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.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Minutes of Young Professionals Meeting – June 23, 2006 4:30 p.m. Charleston Area Alliance Offices

The meeting of the Charleston Area Alliance Young Professionals was called to order by Matthew Ballard, Executive Vice President, Charleston Area Alliance. Matt introduced the caterers for the meeting, Meticulous, which is owned and operated by young professionals Ehren and Wendy Johnson of Charleston.

Matt introduced Sally Smith, Bowles, Rice, McDavid, Graff & Love, who chairs the Charleston Alliance Business Development Committee. Sally gave an overview of some of the activities and announcements that the business development committee has been working on over the past six months. Announcements such as New Finishing Line, Applied Computing and Engineering, Magnum Coal, Chesapeake Energy, and Esseco are good news for the region and translate to more jobs and opportunities for young professionals.

Meeting attendees then introduced themselves and told the group a little about where they worked and why they are interested in becoming involved in the young professionals group.

At the conclusion of the introductions, Matt passed out the Young Professionals Housing Report. The committee then appointed Charles Roskovensky, Attorney with the West Virginia Legislature, to be the young professional’s liaison with the West Virginia Housing Development Fund.

Matt Ballard then introduced Erin Molchany, the Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project (PUMP), a group supporting the interests of young professionals. Erin gave an overview of the PUMP organization and the Pittsburgh Sports League, a subsidiary of PUMP which acts as an enterprise center for PUMP. Erin gave an overview of how PUMP was started, how it has grown, future plans, its funding sources, staffing, and programs. The young professionals will meet soon to discuss how some of the PUMP programs might work in the Charleston region.

Following Erin’s presentation, Matt introduced Jessica Faulkenberry, BB&T, and co-chair of the Huntington Young Professionals group. Jessica gave a brief overview of what activities are happening with Huntington’s group and suggested that the Charleston and Huntington groups should work together on creating networking opportunities, joint events, and any other ways they might work together.

The meeting was adjourned and the committee encouraged to attend one of the many events occurring throughout the city including Blues, Brews and Barbeque, the Power baseball team and Live at the Levee. Members were also reminded of the weekend’s activities with FestivAll.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

No Child Left Behind in West Virginia

West Virginia is one of only three states, so far, to be fully approved under requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Federal education officials made the announcement on Monday. "We want to congratulate the Department of Education and the local officials in West Virginia," says U.S. Assistant Secretary for Education Henry Johnson.

Johnson says West Virginia is a good example for other states because the state had one of the longest ways to go to meet the requirements."What makes West Virginia special is where they started from to where they are at this point," says Johnson. He says, at one point, the state was not meeting the less stringent school requirements under the Improving America's Schools Act. No Child Left Behind requires more."They've worked very, very hard to reach this particular status now where they are fully approved," says Johnson.

Senior Policy Advisor Catherine Freeman says more states will pick up approval in the coming week. Systems throughout the country had until the end of this school year to meet the requirements under the assessment system."Right now, the department is in the process of making the determinations for all states," says Freeman. "States are in varying degrees of approved status. Some states have more to do than others."The other two states that have received full approval, at this point, are Maryland and Tennessee.No Child Left Behind is a federal education program designed to reduce the achievement gap between students of different socioeconomic backgrounds.Schools must make what's called Adequate Yearly Progress. Students are evaluated through annual academic assessments. It's designed to promote accountability and higher education standards.

Monday, June 26, 2006

New Automotive Operations in Charleston Region.

Congratulations on this new success to our friends in neighboring Jackson County.

From the Governor's Office:

A.K. of West Virginia Opens Jackson County Facility

- June 26, 2006
Contact: Lara Ramsburg, 304-558-2000
RAVENSWOOD, W.Va. - A.K. of West Virginia Corp. officials today celebrated the dedication of the company’s new production facility in Jackson County, located adjacent to K.S. of West Virginia’s Ravenswood production facility. In July 2005, Kazuo Kato, CEO of K.S. of West Virginia Co. Ltd. located in Ravenswood, West Virginia, and president of Kato Seisakusho Co. Ltd. of Nagoya, Japan, announced a joint venture between K.S. of West Virginia and ASKA Corp. of Kariya, Japan. A.K. of West Virginia, a 50/50 ownership between the two companies with a projected $10 million combined investment, will create as many as 100 jobs. “K.S. of West Virginia is a successful business that is a result of excellent employees, exceptional customers, and strong support from our local, state, and national leaders. We plan to use this model to ensure that A.K. of West Virginia is also a success,” said Kato, co-CEO of A.K. of West Virginia.

“ASKA Corp. is very proud to partner with K.S. of West Virginia in this new joint venture. The support and leadership from West Virginia is impressive, and we look forward to A.K. of West Virginia becoming an important part of the state and local community,” said ASKA Corp. President Keisho Katayama, co-CEO of A.K. of West Virginia.

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Governor Manchin solidified plans for the new company during their Spring 2005 Trade Mission to Japan. During a meeting in Nagoya, Japan, attended by Mr. Kato, Mr. Katayama, Senator Rockefeller and Governor Manchin - A.K. of West Virginia was born. “West Virginia appreciates this important investment in Jackson County by K.S. of West Virginia and ASKA Corp.,” the governor said. “As one of the state’s earliest Japanese investments, K.S. of West Virginia’s confidence in West Virginia’s ideal location and skilled, productive work force helped pave the way for automotive industry growth in this region. The partnership of K.S., a caring, family-oriented employer and outstanding corporate citizen, and ASKA Corp., with its impeccable reputation in automotive technology, will yield positive results for generations to come.” “The opening of A.K. of West Virginia represents not only a marriage of two companies – it also represents the further strengthening of West Virginia as one of the premier automotive manufacturing industry centers in the eastern United States,” said Sen. Rockefeller. “We’ve been very successful in showing companies around the world the enormous benefits of locating plants in West Virginia and tapping into the work ethic of our citizens. Our success has meant more economic development, more jobs and more recognition of our state around the globe.”

National and international, state and local partners have cooperated in K.S. of West Virginia’s success story, including U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito. “Today is a great day in what we expect to be a celebrated relationship between A.K. of West Virginia and the state of West Virginia," Rep. Capito said. "I am confident that Jackson County will be a very capable and fitting home for this new venture, and I welcome the quality jobs it will bring to the area.”

A.K of West Virginia Corp. is a metal stamping company manufacturing small-to medium-sized precision parts, which will also perform welding and assembly, to serve the automotive industry. K.S. of West Virginia Co. Ltd., which incorporated in West Virginia on Oct. 12, 1995, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kato Seisakusho Co. Ltd. in Nagoya, Japan. Established in 1949 as a toy car manufacturer, Kato Seisakusho Co. Ltd., is now a world leader in precision metal stamping, plastic molding, die-making and assembly. Kato Seisakusho Co. Ltd.’s other subsidiaries include Chihiro Co. Ltd. in Nagoya, Japan; Beyonics Precision Stamping Pte. Ltd. in Singapore; Ranee Precision Co. Ltd. in Inchon, South Korea; and, Shanghai Aigi Automotive Parts Co. Ltd., scheduled to open this fall in Shanghai, China. K.S. of West Virginia performs metal stamping and assembly of small, precision parts, as well as insert injection molding, for the automotive industry. K.S. of West Virginia has approximately 100 full-time employees working a three-shift operation. ASKA Corp. was established in Nagoya, Japan, in 1953, as a metal stamping company. The company currently has approximately 520 employees and three business divisions: automobile parts, switchboard and robot systems. Metal stamped products manufactured by ASKA Corp.’s automobile parts division include body parts, chassis parts and engine device parts. Switchboard products include switchboards, control panels, boxes for boards, high and low distribution panels and cubicles. The robot division manufactures industrial robots, factory automation systems, control systems and network equipment. Along with ASKA Corp.’s headquarters and main plant in Kariya, it has a second production facility in Nukata-Gun, both in the Aichi Prefecture. ASKA Corp.’s other subsidiaries include ASKA Limited Co. of Kariya, Japan; ARMS Co., Ltd. also of Kariya, Japan; FIRSTEC Co., Ltd. of Chongju, South Korea; and ASKA Engineering Corporation in Cincinnati, Ohio, which was established in March 2004. For additional company information, contact: Tim Bailey, Executive V.P./GM, K.S. of West Virginia (304) 273-5500, ext. 24; email:

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A big weekend in Charleston.

Well, we are set up for a big weekend in Charleston. Last weekend, I enjoyed the Smoke on the Water Chili Cook-off. This weekend, you can take in the activities of Festivall, Live on the Levee, Power Baseball, and many other activities. These events are just one element of a growing culture for our creative class and one that will keep and attract young professionals.

Speaking of young professionals, if you are a young professional in the area and want to kick off the weekend on Friday evening, please join the Charleston Area Alliance as is continues its young professional committee development. This committee is goal oriented, focusing on issues that impact young professionals in our area. Friday June, 23rd at 4:30 at the Charleston Alliance Offices at 1116 Smith Street, the Young Professionals Committee will welcome Erin Molchany the Executive Director of Pittsburgh’s Urban Magnet Project (PUMP). PUMP is the young professionals group in Pittsburgh, which has been going strong for ten years. We hope to will learn more about the types of programs PUMP utilizes to support young professionals and a vibrant community.

Immediately following the meeting, there are several activities occurring around Charleston. First, the Power baseball team is at home and in easy walking distance from our offices. Second, Festivall 2006 will be featuring a "Blues du Jour" event at the University of Charleston with live music from the Carpenter Ants and others, and Live a the Levee will feature Bob Thompson Jazz. The committee can visit one or serveral of these events after our meeting.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

East End Mural Project

Part of a great city is a great look and creativity from its citizens. Please see a message from East End Main Street Director, Mary Alice Hodgson below:

Hello East End Neighbors!!

Join the volunteers from East End Main Street for a special free EAST END FestivALL event! We're taking over the streets and getting inspired for our new public arts mural project with artist Rob Cleeland. Come on down and bring the kids to paint your own idea of what East End murals should look like. We'll have lots of paints, brushes and big canvases for kids and adults to paint on. Wear your painting duds and be prepared to create! Rob will be taking inspiration from what we paint that day to include in his final design. Artspace, a new arts non-profit will also be there with lots of fun fabric take-home art projects for kids and healthy snacks and drinks. Ron Sowell, superstar children's musician, will play for us at 10:00 am. We want the community to be a part of this special event and we hope to see you there. Not interested in painting? How about volunteering? We could always use an extra pair of hands that day! Give us a call and we'll let you know how you can help.

Please pass this along to your friends and neighbors and people from outside the East End...the more the merrier!

This Saturday! June 24th!
Time: 8:00-12:00
Where: Elizabeth Street between Washington and Jackson Streets

Call us, Mary Alice or Eleanor, for details or questions. 304-340-4253
mahodgson@charlestonareaalliance or


Expansion in Kanawha County.

It is great to see companies expanding and adding services. Congratulations to Old Dominion.

From the Charleston Gazette.

June 20, 2006
Old Dominion Freight moving

Old Dominion Freight Line Inc.’s service center is moving from North Charleston to Dunbar.

The company will trade in its 28-door center on Seventh Avenue in North Charleston for a 40-door facility on a 5-acre site on Marshall Avenue in Dunbar. The expansion and relocation should happen around the end of July.

“This will greatly improve our efficiency, allowing us to better serve our customers and also provide more room to grow,” said John Stratton, manager of sales and service.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Online Exhibit In Celebration Of West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - In celebration of West Virginia Day, Governor Joe Manchin
III and First Lady Gayle Manchin today introduced the Division of Culture and
History’s new online exhibit, “A State of Convenience: The Creation of West
Virginia,” during an event in the Great Hall of the Cultural Center.

“I am very excited about this online addition to our state’s Division of Culture
and History,” the governor said. “West Virginians truly understand the
importance of family and community. We are so proud of our heritage, and this
exhibit showcases our state’s past – highlighting the work of our forefathers as
well as the important events that make West Virginia and West Virginians what we
are today.”

The online exhibit tells the story of the formation of the state of West
Virginia in the words of the statehood leaders, from the early differences
between eastern and western Virginia through the establishment of the new state
of West Virginia in 1863. Featuring photographs and documents from the
collections of the West Virginia State Archives, the exhibit will be available
on the Division’s website at as well as the governor’s
official Web site at .

Exhibit highlights include images of more than 60 statehood leaders; statehood
letters, documents and speeches, including a broadside for the order of
ceremonies for the inauguration of West Virginia and the election ticket of
Arthur Boreman, the state’s first governor; and transcriptions of the
proceedings of the statehood conventions, the debate in the U.S. Senate
regarding admitting West Virginia to the Union, President Abraham
Lincoln’s written opinion on the admission of West Virginia, Boreman’s inaugural
address, and the first state constitution. Many items in the exhibit have never
been available on the internet before now.

Items will be added to the online exhibit on an ongoing basis. Anyone with
statehood-related memorabilia who is willing to donate those items to the
Archives is encouraged to contact Fredrick Armstrong, director of archives and
history, at (304) 558-0230.

West Virginia Day is celebrated each year on June 20, which is the anniversary
of the state’s creation in 1863. The state’s annual celebration of the holiday
will be held on Tuesday at West Virginia Independence Hall in Wheeling, with
speeches, music and children’s activities. Known as the “birthplace of West
Virginia,” Independence Hall was the site of a series of events leading up to
the state’s creation, including the first constitutional convention. For more
information about the West Virginia Day celebration, call Independence Hall at
(304) 238-1300.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West
Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past,
present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and
history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. Visit the Division’s
website at for more information about programs of the
Division. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal
Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Open for Business


Governor Manchin’s proclamation that West Virginia is now “Open For Business” has been backed by the arrival of several new businesses to the area that he announced in his State of the State Address in January.

Chesapeake Energy has moved to office space in downtown Charleston since the decision was made to locate their Eastern seaboard office here. They are currently looking into building a campus-like setting in the Capitol City for their offices.

Battelle Memorial, a $3 billion a year research corporation, now has a presence at South Charleston’s Dow tech park. Matthew Ballard, the executive vice president of Charleston Area Alliance, says that having Battelle in Charleston is a big deal because of all the research they do. To give some perspective on Battelle’s past accomplishments, they were the research company that provided most of the technology that provided the Xerox copying machine.

Another new addition to Dow Park is Applied Computing and Energy. The company creates software for manufacturers and plans to hire ten graduate level engineers in the area over the next two years.

New business doesn’t end there, however. Magnum Coal is moving their headquarters to downtown Charleston, bringing fifty to sixty new executives with it. The Alliance will continue to work with Governor Manchin this year to bring both domestic and international companies to the state. Of the work that lays ahead, Ballard states, “Looking forward in this coming year, we have a couple more international prospects we’re working on. We’re looking at specialty manufacturing in chemicals that can replace a little bit of some of the chemical industry we’ve lost in the past.”

The Alliance is focusing on the printing industry and how they can bring it to the state. Ballard explains, “Printing is more than just the actual printing. It’s the manufacturing of the presses, it’s the chemicals that go into the inks, it’s the printing itself.”He believes that the state is not promoting WVU Tech’s printing management program as much as they should be and the Alliance is trying to get the word out.“You can come to West Virginia and we have a great workforce, a trained workforce in this particular area, and we have a lot of the variables that you need to be successful in the printing industry (such as the chemical industry’s relationship with ink suppliers).”

The arrival of the long-awaited Clay Center has brought on its coattails the need for more impressive architecture like a new library. The proposed new library for downtown Charleston is still in its early stages. Fundraising is the first step in this project as the initial estimate for the cost ranges between $30-40 million. The proposal follows a facilities study that found that the current aged building, while beautiful and historic, has maximized space to its fullest potential and that major changes, such as upgrading the building’s heating and cooling and the electrical system and providing parking accommodations, are greatly needed. According to a brochure from the library, entitled “Main Library Building Project,” “it was determined (renovations) would not be the most efficient or cost effective method to improve services. In order to provide high level library services throughout the county, the system needs a new headquarters.”The new building will be located near the Clay Center and have a 250-space, two-level parking garage and a lot with an additional 116 spaces with easy access for school buses. It will have approximately 140,000 square feet with 9,230 square feet unfinished and offer at least 70 more computer stations, a preschool exploration center, a children’s programming area, a business resource center, a climate-controlled West Virginia room, meeting room spaces and much more.

Ballard is excited about the new library. He believes it will be a project similar to that of the Clay Center in that it will take several years before the actual construction begins.“I’ve seen the video of what the vision is and it’s absolutely amazing. I can’t think of a better compliment to the Clay Center than to have that downtown. Our current library is nice, it’s architecturally interesting, but I don’t think it’s very ADA compliant and there’s no parking. But this new library if it happens, I’ll be spending a lot of my time there.”

Some businesses are choosing to renovate older buildings in the area rather than watch them be torn down and replaced with new buildings. Bill Ellis, for example, recently purchased the old Stone and Thomas building downtown.Ellis plans to renovate both inside and out, using all but the first floor for office space and using the ground level for restaurants and retail locations.

We can’t forget the struggle over the waterfront development either. While no definite plans have been made, Susan Johnson continues to fight for development that she is sure will bring new life to the city. Ballard agrees that the city probably isn’t maximizing on its waterfront area as it could be. “I think some of the great cities are built around wonderful water facilities like our river and we can maximize it probably better than we are.” Ballard is upbeat about the path the Capitol City is on these days. “There’s a lot going on. Charleston, I feel, is on the upswing. Businesses have realized, people from out of the area have realized, that they can come to West Virginia. It’s a great place for them to live personally and they can bring their business here and find a great workforce at a low cost. I think our message is finally getting out.”

For more information on the Charleston Area Alliance, visit

For more information on the new library project, visit

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Next Business After Hours.

The last Business After Hours was packed. It was the place to be... and I suspect this event will be the same. Last month, the Alliance Business After Hours at City National Bank was a big hit. Join us this month at 405 Capitol Street.

Silling Associates Inc. and Smith Cochran & Hicks will host a Charleston Area Alliance "Business After Hours" business card exchange from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at 405 Capitol St.
Cost for members of the alliance is $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Cost for non-members is $20. To register call the alliance at 340-4253 or register online at

Maier to receive Spirit of the Valley Award

The Charleston Area Alliance has an energetic Board of Directors. One of those members is Mr. Ed Maier. Earlier this year, Ed was the recipient of the Lewis McManus Hi-Y Community Service Award and now he is being honored with the YMCA Spirit of the Valley Award. Congratulations to Ed Maier! The article below from the Charleston Gazette highlights the details of this honor.

Maier to receive Spirit of the Valley Award

By Jessica Legge
Staff writer

Charleston businessman and philanthropist Ed Maier is this year’s recipient of the YMCA Spirit of the Valley Award.

The YMCA of the Kanawha Valley will present Maier with his award at an Aug. 16 luncheon. The award recognizes an individual who contributes to the greater Charleston community in a positive way.

The Spirit of the Valley is a campaign to raise money for the YMCA Community Assistance Scholarship Fund.

This program helps low-income individuals and families join the YMCA. People are encouraged to participate in the fundraising effort by donating in honor of Maier.

Last year, the YMCA collected $193,000 for the fund. This money allowed more than 2,700 children and families to become YMCA members and participate in camps and programs.

This year, part of the Spirit of the Valley proceeds will go to the Clay Center Education Access Fund, which works to give all West Virginia children the chance to experience the Clay Center. Maier and his family chose this fund.

The honoree selection committee includes Charleston Mayor Danny Jones, Jim Sutherland of the United Way of Central West Virginia, and the YMCA’s Bill Slack.

Others on the committee are Mary Anne Michael of the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, Capital Area Development Corp.’s Jack Rossi, and previous recipients.

Last year’s winner was the late John M. Wells Jr., and Betty Schoenbaum received the 2004 award.

For more information on donating, call 340-3540.

To contact staff writer Jessica Legge, use e-mail or call 348-5100.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Get Innovative or Get Dead.

The recent CEO Roundtable held by the Charleston Area Alliance featured guest speaker and presenter Dr. Parvez Wadia, Chief Technology Officer of MATRIC. Dr. Wadia spoke of the importance of intellectual property and how to leverage intellectual property for a competitive advantage. The presentation focused on Technology Commercialization and IP considerations. This presentation was particularly useful for the small business owner.

Dr. Wadia’s Advice:

A formal IP strategy must be developed and integrated with your business strategy

Competitive advantage can only be maximized by effectively leveraging all of the firm’s resources: capital, human resources, IP and work process.

Return on IP strategy should be developed, measured and communicated

Strategy should address criteria for patents versus trade secrets

Understand foreign and US patent laws, opposition strategies, enforceability, working requirements and damage recovery is critical to resource management.

Recognition that “best mode” disclosure without highlighting commercial practice will require additional R&D and legal resources

Timing for when to file a patent can be complex issue for large R&D projects with aggressive timelines.

Patent filing must be carefully coordinated with “offer for sale” and “first commercial use” to prevent in-validity.

“Submarine” and “work process” patents pose a special challenge in the US and must be proactively managed.

Technology licensing programs require special IP considerations.

Ability to practice your own patented invention should not be confused with “freedom to operate” legal opinions.

Early involvement of IP attorney in research planning and FTO opinions is crucial.

IP portfolio management for cost-value optimization requires vision and discipline.

Organizational “white spaces” in large companies can result in IP value destruction

Inventor recognition is important, but should not be used a primary mechanism for rewards

IP strategy must critically examine competitor patents and utilize patent mapping tools

Rick management strategies based on probability of infringement action and level of commercial impact should be developed.

Most challenging IP issues for senior executives involved low probability of infringement but very high financial impact; including injunctions targeted at large integrated manufacturing operations.

Dr. Wadia also addressed the importance of having an IP attorney. Personally, I could not highlight that particular point enough. At my last organization I was involved in a federal suit involving trademark violations and infringements (not a patent, but similar issues). It was a great learning experience and we came out on top, but immediately after resolving the case, we were hard at work on solidifying all our trade marks, logo’s and other intellectual property.

If you would like more information or would like Dr. Wadia to present this information on IP to your business group, you can find him here.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Many Roles of an Economic Developer

For those of you in the economic development field, I found this list recently I thought you might enjoy.

Economic Development; helping things happen that most people think just happen.

Business Recruiter
Fund Raiser
Public Relations/Marketing Professional
Community Developer
Meeting Planner/Facilitator/Event Planner
Real Estate Expert

Monday, June 05, 2006

The great merger debate.

To merge or not to merge, that is the question!

In the below article it is great to see that the young professionals group of Pittsburgh, which is called Pittsburgh’s Urban Magnet Project (PUMP) is involved in driving merger dialog in our neighboring state. Charleston’s Young Professionals Committee is pleased to host Erin C. Molchany, the Executive Director of PUMP at its June 23rd meeting. Erin is going to give our young professionals a look at how PUMP was started, how it works now, and what the plans are for the future.

Enjoy the following article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Local government merger is hot topic for leaders
Monday, June 05, 2006

By Rich Lord, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Leadership Pittsburgh's recent graduates want it. They said so Friday, when they released a blueprint for melting the city of Pittsburgh's government into Allegheny County's government.

Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project members want it. In a survey taken last year, 80 percent said it was important to reduce the amount of government in the region, and 72 percent wanted to merge the city into the county.

The Allegheny Conference on Community Development, a business group that has driven many of the region's policies for 50 years, seems to want it. Reforming the local government structure is among its top priorities.

So is it possible that, a century after Pittsburgh stopped annexing its neighbors, there's a critical mass of interest in erasing the city, or some of the other 129 municipalities that make up the governmental tangle called Allegheny County?

At Point Park University on Friday, the answer seemed to be "yes."

There, four-dozen graduates of Leadership Pittsburgh's class for regional rising stars told a ballroom full of honchos that, after studying 10 cities and interviewing 60 local leaders, they believe the city can and should be merged into the county.

One of those graduates, the Pittsburgh Technology Council's chief lobbyist, Brian Kennedy, said he started out viewing such a move as "a bridge too far, with limited results." Now, he believes that it can and should be done, to improve economic development and planning, boost the region's clout, and improve efficiency.

That jibes with the findings of Jerry Paytas, director of Carnegie Mellon University's Center for Economic Development. In 2004, he published the results of a multiyear study of 285 metropolitan areas that found Pittsburgh to be the third most fragmented region. Only in the Philadelphia and Boston areas was governmental power more diffuse.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Pittsburgh ranked only 263rd in economic competitiveness.

Given such findings, you'd think that merging a few of the smaller municipalities would be an easy sell. Not so.

State Reps. Tom Stevenson, R-Mt. Lebanon, and Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill, introduced a bill last year to make it easy for voters to initiate municipal mergers.

"It has never gotten to a floor vote," said Mr. Frankel. Municipal officials had "a visceral reaction" and lobbied to kill it.

Kilbuck Supervisor Russell Hardiman has been trying to merge his 2.35-square-mile municipality into neighboring Ohio Township for years, to no avail. His two fellow supervisors disapproved, and Ohio Township balked because it might have to help pay to repair a closed road, he said.

"I'm battle-weary, but I'm having some effect," Mr. Hardiman said. "They're talking about a regional [North Hills] police department."

If merging Kilbuck is tough, try melting the city, with its $840 million debt and half-billion-dollar pension shortfall, into anything else.

Having the city ask you to merge would be "like your poor, drunk uncle was going to come and live with you," said James Malloy, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents 860 city officers.

"I have no fear of it," he said of a merger, which he figured wouldn't reduce the need for law enforcement. "I don't think you're going to see it happen for many, many years."

In a sense, though, it's hard to imagine better timing.

The city is in the third of at least seven years of state fiscal oversight, and the pressure is on to pass some of its functions to the county.

"We need more efficient, more effective government," said Barbara McNees, vice chairwoman of the state-appointed Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority -- called ICA -- and president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce.

The ICA has told the city to merge much of its purchasing, plus its payroll and tax collection, with the county this year. It hasn't yet weighed in on getting rid of the city altogether.

County Chief Executive Dan Onorato would consider any level of government consolidation, from swallowing the city to creating a single countywide municipality, said his spokesman, Kevin Evanto.

As for Leadership Pittsburgh's freshly minted standard bearers, they're vowing to share their enthusiasm and make "municipal merger" more than wonkish buzzwords.

"Our role as leaders," said one grad, Bruce Russell, dean of Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania's College of Business, Information and Social Sciences, "is to go out and speak to groups as much as we can to clear up the misconceptions on what consolidation is."


(Rich Lord can be reached at or 412-263-1542. )

West Virginia Labor, the Most Productive you can Find!

Once again this article from the Charleston Gazette demonstrates the efficiency and productivity of the West Virginia Workforce. Congratulations to those employees in West Virginia's Toyota Plant for be the best once again!

From the Charleston Gazette

June 03, 2006

Toyota plant in Buffalo named most productive

Workers at Toyota’s Buffalo, West Virginia plant are again the most productive four- and six-cylinder engine makers in North America, according to a national auto industry analyst’s report.

It took the Putnam County workers 1.82 hours to make a four-cylinder engine, which made the facility the most productive engine operation for the fifth consecutive year, the 2006 Harbour Report said. The workers made 3.3-liter six-cylinder engines in 2.95 hours, down from three hours last year.

Harbour Consulting produces the annual report, which measures each automaker and its plant’s assembly, stamping and powertrain productivity performances.

This is only the third time the Harbour Report has had an engine plant that’s made engines in faster than two hours, and each time it was the West Virginia plant. Buffalo workers took an average of 1.88 hours to make its 1.8-liter four-cylinder engines in 2004, down from 1.94 in 2003.

Toyota’s North American workers were the most productive engine makers out of five other automakers in 2005, the report said. It took the company’s workers 2.9 hours to make an engine.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., congratulated the Putnam County workers for being dubbed the “benchmark in engine productivity.”

“What the workers at our Buffalo plant have done is simply unheard of,” he said in a prepared statement. “They have turned the production of automobile engines into an art form.

Toyota also remains one of the most profitable automakers in North America.

Toyota, Nissan and Honda each earned more than $1,200 on every vehicle they sold on the continent last year. Chrysler Group earned $233, while Ford lost $590 and General Motors lost $2,496, the report said.

The gap reflects several factors, like a large difference in health-care and pension costs, lower average revenue and higher costs of rebates and low interest rate financing required to trim inventories.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Governor Discusses WV Opportunities With Russian Trade Delegation

- June 01, 2006

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Gov. Joe Manchin met today with representatives of a Russian trade delegation visting West Virginia to discuss economic trade opportunities with companies based in the Mountain State.

This week’s visit is a follow-up to a West Virginia Development Office-sponsored trade mission to Russia that took place in October 2004. That mission included two mining equipment related companies, A.L. Lee Corporation of Lester and Kanawha Scales and Systems of Poca, as well as two non-mining related companies, Appalachian Electronic Instruments of Ronceverte and FCX Systems of Morgantown. The International Division of the West Virginia Development Office organized both the 2004 mission and this week’s visit in cooperation with the U.S. Commercial Service, located at the American Embassy in Moscow.

“The West Virginia Development Office is doing an outstanding job in follow-up work with the leads and contacts we’ve generated through our international development efforts, and this week’s visit is a continuation of these efforts,” the governor said. “Our recent trade mission to Europe and this week’s delegation visit confirm that we are making an impact in our efforts to spread the word that West Virginia is open for business and well on its way to becoming a player in the global marketplace.”

The Russian business delegation arrived in the state on Tuesday, and will depart on Friday. During their stay, delegation members will meet with companies that participated in the 2004 mission as well as other West Virginia companies that have expressed interest in the Russian market since the first mission.