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Kanawha Development Efforts Shift as Recession Eases

This story appears in this week’s State Journal.

By Jim Ross

CHARLESTON — Experts say the national economy is coming out of a recession. Some signs of that can be seen in the activity at the Charleston Area Alliance, the economic development agency of Kanawha County.

In terms of working with prospects, the recession hit Kanawha County in 2008 and is just now starting to ease up, said Matthew G. Ballard, president and CEO of the Charleston Area Alliance.

For the three years before the recession, “it was like we couldn’t keep up with the prospects that were coming in,” Ballard said. The Alliance received inquiries from back-office operations, IT centers and food processors, he said. But in 2008, that fell off.

During the recession, the Alliance encouraged local businesses to investigate the possibility of increasing exports as a way of growing their markets. Ballard said he also did a lot of on-site visits to local businesses to see how the Alliance could help them.

“You begin to focus on entrepreneurship and retaining the businesses you already have,” he said.

Things have started to pick up in recent months, Ballard said. Companies plan investments six months to a year or more ahead, so the recent inquiries are good signs things will change soon, Ballard said.

“Now what we’re seeing is a lot of calls on energy things such as the Marcellus shale and opportunities like the tech park,” Ballard said.

The Marcellus shale drilling activity is to the north of Kanawha County, but a byproduct of that activity could be important to Kanawha Valley industries, Ballard said. That byproduct is ethane, which can be used as a feedstock for chemicals that are used in a variety of products made in the valley, he said.

Entrepreneurship is on the rebound with the economy, Ballard said. In late 2008, the Alliance had the lowest occupancy rate ever in its small business incubator in Charleston. Now that has turned around and occupancy is at an all-time high.

The Alliance recently received a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to build out the fourth floor of its building so it can expand the incubator, he said.

The key to entrepreneurship and job creation in the Kanawha Valley is the tech center at the former Union Carbide site, Ballard said.

“It’s absolutely critical. It can’t fail. It’s too important,” he said.

Inventors may invent a new product or process and have the first demonstration in the size of a handheld container, but to get financing for full production they will need to show its viability on a larger scale. That’s where the tech park comes in, he said.

“We need to get some venture capitalists on site or interest in the project going,” Ballard said. “You’ve got to have people to fund these new ideas, and we have very little of that in the state.”

The Alliance is following the progress of two bills in the Legislature, as each would help the state attract and retain industries and educated people, Ballard said.

One is a bill that would give two-year tax breaks to people who earn degrees. The other would provide tax credits for companies that create jobs in industries that do not exist in the state now, such as nanotechnology and cloud computing, Ballard said.

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admin in Economic Development,In the News on February 25 2011 » Comments are closed

Noland Comments on Tech Park Transfer

Dr. Brian Noland, Chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (Commission), released the following statement regarding today’s official transfer of property at the technology park in South Charleston – now the West Virginia Education, Research and Technology Park – to state ownership:

Noland

“Today marks the formal transfer of property as the West Virginia Education, Research and Technology Park becomes our state’s new and unprecedented research and development endeavor. This day was only possible because of the vision of our board and chairman, David Hendrickson; the leadership of Senators Manchin and Rockefeller, Governor Tomblin and our state and local leaders; and the backing of local businesses and communities.

“With their collective support, we were able to immediately save more than 500 jobs at the park, while securing the promise for a new future – one that we hope and believe will see new jobs in start-up companies rooted in innovation and high-tech, high-wage industries that hold great promise for West Virginia’s economy. 

“For our state to grow and diversify, we need to strike a smart balance between holding true to our strongest industries and re-tooling ourselves for the skills needed to work in those jobs and new ones now and in the future.

“Getting there will not be simple, but we have assembled a good team at the park to steer the way in the coming weeks and months, and we have solid recommendations before us thanks to the expertise of Battelle and CH2M HILL. Their sustained guidance combined with ventures that are right around the corner, including the advanced technology center through our Community and Technical College System, are assurances that success isn’t a matter of ‘if’ – it’s a matter of ‘when.’”

With support of then-Governor Joe Manchin and congressional and state representatives, the Commission voted in March of this year to accept a donation of facilities and property from Union Carbide Corporation, a subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company, at its 258-acre technology park in South Charleston.

Since that time, the Commission has led a transition and planning phase leading up to the December 15 transfer of ownership. Through a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the Commission worked with leading firms Battelle and CH2M HILL to map out a long-range strategy for the park’s redevelopment. Their recommendations, which were released in November, will lay the underpinning for planning as new park initiatives move forward. 

For more information, visit www.wvtechnologypark.com.

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admin in Announcements,Economic Development on December 15 2010 » Comments are closed

Technology Park Launches Web Site

The West Virginia Education, Research & Technology Park, recently acquired by the state from Dow Chemical, now has a Web site at www.wvresearch.org/techpark.

Potential tennants can visit this site to learn more about the park’s history, capacity and potential.

The park’s unique and valuable facilities will make it an attractive location for companies and organizations in need of advanced technology, and many believe the park will become a research hub, employing thousands.

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admin in Economic Development on August 02 2010 » Comments are closed

State Set to Open Research Park

The story below appeared Thursday evening on WSAZ-TV. Click here to view the piece.

There are high hopes for a new state research park in South Charleston.

A special committee met for the first time Thursday to discuss what to do with the former Dow Tech Park.

The park will be state owned, but the goal is to create high tech jobs in the private sector. Officials say the transition period isn’t going to happen overnight.

Representatives from Battelle Memorial Institute, who won the contract to redevelop the park, say the park’s success depends on their ability to bring in talented people and innovators.

The transition between Dow and the state is set to be complete by December 15.

Project leaders are hopeful that as many as seven tenants could be ready to move in by then.

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admin in Economic Development,In the News on August 02 2010 » Comments are closed

Alliance Mission Meets with Development Zone Officials in Hangzhou

Ten participants from the Charleston Area Alliance Business & Cultural Mission in China this evening met with representatives from the Hangzhou Economic and Technological Development Area (HEDA).

Jonathan Zhang offered a HEDA overview, noting the region was little more than a field in 1996, the year the zone was born. Zhang is managing partner of 5C Group, which helps companies hoping the locate in the region’s technology park traverse China’s complicated law and tax climate.

Hangzhou is a popular tourist attraction, featuring the famed West Lake, but it also features a skyrocketing GDP, a population of 3 million, 14 universities and more than 180,000 students. Those students are “taylor-made,” Zhang said, for the companies locating there. The area features strong automobile, energy, bio-genetic, bio-pharmaceutical and medical equipment industries.

One of the younger companies is AmpleSun. Hu Weiqian, sales manager, also presented to the Alliance delegation, explaining how his solar panel company hopes to make an impact in the U.S. According to the U.S. Ambassador’s Commercial Service, China is focussed on the green technology sector, which of course includes solar energy.

Some at the meeting noticed paralels between the Hangzhou park and South Charleston Education, Research & Technology Park.

The meeting ended with business card exchanges and promises of follow-ups.

Tomorrow, the Alliance’s tour moves from Hangzhou to Shanghai. Stay tuned.

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admin in Economic Development on April 21 2010 » Comments are closed

Thank You

MukurgeeWeb“Biotechnology is what Progenesis is all about, and biotechnology can be a big factor in West Virginia’s economy. We need this tech park. This is the perfect location. It’s something that doesn’t exist anywhere else in West Virginia. Recruitment is going to be easy, and I think that’s what we can focus on now.”

Deepay Mukerjee
President, Progenesis Technologies

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admin in Economic Development on March 24 2010 » Comments are closed

Thank You

WadiaWeb“Governor Manchin has demonstrated tremendous vision and leadership in saving the Tech Park. This action will not only preserve my job at MATRIC but will also save hundreds of other good jobs at the site. More importantly, having access to world-class labs and pilot plants will facilitate building a more robust West Virginia economy based on innovation to create sustainable prosperity via high-tech and clean industry jobs.”

Parvez Wadia
Chief Technology Officer, MATRIC

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admin in Economic Development on March 23 2010 » Comments are closed

Thank You

DillonWeb“I am one of the many parents working in the tech park. I grew up in this region, and I wouldn’t be able to stay here if we didn’t have this facility. I do want to raise my child here. I’m thankful I can do this work here and not have to move away. I’m appreciative of what the governor and so many others were able to do.”

Kristy Dillon
Chief R&D Technician, Progenesis Technologies

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admin in Economic Development on March 22 2010 » Comments are closed

Thank You

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admin in Economic Development,In the News on March 22 2010 » Comments are closed

Thank You

NicholasWeb“We appreciate the vision and commitment to accept the tech park donation and keep the possibilities for innovation in West Virginia. I’m sure I would have moved had they not. I came here from Houston, and the innovation is what brought me here. The labs here are very unique, but beyond that is the human capital that has been developing patents and developing new technologies for so long. Scattering that would have been a huge loss.”

Nolan Nicholas
Research Scientist, MATRIC

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admin in Economic Development on March 19 2010 » Comments are closed

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