Charleston West Virginia Economic Development

Discussions on Economic and Community Development in West Virginia and the Charleston MSA as well as issues of the Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Charleston West Virginia Has Ink on Its Hands.

Photo by Alex Wilson, WVDO

Beginning Saturday, April 29, 2006 a delegation from West Virginia will be attending the InfoFlex Conference and Exhibition in Louisville Kentucky. The show is hosted by the Flexographic Technical Association, which was founded in 1958, and is the leading technical society devoted exclusively to the flexographic printing industry.

What you may not know is that West Virginia has one of the leading print management degree programs in the nation. West Virginia University Institute of Technology offers a Printing Management, B.S. The Printing Management curriculum at WVU Tech is designed for those students who are interested in furthering their education and entering the management area of the printing industry.

Where better to locate business related to the print industry than a state with a low cost of doing business, positioned geographically within one-day shippping to 60% of the United States and 30% of Canada and with a viable technically trained workforce in the print industry? We can’t think of a better place and we’ll have that same discussion with our friends in the print industry this weekend.

Those attending the trade show will be Matthew Ballard, Executive Vice President of the Charleston Area Alliance, Jeff Wood, Director of Business Development for MATRIC, David Lieving, West Virginia Development Office, and Dr. Jack Nuckols, Chair WVU Institute of Technology Department of Printing.

Charleston West Virginia, We Have Ink On Our Hands.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Europe and West Virginia Create Strong Partnership

The recent partnerships being created in Europe by the Charleston Area Alliance, Governor Manchin and his staff in the West Virginia Development Office are creating economic wins for everyone. The European companies are breaking into the US market through West Virginia based on its superb geographic location and its low cost of doing business. Our European partners are creating good paying jobs and contributing to the economy and community. The staff of the Charleston Area Alliance appreciates its strong relationship with Pasquale Catalfamo and his willingness to spread the word about the positive business climate in Charleston West Virginia.

Courtesy photo
Pasquale Catalfamo of the manufacturing firm Catalfer SRL, here with Gov. Joe Manchin announcing plans to locate a plant in West Virginia, is one of several Italian executives who have chosen to open facilities in the state recently.

April 16, 2006

A little Italy

European manufacturers taking to W.Va.

By Eric EyreStaff writer

When Gov. Joe Manchin and an entourage of state economic development leaders travel to Europe this month, they will have an eager tour guide in Pasquale Catalfamo.
Two weeks ago, Catalfamo announced plans to establish a U.S. manufacturing plant for his Italian company in the Charleston area. It’s the third company with Italian ties to set up shop in West Virginia in as many years.
Catalfamo, who is on the board of directors of a 1,500-member Italian manufacturing association, has taken it upon himself to promote West Virginia in Italy.
He plans to introduce Manchin to executives from Italian companies that make rubber, jewelry, textiles, plastics and chemicals.
“I will be the West Virginia ambassador,” Catalfamo said last week from his company’s headquarters in Varese, in northern Italy.

While state economic development officials continue to try to lure companies from Japan, Germany and elsewhere, their recruitment efforts in Italy seem to hold the most promise.
In 2004, Allevard Springs USA, a French subsidiary of Italian auto-parts company Sogefi SpA, opened in Wayne County. The plant’s 100 workers make suspension parts for Ford.
Last year, the chemical company Esseco Group of Trecate in northern Italy announced it would invest $20 million and establish a U.S. manufacturing site at the Bayer CropScience industrial park in Institute. About 30 people are expected to work there.

In March, the North American division of Essroc Italcementi Group, based in Bergamo, announced a $320 million expansion at its cement plant in Martinsburg. The expansion is expected to double the plant’s output. Essroc has 259 workers in Berkeley County.
And at a news conference at the state Capitol last month, Catalfamo outlined plans to open a plant in West Virginia, though the site hasn’t been determined yet.
To be called New Finishing Line, the company will be the North American division of his Italian company, Catalfer SRL. It will make sanding equipment and chemicals used in the auto and marine industries, and will hire about 40 people when it opens in 2008.
Catalfamo said he didn’t know a thing about West Virginia when he launched his search for a U.S. site. He first contacted state economic development offices in New Jersey, Virginia and North Carolina. But they responded slowly and didn’t seem that interested in a company that promised only 40 jobs, he said.

Catalfamo already had a promotional letter about West Virginia — written in Italian —so he decided to follow up.
On a visit to Charleston, development officials introduced him to local lawyers and state environmental and tax officials. He liked West Virginia’s inexpensive labor, facility and energy costs.
He also worked closely with West Virginia economic development officials, including Angela Mascia, the state Development Office’s Europe project director, and Matt Ballard, Executive Vice President at the Charleston Area Alliance.
It’s only in West Virginia you really find the maximum help,” Catalfamo said. “They make it faster and easier to set up companies. You have a terribly effective development office in West Virginia. There are less bureaucracy problems.”
Mascia, who speaks Italian fluently, sends promotional letters about West Virginia to Italian companies written in Italian and goes to trade shows attended by Italian executives.
Last year, an Esseco executive visited Charleston with his 9-year-old daughter. Mascia even looked after the girl while the executive attended business meetings.

She’s provided excellent customer service to the Italian companies,” said Bill Goode, executive director of the Charleston Area Alliance. “It seems to be a pretty good match for us to recruit from Italy.”

Steve Spence, who heads the state Development Office and its international division, said staff members work hard to forge relationships and provide a “personal touch” when recruiting businesses. The approach seems to work well with the Italian companies.

“A small project means something in West Virginia,” Spence said. “Twenty jobs might not mean a lot in New York, but it does here.”

It also doesn’t hurt that West Virginia’s governor and several top members of his administration are descendants of Italian immigrants. Manchin takes pride in his heritage. He also makes himself accessible to foreign business owners — no matter the company’s size.

“He’s absolutely open,” Catalfamo said. “He’s always available to help solve our problems. This makes the difference in how to attract businesses.”
Catalfamo expects to have a Charleston office set up within six months. The company hopes to start manufacturing chemicals and equipment used by auto body shops in the next year or two.

In the meantime, he already is spreading the word about business opportunities in West Virginia. He said many Italian companies want to expand outside the country because Europe is a “tired market.”

“These companies are very curious to see how to start a business in West Virginia,” he said. “There are going to be many more with interest in going there.”

To contact staff writer Eric Eyre, use e-mail or call 348-4869.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Charleston, affordable place to do business.

The article posted below from the Charleston Gazette is of no surprise to many of us working in business and economic development in West Virginia. While the article below focuses on the Charleston MSA, a study we focused on in early 2006 from the Milken Institute ranked West Virginia, as a state, as the tenth least expensive state in which to do business when considering the factors of wage cost, taxes, electricity costs, and real estate costs for industrial and office space. To find out more about how to open a business, expand a business, or relocate you business to the Charleston Area, please visit the web site of the Charleston Area Alliance.

From the Charleston Gazette

April 25, 2006
Business study ranks Charleston among least expensive U.S. cities
Charleston ranked as the fourth most inexpensive city for doing business in a national survey of metropolitan areas its size.
The research, carried out by the accounting company KPMG LLP, found that the costs of operating in the Charleston area are 5.5 percent below the national average.
Dothan, Ala., is the most competitive of metropolitan areas with populations between 100,000 and 500,000, with costs coming in 7.5 percent under the rest of the country, according to the research. It is followed by Lexington, Ky., and Lima, Ohio.
Just after Charleston in the rankings is Indianapolis, where costs are 3.5 percent under the average.
Charleston’s labor costs are second-lowest among the cities in the group. Its transportation, electricity and benefits costs are also on the low end, the survey found.
“It’s a very competitive area,” said Hartley Powell, head of KPMG’s Strategic Relocation and Expansion Services practice, a unit that advises businesses on where to locate. “Cost may not be the only factor that companies consider, but it’s always a factor, and you all show up on the radar as a very competitive city.”
Among Charleston-area industries, clinical trials management was found to be the most cost-competitive, with costs averaging more than 11 percent under the national average for costs. Biomedical research and development, electronic systems product testing and back-office services were found to operate about 8.5 percent under the national average for those sectors.
In fact, the costs for every industry sector are lower in the Charleston area than each sector’s national average. The least competitive sector here is telecommunications, where costs are 1.6 percent below the national average for telecom.
The study measures the combined impact of business operating costs like labor, facility, transportation and utilities, as well as income taxes. It tallies those costs after taxes, estimating the starting up and 10 years of operations of companies in 12 industries.
KPMG conducts city cost studies every other year, but this year is the first to have included Charleston.

Changes at the Kanawha City Mall are highlighted below in an article by Sarah K. Winn at the Charleston Gazette.

April 25, 2006
The other mall
New anchor steadying Kanawha City shopping center

By Sarah K. Winn Staff writer
Brisk business at the Town Center and Corridor G shops makes it easy to forget about the Kanawha Mall.
But it’s still there out on the edge of town, offering what its managers and owners say is a little bit of the best of both worlds: department stores as well as one-of-a-kind retailers, ample parking within city limits.
And now that a revamped Elder-Beerman has filled the long-vacant north-end anchor space, they say, the mall is creating the biggest buzz it’s had in years, which should help lure new restaurants and retailers to claim its remaining vacancies.
Among the potential tenants being courted is the bakery chain Panera Bread.
“Once you bring in a new anchor, that in turn attracts more prominent small shops,” says Donald Simpson, president of mall owner Simpson Properties Inc. of Johnstown, Pa.
“We’ve been talking to a number of national retailers about the new Elder-Beerman and how they could co-exist with the store,” he said, but he wouldn’t name names.
It’s not surprising that Elder-Beerman’s move last month — from a 40,000-square-foot space at the center of the mall to the twice-as-big anchor spot — has gotten the attention of prospective tenants.
The space had been empty since 2002, when the Ames Discount Stores location closed. The vacancy gave that end of the complex a desolate appearance and probably raised doubts that other closures might follow.
But Elder-Beerman’s big, bright marquee and sparkling new interior have transformed the atmosphere.
“You couldn’t ask for a better response,” said mall Manager Marilyn Bowles, who estimates that about 600 people attended the store’s grand opening. “Our customers have been looking forward to it for years,” she said.
Elder-Beerman’s counterweight on the mall’s south end is Gabriel Brothers, the discount department store with a customer following all its own.
Filling out the other mall spaces are a few chains — like Kay Bee Toys, the FYE music store and Bath & Body Works — and locally owned retailers like the Coffee Bean.
One of the more unusual occupants is a Division of Motor Vehicles branch office.
“The closing of the Ames immediately before we took over created a difficult leasing environment,” Simpson said. “The DMV was a way to address that. We worked with the state to double the size of this operation and provide a state-of-the-art retail facility.”
The location has been a hit with people conducting DMV business because of the mall’s convenient location and easy parking, he said, and it has brought business to other tenants.
“It’s always our hope with increased foot traffic comes increased cross-shopping,” Simpson said.
Features like the DMV make the Kanawha Mall unique, Simpson says.
“We are a completely different shopping center than Town Center as far as size and what we are going to be able to offer,” he said. “Certainly, there are going to be tenants that might choose one center over the other. Obviously, FYE and Hallmark would do fine in either. But I would not think that DMV would fare as well.”
Still, plenty of mall vacancies remain. A space that had long been home to a military recruiting office is empty, for instance. And the food court has but a single tenant, Different Twist Pretzel Co.
Simpson says the occupancy rate is above 85 percent.
Over the next six months, Simpson said, he will focus on bringing tenants to the food court. The only other eating option is China Buffet, which is part of the mall but not in the food court.
“Serious negotiations” are underway with three restaurants, and they could settle in as soon as the end of the year, Simpson said.
Charleston City Councilwoman Ditty Markham, who represents Kanawha City, says she has been working to bring Panera Bread to the mall. A Panera franchise opened at Southridge Center last summer.
The mall “has a lot of possibility,” Markham said. It “could really add several things this community lacks.”
What Kanawha City doesn’t need are big-box retailers like Wal-Mart, she said, and that’s why the mall is such a good fit. A plan to bring Wal-Mart to the lot across MacCorkle Avenue from the mall in 1997 failed amid complaints about the impact on traffic and independent businesses.
“We don’t want a big-box store there,” she said. “If the mall failed, Wal-Mart would be able to go in. With Elder-Beerman’s long-term lease, there won’t be that type of development there.”
Ideally, the mall’s growth will mean more boutique-type stores, like Williams-Sonoma Inc., a fancy-cookware seller, Markham said.
“We should enjoy that momentum [from Elder-Beerman’s re-opening] right now and take advantage of it,” Simpson said. “This is the time to take it to the next step. This a very important time in this mall’s life.”
To contact staff writer Sarah K. Winn, use e-mail or call 304-348-5156.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Welcome to the Business and Economic Development Blog of the Charleston Area Alliance. Within this blog we will discuss, debate, and analyze economic development in Charleston, Kanawha County, the Charleston Metropolitan Statistical Area, and West Virginia. This will be a central location for information on job creation, economic development incentives, real estate, site consultants, statistical data, retention, recruitment, trade, and all other topics related to economic development in West Virginia.

Your blog host is Matthew Ballard, the Executive Vice President of the Charleston Area Alliance.