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.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Ballard Ready to Lead Alliance

From the Charleston Daily Mail

New agency chief to focus on job creation, education, ambitious marketing

Cheryl Caswell

Daily Mail staff
Monday January 15, 2007

Matt Ballard acknowledges that he is young to be holding the reins of the area's primary community and economic development agency.
But Ballard, 30, considers that an advantage that affords him energy, ingenuity and a particular perspective to the needs of young professionals.
In December, he was named president of the Charleston Area Alliance, a group formed three years ago to merge the efforts and interests of the Charleston Chamber of Commerce, the former Charleston Renaissance Commission and the former Business and Industrial Development Corp. (BIDCO).

He has an ambitious vision for the city that encompasses business and economic development, education initiatives, neighborhood renewal and aggressive marketing strategies.
"We're going to continue to bring jobs into West Virginia," Ballard said. "And we have to market ourselves aggressively because we come to the table with less chips than everyone else.
"We also want to help the businesses we have stay here," he said. "We're going to focus on quality of life issues. We have a lot of what people like -- green spaces, outdoor spaces -- and we need to attract some good jobs to go along with that.

"I'm very excited about the future of the county and state," he said. "This is a multi-faceted organization with a lot of things going on, but that makes this very exciting."

Ballard's career history is relatively brief, but intriguing. A native of Harrison County, he attended Alderson Broaddus College and received a nursing degree. But his experience there in student government and interest in public policy led him to go on to earn a master's degree in public administration from West Virginia University.

His graduate work landed him at the legislature assisting Senate majority leader Truman Chafin and then a job working with state Tax Secretary Brian Kastick.
"I did a lot of special projects and worked with some interesting issues like the sales tax holiday," Ballard said. "Then the southern part of the state was hit with two major floods back to back and I worked on economic recovery of the businesses, especially in Wyoming and McDowell County.

"I became very interested in the economic hardships they were having there," Ballard said. And development people took notice of him, as well. He was appointed executive director of the Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreation Authority in February 2003. During his three-year tenure, the organization boosted its domain by 200 miles and more than doubled its revenue.
"We made it the hottest tourist attraction in the state with aggressive marketing and appropriate management," Ballard said.

When Ballard learned of the merger of Charleston's three development organizations into the new Charleston Area Alliance, he threw his name in the hat with several hundred other prospectives. He was hired as executive vice-president to work under Bill Goode and took his place Dec. 1.

His office is in a remodeled Smith Street warehouse that also serves as incubator space for a number of start-up companies. But his work takes him out regularly to meet with business owners, consultants, developers and others.

In his spare time, the Elkview resident enjoys golf and spends time with this wife and 10-month-old daughter.

"But work is play for me," he said. "Even when I'm watching television, I'm watching C-Span."

Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at or 348-4832.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

High Tech Jobs Going to Montgomery

From the Charleston Gazette:

January 20, 2007

Montgomery to get six high-tech jobs

By Susan WilliamsStaff writer

Thanks to a multimillion-dollar federal contract, six high-technology jobs are coming to Montgomery with the promise of more next year.
Sen. Robert C. Byrd announced Friday that Spatial Integrated Systems Inc. of Rockville, Md., has been awarded a $24 million contract from the U.S. Navy to develop special sensor technologies for unmanned surface vehicles.
The work will be done at the Upper Kanawha Valley Community Technology Building in Montgomery this spring.

“This contract will result in high-tech jobs for the Upper Kanawha Valley and is the realization of many years of dedicated effort on the part of community, academic and industry leaders to revitalize the regional economy,” Byrd said.

SIS has research and development facilities in Charleston and Montgomery, and partnerships with Technology Solutions in Charleston, the Upper Kanawha Valley Economic Development Corporation in Montgomery, faculty at both Marshall University and West Virginia University Institute of Technology and facilities in Arizona and California.
Dr. Ali Farsaie, president and CEO of SIS, said he will partner with Tech and Marshall and create as many as 20 high-tech jobs.

Farsaie said advances in special sensor technology for unmanned vehicles will help the Navy in its operational mission around the world.

To contact staff writer Susan Williams, use e-mail or call 348-5112.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce Issues Taxation Policy Paper

Equal Tax Administration/Tax Modernization

Background Information:

Every West Virginia taxpayer has an interest in fair and equal tax administration. Our tax system relies on voluntary compliance as the cornerstone of tax collection. Taxpayers need to know that other taxpayers pay their fair share, according to the rules, and that the tax department is evenhandedly auditing, administering and collecting taxes.

State Tax Department

Independent audits of the tax department point out the need for increased training, equipment and modernization of the tax audit and collection functions. The efficient allocation of tax audit resources actually produces a multiple return on the state’s expenditures when properly selected, planned and executed.

Strides have been made in the past two years; the Manchin administration and the Legislature recognized the need for upgrading the Tax Department. Last year, a $22 million appropriation was made for the purchase and installation of a new integrated computer system. This new system will allow the Department to more efficiently administer the tax laws as well as better target noncompliant businesses through better report generating capabilities. Additional improvements can be made in the area of training for employees of the state tax department to modernize its workforce.

Tax Shelters

Many corporate taxpayers across the country are using sophisticated tax shelters such as Passive Investment Companies (“PICs”) to artificially reduce or eliminate their share of state taxes. Other states have passed statutes to modernize their tax laws to eliminate such artificial planning techniques. One independent study group rated West Virginia as having the largest proportional loss of revenue among all the states due to such tax shelters.

Tax Modernization

During the last special session, the Governor and Legislature initiated some of the recommendations made by the tax modernization study; we applaud these efforts. We also would encourage state government to continue with a reduction of the Business Franchise Tax and Corporate Income Tax. However, those reductions should be completed only when the appropriate off-setting savings or new revenues are found as to responsibly manage our government and its commitment to its citizens as well as making responsible and important debt reductions.

West Virginia’s property tax on inventory is also a deterrent for businesses. Again, to reduce or remove this tax a legislative solution must also include a method to make up the lost revenue to counties, school systems, and municipalities and other entities currently receiving revenues from this portion of the property tax. One way to provide alternative revenues for counties and municipalities would be to provide local options to encourage revenue autonomy among local governments.

Action Steps

The Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce recommends that the legislature;

Review the allocation of resources by the tax department to insure fair, efficient and evenhanded tax administration, audit and collection; and assure the department has modernized tools and a trained and educated workforce to assure compliance;
Adopt legislation, commensurate with other states, to eliminate use of artificial methods of tax shifting and avoidance such as the PIC tax shelter.
Continue with implementation of the tax modernization study group recommendations.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

H.C. Nutting Joins Terracon

HC Nutting is a great company with a presence of 60+ employees in downtown Charleston. Read the press Release below:

Cincinnati-Based H.C. Nutting Company Joins Terracon

LENEXA, Kan. --- H.C. Nutting Company (HCN), an engineering consulting firm with headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, has joined Terracon, one of the nation’s largest employee-owned engineering consulting firms providing geotechnical, environmental, construction materials engineering and testing, and facilities services."We are delighted that Terracon and H.C. Nutting Company have joined forces,” said David Gaboury, P.E., Terracon’s president and chief executive officer. “Nutting has an excellent regional history and reputation. Together our national resources will bring tremendous value to clients.”The merger allows Terracon to further expand its operations into the Midwest and Northeast, and HCN to expand its service capabilities and offer national coverage to clients.

HCN president Jack Scott believes that Terracon is a good fit for the firm because of its similar values, successful track record, and large national resources that complement HCN’s strong reputation and regional success. Terracon also offers many opportunities to HCN employees including training and development, advancement and career relocation, and new corporate services."This is a tremendous opportunity for our employees,” Mr. Scott said. “Terracon is an outstanding firm with a tremendous infrastructure. Joining Terracon will enable Nutting to continue to grow and better serve our clients. From my perspective, two of the best just got better.”

HCN will continue functioning under the same name, but as a subsidiary of Terracon. Mr. Scott and the rest of HCN’s management team will remain intact. HCN’s five branch offices, located in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia, as well as the corporate office located in Cincinnati, will continue operations. The firm is retaining its entire staff of approximately 280 employees.HCN was founded in 1921 as an independent firm specializing in geotechnical, environmental, and construction materials engineering and testing services. Engineering News-Record’s (ENR) annual list of top 500 Design Firms ranked HCN at 467 in 2006. More information about HCN can be found on their Web site, Prior to the merger, Terracon provided services from more than 85 offices nationwide with more than 2,100 employees. With headquarters in Lenexa, Kan., Terracon currently ranks 50th on Engineering News-Record’s list of top 500 Design Firms. For additional information about Terracon, please visit them on the Web at

Office with Charleston Presence Makes Acquisitions

GAI acquires two companies, expands Pittsburgh office and promotes senior staff

January 5, 2007 - Exciting growth is planned in 2007 for local engineering firm GAI Consultants, Inc., (GAI), with major acquisitions in Philadelphia, Pa., and Orlando, Fla., that will broaden the company's already extensive list of clients and services along with the expansion of its Pittsburgh, Pa., facility.

With an office also located in Charleston, W.Va., this acquisition of both Valley Forge Laboratories, Inc. (VFL), in Philadelphia as well as Hartman Consulting and Design (HCD) in Orlando, will allow GAI to offer more diversified services in materials testing, water resources studies, and management consulting, to name a few. VFL and HCD together will add about 55 new employees to GAI's 500+ person staff. VFL's and HCD's offices are located near GAI's existing Philadelphia and Orlando offices.

Founded in 1967, VFL offers a wide range of services, including geotechnical engineering; construction inspection; laboratory testing and analysis; transportation and traffic engineering; environmental engineering - noise studies/design; and research and special studies.
HCD specializes in environmental engineering and management consulting with particular engineering emphasis in water resources, wastewater, reclaimed water and stormwater reuse projects. Their management consulting services include utility valuation, expert witness testimony, utility rate studies, bonds and finance, certified appraising and utility creation and certification.

Additionally, a groundbreaking will occur in January 2007 on GAI's new 24,000-square-foot office building adjacent to GAI's existing 85,000-square-foot main office building at the Waterfront in Pittsburgh. The additional space is needed to accommodate the continued strong staff growth in this region.

"We are all excited about our growth opportunities and adding the professional expertise of HCD and VFL to GAI's organization. Both firms have long-standing, impressive, professional reputations and cultures similar to GAI's. 2007 will be a great year for GAI to grow, with continued focus on serving our clients' needs," says Gary DeJidas, P.E., President/CEO of GAI.
Accompanying the acquisitions and building expansion are GAI senior staff promotions including a new Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President Rusty J. Sievers, P.E.. With more than 39 years experience in planning, design, and construction of transportation-related and site development areas, Mr. Sievers will oversee GAI's expanding technical operations, which includes eight offices throughout the Northeast, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Southeast United States.

"In my 16 years working for GAI, I have always believed in GAI's vision of quality work, client satisfaction and an efficient, professional and effective working atmosphere. As COO, I hope to do my best to uphold this vision for our clients and our staff," Sievers said.
Other promotions to accommodate the company's growth include Executive Vice President Larry Dodds, P.E., P.L.S., who will serve as one of the company's Senior Advisor, and Vice President Richard A. Cima, P.E., who will serve as the Orlando office Managing Officer.
Established in 1958, GAI Consultants, Inc. (GAI) is a multi-disciplined professional engineering, planning, environmental, and construction services firm serving clients throughout the Eastern United States, Southeast and Midwest. GAI offices are located in Pittsburgh, Pa.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Orlando, Fla.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Charleston, W.Va.; Richmond, Va. and Florence, Ky. For more information, visit ###

Monday, January 08, 2007

Simpson & Osborne and Dixon Hughes Merge Firms

"The financial services industry is a good indicator of growth within the regional economy," Matthew Ballard, President Charleston Area Alliance.

Read the official press release below:

Company executives announce plans to create up to
100 new jobs over the next three years

(Charleston, W.Va.) January 8, 2007—Simpson & Osborne, one of the largest accounting firms based in West Virginia, announced today that it has completed a merger agreement with Dixon Hughes, the largest accounting firm headquartered in the Southeastern United States, effective February 1st, 2007. The merged firm will operate in West Virginia and across its service territory as Dixon Hughes.

West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin joined Simpson & Osborne CEO Rick Slater along with S&O co-founder Bob Simpson and Dixon Hughes co-CEOs Eddie Sams and Ken Hughes in a standing-room-only press conference this afternoon.

“Our people are our greatest value,” said Manchin. “But in order to keep them here we need to give them opportunities, and that’s what today is about.”

Slater, now the Managing Partner of Dixon Hughes’ West Virginia practice area, said the merger would not only give both companies a new depth of resources and expertise to better serve clients in the region, but that Dixon Hughes’ aggressive growth strategy could only be fueled by bringing on additional talent.

Dixon Hughes co-CEO Eddie Sams announced that in the coming months, the company would focus on growing their healthcare and community banking practice areas, creating an opportunity for up to 100 new, high-paying jobs in West Virginia over the next three years. “Our merger strategy is simple,” said Sams. “It’s a talent search.”

Slater said that Dixon Hughes’ focus on their staff is one of the reasons why joining forces made sense. “We were looking for a firm high in integrity that cherished their people,” said Slater, “and that’s what we found in Dixon Hughes.”

At the announcement, Governor Manchin took the opportunity to make Dixon Hughes partners Eddie Sams and Ken Hughes honorary “citizens of West Virginia”, a gesture that was greeted with applause from the audience. Simpson & Osborne Co-Founder Bob Simpson summed up the day by saying, “Just a word about the future. Great things are going to happen.”


Simpson & Osborne was founded in 1974 by Bob Simpson and Roger Osborne. The company currently has 70 employees with offices in Charleston and Morgantown West Virginia. In addition to serving clients across West Virginia, the firm also provides specialized services to companies with operations throughout the nation. For additional information, please visit

Dixon Hughes currently has 1,030 employees with offices in seven states. For additional information, please visit