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Alliance VP Mike Aeiker to retire after 22 years

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was a 22 year career that began by accident.

That’s how Mike Aeiker describes his tenure at the Charleston Area Alliance.

Aeiker, who serves as the vice president of real estate services, will retire from the organization at the end of December. It’s the end of an era for a man who’s been very influential in local economic development.

“I’ve had the opportunity and pleasure to work on many projects over the years that have come through the organization; projects that affected many lives throughout the Kanawha Valley,” Aeiker said.

In the early 1990’s, Aeiker worked for a local engineering consulting firm that was retained by Business and Industrial Development Corporation (BIDCO) to perform a land study for a new business park. BIDCO was one of the three groups, along with the Charleston Chamber of Commerce and Charleston Renaissance Corp., which merged to create the Charleston Area Alliance in 2004.

This selected site consisted of several tracts of land totaling over 560 acres.  The land adjoined another large tract owned by the Rashid family, who expressed strong interest in developing a new retail center on US 119 (Corridor G).  This was a perfect partner for BIDCO to work with and take on such a large development project, now known as Southridge Centre.

During the early years of the Southridge development, Aeiker was directly involved in the purchase of over $2 million dollars in land. He also oversaw various levels of conceptual designs and master planning. It was working on this project with BIDCO that convinced Aeiker to switch careers.

“I was meeting with BIDCO management to discuss the final construction drawings and to inform them of my decision to leave the engineering firm,” Aeiker said.  “They quickly stated if you want a change, we will offer you a position here for a year to help us through the construction of phase one of the BIDCO portion of the development.”

That one year became more than two decades with the organization. After overseeing more than $5.6 million dollars in construction, Southridge became home for projects such as the West Virginia Regional Jail Authority, United States Postal Service distribution center, Kanawha County Metro 911 Operations Center and others all totaling more than $10.7 million dollars in land sales. The area also became a retail mecca of big box stores and restaurants, such as Walmart, Cabela’s, The Olive Garden and Red Lobster.

With BIDCO and the Alliance, Aeiker’s work and technical assistance has been key in the recruitment of businesses to the area, such as Toyota, NGK Spark Plug, Capital Area Services Co., Inc. (CASCI), Kureha and many others.

He’s also managed the Alliance’s Small Business Incubator, which helps nurture and grow start-up companies and entrepreneurs. Since its inception in 1986, the incubator has housed over 149 small businesses creating over 380 jobs. Under Aeiker’s guidance, the success rate for incubator tenants is over 75 percent, compared with the national success rate of 25 percent.

“I have taken pride in supporting and managing the facility as if it were my own,” Aeiker said.

During his tenure at BIDCO and the Alliance, Aeiker worked under four presidents and CEOs.

“They all have provided me with the greatest respect and support during my tenure with the organization,” Aeiker said.  “Being involved with the organization over the past 22 years has allowed me to further my experience and knowledge while enabling me to meet such great folks.”

Matthew Ballard, the current Alliance president and CEO, said Aeiker will be sorely missed within the organization.

“He has served the Charleston Area Alliance with the goal of creating jobs for our community,” Ballard said.  “Most importantly, he served with the utmost focus on sincerity and integrity. He has served our community with his skills and talents and we wish him well in his retirement.”

Bill Goode was the president and CEO of BIDCO and the Charleston Area Alliance from 1994 to 2006. Goode worked closely with Aeiker and said his projects were artfully planned.

“Working with Mike everyday was very rewarding,” Goode said.  “He knows so much about areas that I know so little about. Every day was a learning experience and a visit to sites or facilities with him was like going to a classroom.  He treated you, and everyone else, with respect and honesty. It made being around him so enjoyable.”

Harry Mills, senior vice president at BIDCO and the Alliance from 1993 to 2006, said Aeiker was always a joy to work with.

“He has been the BIDCO/Alliance ‘secret weapon’ since the day he arrived,” Mills said. “He’s a very talented and modest thinker, doer and economic developer.”

In retirement, Aeiker plans to spend more time with his family. He also wants to travel more with his wife, Brenda. Although he’s looking forward to his departure, Aeiker said he will miss the day-to-day economic development work.

“What I will miss most about my job is assisting small startup businesses and working on large projects that create jobs and investment for the whole region,” Aeiker said.  “I have always believed in regional support for all of the Kanawha Valley.”

On Dec. 17, the Alliance will host a retirement open house celebration for Aeiker at its offices at 1116 Smith Street. The event, which is open to the public, will be held from 3-5 p.m. For more information, contact Jeri Adkins at JAdkins@CharlestonAreaAlliance.org.

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admin in Announcements,Events,Statements on December 11 2014 » 0 comments

Enhancing water science education in West Virginia

sinkwaterWest Virginia Water Sustainability Institute partner scores win with grant funding for water science education

Before the Freedom Industries chemical leak in January, the Charleston Area Alliance concentrated on water resources and innovation as part of its 20-year economic development plan, Vision 2030.

Along with key industries in our region, such as chemical, energy and tourism, Vision 2030 focuses on water as an economic commodity and a job creator, spurred by the research and commercialization of clean water technologies.

The January chemical leak accelerated Vision 2030’s focus on the state’s water resources.

West Virginia is one of the most water-abundant states in the country. It’s a key natural resource that’s centric to the state’s economy.

That’s why the Alliance, along with several strategic partners, formed the Water Sustainability Institute (WSI).

The mission of WSI is to develop and commercialize innovative technologies to maintain, improve and protect water supplies throughout the state. Located at the West Virginia Regional Technology Park, it will be a center of innovation for water cleanliness and sustainability.

One key education partner in the WSI, West Virginia State University (WVSU), is working to educate our area’s schoolchildren on the importance of water as a critical natural resource.

Earlier this month, WVSU was awarded a $400 grant from the American Chemical Society (ACS), which will help educate elementary school students in the Kanawha Valley about the importance of water. The grant will provide resources and materials needed for the construction of science boxes that will include a variety of experiments.

These kits are designed to encourage elementary school students to learn more about the properties of water, including surface tension, density and solubility of various compounds. The science boxes, which will include nonhazardous materials, will be placed in all of the schools that were affected by the January chemical spill.

“The West Virginia State University student members of the American Chemical Society have and will continue to work to build professional skills and community outreach work on the topics that they are passionate about. This grant will allow them the opportunity to share their knowledge of chemistry with elementary schools throughout the Kanawha Valley region,” said Dr. Micheal Fultz, WVSU Assistant Professor of Chemistry.

Activated carbon, sand, fine gravel, filter paper and funnels will be purchased for water purification labs. Pipets, pennies and soap will be used to demonstrate the surface tension of water. Soap, magnesium and sodium salts will be incorporated into the boxes to illustrate hard water and soap scum.

WVSU alumni have also offered to help pay the costs of extra materials needed beyond what the grant covers.

“Providing this experience to students is immensely important to the future of the area’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics education (STEM),” said Matthew Ballard, President and CEO of the Charleston Area Alliance.

“These are the students that will be the area’s future engineers and scientists. They are the future employees of our water utilities and our natural resource extraction companies that require water testing and innovative solutions.  It’s important to expose them to this type of hands-on experience early on.”

Other partners in WSI are the Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Chemical Alliance Zone, the West Virginia Regional Technology Park, Marshall University, Marshall University Research Corporation and the Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research & Innovation Center (MATRIC).

Examples of the Institute’s work include:

  • Commercializing technologies that reduce hazards to fresh water sources
  • Commercializing technologies for rapid identification of water contamination
  • Developing custom solutions to water quality and quantity issues
  • Testing and evaluating technologies that maintain the integrity of the entire water distribution system
  • Providing independent assessments and reviews of potential hazards, technologies, contingency plans, and related water quality issues

Currently, WSI partners are completing market research and defining roles relative to the Institute. Many of the existing partners are currently engaged in work that meets the goals of the Institute.

MATRIC spin-off companies are now working in the space and higher education institutions are conducting research on several ongoing activities.

With our recent challenges in West Virginia, droughts in California and China’s mounting water insecurity, water-related challenges are pervasive. Pairing this with the critical nature of water to both life and business increases the complexity of these issues.

Access to clean water will become the defining challenge of this century.

The WSI brings new life to West Virginia’s natural resource economy.  It addresses global challenges and utilizes the principles of the triple bottom line, which is balancing the impact to people, profit and planet.

By solving local and global challenges, the WSI is poised to be an important economic driver for West Virginia.

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admin in Announcements,Statements on August 01 2014 » 0 comments

Lights, camera, action at the Charleston Area Alliance

ALLIANCEGet your popcorn ready.

The Charleston Area Alliance is testing out a new visual tool that allows the public to get to know our members.

PromoShorts are YouTube videos from member businesses that educate the public about the services they provide, along with personal stories of why they became an Alliance member.

The videos, which are produced by the Alliance in its Spilman Studio, showcase members from all different genres of business.

The businesses featured in the first four PromoShorts include: (click the links below to view the video)

  • Clayman & Associates, a clinical and forensic psychology practice that provides individuals, businesses and the legal system with assessment and intervention services
  • Ridgewell Financial  Consultants, an accounting firm focusing on general financial advisory, bankruptcy/litigation support and small business services
  • Better Business Bureau, a  nonprofit organization focused on advancing trust in the marketplace
  • Natural Capital Investment Fund, a business that provides flexible financing to small and      emerging natural resource-based businesses in rural, economically      distressed communities

“Videos are powerful marketing tools for businesses,” said Alliance President and CEO Matt Ballard. “We’re excited to test this new initiative, with the hope that it will greatly benefit our members.”

Currently, the PromoShort initiative is in a pilot program phase. Stay tuned to see when the Alliance will offer this new benefit to members.

Until then, enjoy the show.

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admin in Announcements,Statements on August 07 2013 » 0 comments

Charleston Receives Our Town Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts

Charleston Receives Our Town Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts

Charleston public arts project is among 51 grants nationwide selectedto support ‘creative placemaking’
                                                                                                                                       

Today the City of Charleston announced that it will receive an Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), one of only 51 grants awarded nationwide. Charleston will receive a $50,000 to create public art policies, guidelines and promotional programs.

Our Town is the NEA’s latest investment in “creative placemaking,” through which partners from both public and private sectors come together to strategically shape the social, physical and economic character of a neighborhood, town, city or region around arts and cultural activities.

The Charleston Public Art Project will entail four key outcomes including development of policies and guidelines for public art, a complete inventory of current public art including any short term and long term maintenance needs, outreach and promotions to market public art and establishing a local government arts development initiative to oversee implementation of policies and guidelines, future public art projects and encourage new public art installations.
 
“Communities across our country are using smart design and leveraging the arts to enhance quality of life and promote their distinctive identities,” said NEA Chairman Rocco Landeman. “In this time of great economic upheaval, Our Town provides communities an opportunity to reignite their economies.”

“Over the past decade, Charleston has taken several important steps to create a more vibrant community for the arts and culture with the creation of FestivALL, monthly Art Walks, opening of the Clay Center, investments in several public art projects and greater promotion of art and artists in our city,” said Charleston Mayor Danny Jones.  “This grant – and the $100,000 partnership it creates – will help us get a deeper understanding of our current inventory of art and chart a course to build on our recent successes.

”The competitive grant application process was led by City Manager David Molgaard, City Purchasing Manager Shannon Milroy and Susie Salisbury, Vice President of community development for the Charleston Area Alliance. Matching funds and in-kind resources have been provided by Charleston Urban Renewal Authority, City of Charleston, Charleston Area Alliance and Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences West Virginia.

“Art is an essential element in creating a thriving community and can play a significant role in economic development,” said Alliance President/CEO Matt Ballard.   “We congratulate all who contributed to securing this major grant, which will advance the city’s strong commitment to the arts and strengthen it as an attractive and inviting place in which to live, work and play.  It’s a win-win for the arts community, citizens and business alike.”

“Public art not only makes a statement about the community, it enriches the lives of those within it.  This grant from NEA will provide needed funds to promote our public art to our community and visitors.  It will also serve as a catalyst to protect these wonderful community assets and to encourage installation of others,” stated Judy Wellington, President and CEO, Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences West Virginia.
 
“Everyone who has contributed or hopes to contribute to public art in Charleston is excited about this National Endowment for the Arts grant which will help to preserve and publicize our public art works. FestivALL joins many other organizations in thanking the NEA and congratulating Susie Salisbury and the Charleston Area Alliance for obtaining it,” said Larry Groce, executive director of FestivALL Charleston

“As the capital city of West Virginia, it is our responsibility to showcase and preserve the cultural hub of the state by establishing public art guidelines and sustainable maintenance plans. By setting this example, perhaps we can inspire other cities and communities to develop their own guidelines,” added Naomi Bays, chair of the Arts Council of Kanawha Valley.

The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector.

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In Response to Events in Japan

The people of Japan and West Virginia have long enjoyed a special partnership. Twenty-two Japanese companies currently have operations in the state, employing thousands of West Virginians and natives of Japan. These companies, their employees and their families are valued members of our community, and our thoughts are with those affected by today’s historic earthquake and tsunami. 

We have begun reaching out to our member companies with ties to Japan and stand ready to help at this difficult time. I know the entire community joins the Alliance’s 600 members and their 40,000 employees in offering solidarity and support for our friends, colleagues and neighbors touched by today’s events. 

Sincerely,

Matthew G. Ballard
President / CEO

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admin in Announcements,Statements on March 11 2011 » 0 comments

Alliance Joins Nation in Mourning Passing of Senator Byrd

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “Great men stand like solitary towers in the city of God.”

No one represents that sentiment more than  the singular Senator Robert C. Byrd , whose contributions to our state and nation have forever changed history. 

Our hearts are heavy on this sad day, which marks the loss of  one of West Virginia’s – and of the country’s – greatest stalwarts.

Sen. Byrd was a leader our nation could count on.  He staunchly defended the intentions of our founding fathers through his stewardship of the Constitution , a copy of which he always carried in his pocket . He often was a voice of reason during times of unrest.

He did not care about doing the popular thing, just the right thing. 

He was accessible. Whenever our sister organization, the Charleston Chamber of Commerce, would desire to discuss a public policy matter with the Senator, he always was willing to listen.

Partisanship didn’t sway his efforts to do what was best for West Virginia. His home state always came first.

Senator Bryd has left a void that can never be filled.  We have lost a great mind, a great heart , a great man  and a great friend. 

On behalf of our 600 members and their 40,000 employees, we extend our sympathy to the Byrd family.  May they be comforted by the prayers and thoughts of all who share their sorrow.

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admin in Statements on June 28 2010 » 0 comments