CLEVELAND (AP) — A partnership of two Asia-based companies proposing to build an ethane “cracker” plant along the Ohio River announced Wednesday it had reached economic development agreements that would pay a school district and a township more than $47 million in coming years.

In return, the companies would receive a 15-year property tax exemption for the plant through a state enterprise zone program.

Dan Williamson, a spokesman for PTTGC America, whose parent company is based in Thailand, and Daelim Chemical USA, whose parent is based in South Korea, said that while the agreements are “another step in the right direction” in moving the multibillion-dollar project forward, it is not the final investment decision that Ohio and local officials had been anticipating for years.

The plant would convert — or crack — molecules of ethane, a byproduct of natural gas drilling, into ethylene, a raw material used to manufacture plastic products.

The companies’ goal is to announce its investment decision this summer, Williamson said. Thousands of workers would be needed to build the plant in southeast Ohio’s Belmont County, and 450 permanent workers would be needed to operate the plant.

“This is a very long-term investment for these communities and the companies,” Williamson said. “A lot of things are happening right now in all the markets, but these companies are thinking very long term.”

The project is seen as an economic savior for an Appalachian region that has long struggled economically from the loss of jobs in steel, aluminum and glass manufacturing decades ago. The hope is that the plant will spur further development and revitalize the region.

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