Yorker choose Logan as his place to invest at least a million dollars?
“I drove all over the East Coast looking for the right buildings to buy,” Pan explained. “I almost made a deal in Pennsylvania, but the owner changed his mind at the last second.”
Explaining that property is extremely expensive in places like New York and New Jersey, Pan said he saw the online auction for what was once the Peebles store on Stratton Street. The auction ended with the owners rejecting the highest bid. However, Pan said he contacted Logan Mayor Serifino Nolletti, who helped him find who to contact about the property.
“The mayor and fire chief Scott Beckett were very helpful in finding the real estate agent,” Pan said. Pan, having already secured three parcels of property that once belonged to The Logan Banner on September 16, 2021, appeared six days later at a meeting of the Logan City Council to announce his plans to renovate buildings and open a companies for manufacturing. Mayor Nolletti said in a newspaper article that Pan hopes to employ 50 people at the Peebles site, paying salaries of around $40,000 a year.
While the Chinese-American citizen raised his eyebrows when appearing on the board, Pan wasted no time in showing he was intent on carrying out his plan, as he immediately hired premises to begin cleaning and then renovating the former Logan Banner Building, former Shop and what had been the Charles Street Newsroom. This is where newspapers had been printed over the years for Logan, Boone and other counties.
Prior to improvements to the site, this writer, along with local historian Brand Ray Kirk and Courtney McCoy Quick, a historian in her own right, who has since opened businesses known as McCoy Station in Logan, visited with permission the three Locations.
After many years of neglect, we found that the homeless and others had created their own inner community, especially on the four floors of Charles Street. Makeshift beds, sleeping bags, graffiti on the walls and needles were visible throughout most of the structure, which many years ago was known as the Armor Meat Co. distributor.
While a facelift is nearing completion on the exterior of the former Banner locations in Stratton Street – which includes the installation of over 50 new windows – work continues on all other Pan-owned locations.
Pan said he is investing at least $200,000 in renovations to former Logan Banner properties, where he once opened an office, even as renovations continue. However, with business interests in many places, including Britain and Italy, he remains a busy man.
When I first interviewed Pan, he was in the Virgin Islands. During the most recent interview, the dynamic entrepreneur was preparing to fly to New York, where the next day he was due to travel to Las Vegas to meet for other business.
“I’ve traveled all over the world, but in Logan, it’s not the America I expected to see,” said Pan, who after years in the United States finally became a citizen. naturalized last August. “There are so many social issues,” said the man who was raised in Chinese poverty. “I can improve things here.”
Ironically, the biggest way Pan intends to revitalize Logan is to compete powerfully with his former country, China. “I can beat Chinese factories. I know the textile industry inside out,” he said, noting that shipping costs will be drastically reduced for companies seeking its manufactures.
According to Pan, some equipment has arrived for the old Peebles site, but equipment worth half a million dollars to make clothes there has been ordered. This site, when fully operational, according to Pan, will employ 50 to 60 people, using sophisticated machinery capable of producing – for example – 1,200 shirts per hour. When fully operational, Pan said the garment factory will operate around the clock.
Having worked in the import-export industry for 35 years, Pan said his time in Los Angeles, California allowed him to develop business interests with many well-known fashion companies such as the giant Banana Republic clothing. “I met a lot of business people there,” Pan said. “We already have orders waiting to be filled.”
After the Chinese government relaxed trade rules there, Pan, who had studied business at a Chinese university, in 1992 used $5,000 and opened his first factory in what he called “my village” which employed 100 people. In 1994, he visited America for the first time and had new ideas.
A background check of Pan by this writer confirmed that he is a legitimate businessman with at least five companies incorporated in the United States. No information on overseas operations was available. However, a business address for Pan is MeMe Worldwide, Inc., 200 West 67th St., New York, New York.
“I opened a factory in what used to be one of the poorest countries in the world, Afghanistan, and now that country is the second largest exporter in Asia,” Pan said. “We will welcome investors here. We will stimulate the economy and encourage businesses.
Pan said he’s even willing to provide interest-free small business loans to help those who want to open business operations in Logan.
So, what are Dongping Pan’s plans for the former Banner site and Charles Street building? Among other things, Pan’s local office will be in publisher Logan Banner’s renovated former office, and a “community room” will be located where the newspaper’s composition room once operated.
“West Virginia has so many mountains and so much wood that can be used for industry,” Pan explained. “I intend to use West Virginia lumber to make products at the High Street site. We can produce windows, doors, skateboards, and many veneer products, and assemble them same here. “
Pan has already met with the Mingo County Development Authority and may purchase the former lumber mill atop 22 Mountain in Holden, and he indicated that furniture could be produced there. The property is located in Mingo County near the Logan County line and could provide employment opportunities for both counties. “The windows that I have to pay hundreds of dollars for at places like Lowes, I can make here for about $50,” he said.
Since Pan works in yacht manufacturing all over the world, it would seem that he should definitely know about wood products. He was recently studying the purchase of a marina in South Charleston.
Still, Pan’s focus has been in Logan, where he says he’s looking to buy at least one more building. Future plans include housing for the homeless, a fast food restaurant, a craft beer restaurant and even an internet cafe for young people.
“By the end of 2022, there will be no homelessness in Logan,” Pan said. The man has visited Logan’s homeless before and bought them items like sleeping bags and tents, so it would seem his intentions are realistic. Pan, who was still learning English, said bluntly, “I do what I say.
So the man who promised to finish what he started has already aired two 30-minute radio segments explaining his plans, and he’s investing a lot of money in the town of Logan. He also created a website — myLogantown.com – which he hopes people will visit and use.
“I’m proud to be part of a great country,” Pan said. “I’m going to help rebuild Logan.”
Pan said he had no political aspirations and that the controversial signs he made and displayed regarding certain politicians were simply “because they are all millionaires who do nothing for the little people”.
Locally, the guy known simply as Pan said Logan Mayor Nolletti and the “city” have helped him in his efforts to renovate newly purchased Logan sites. In other areas of government, however, Pan said “politicians are just power junkies”.
Pan said he could also help in the coal business, due to his direct contact with family and friends who operate steel mills in China. “I can help people here sell their charcoal.”
I’m sure we all hope Pan’s plans come to fruition. For the love of God, why not?
I mean, heck, it would be nice for a change to buy an item with a tag that says “Made in USA”
Dwight Williamson is a magistrate in Logan County. He writes a weekly column for HD Media.