West Virginia’s future as a leader in technology and innovation took a leap forward last Wednesday with the transfer of the former Dow Tech Park to the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.
It’s an important step in the Charleston Area Alliance’s technology-based economic development strategy. The creation of the new West Virginia Education, Research and Technology Park (WVERTP) is the culmination of the work of many partners over the past decade and represents a tremendous opportunity for our region and the nation.
Dow’s donation to the state has saved about 500 high-paying jobs with benefits. The average salary at the park is $81,900.
“The Technology Park employs citizens from 16 counties in West Virginia and two bordering states,” said Matt Ballard, the Alliance’s president and CEO. “The impact will only increase as the vision is realized over the next decade. That vision is to fully develop a diversified, multi-tenant research, development and commercialization park focused on energy, chemicals and related technologies for the advancement of education and economic development in West Virginia and the surrounding region.”
The WVERTP also offers the state a chance to build on the region’s unique competitive advantages through the promotion of collaborative innovation and entrepreneurial activity.
“The park, combined with other important assets stretching from Morgantown to Huntington, embodies a regional innovation cluster across the state,” Alliance Chairman Pat Bond said.
A regional innovation cluster (RIC), as defined by the Federal Economic Development Authority, is a “geographic concentration of firms and industries that do business with each other and have common needs for talent, technology, and infrastructure.”
“Being at the forefront of solving national issues, like energy independence, will create a more unique niche for our region and state, grow existing businesses and create new jobs and educational opportunities,” Bond said.
A new report conducted by Battelle, a multi-billion dollar organization with experience in similar projects around the globe, has confirmed the park’s possibilities. Battelle’s recommendations include using the inherent, indigenous strengths of the local region to capitalize on new opportunities.
“Leaders such as Sen. Joe Manchin, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, the Chemical Alliance Zone, the Higher Education Policy Commission, MATRIC, the Kanawha County Commission and others had the vision and courage to back our mission and gather support for West Virginia’s future,” Ballard said. “They know advancing technology leads to job creation, and with the Technology Park, we have a fantastic opportunity to boost West Virginia’s technology economy.”