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, November 30, 2007

Trade delegation preparing for trip to France
Thursday November 29, 2007

Daily Mail Business Editor

Picture: Andrew Dunlap, Charleston Area Alliance Economic Development Project Manager

A delegation of economic development professionals from Advantage Valley -- the region that includes Kanawha, Putnam and Cabell counties -- departs Saturday for a weeklong trade mission to France.

"We have had more than 20 companies express an interest in meeting with us," said Mike Herron, president of Advantage Valley. "We're dividing into two teams so we can cover more ground, visit more people."

Scheduled to make the trip, in addition to Herron, are Andrew Dunlap, economic development project manager at the Charleston Area Alliance; Gary Walton, executive director of the Putnam County Development Authority; Gerald McDonald, president of the Huntington Area Development Council; and Angela Mascia, the West Virginia Development Office's Europe project manager.

Sven Gerzer, director of the state's Europe Office, will join them in France with a French assistant and an interpreter.

"Advantage Valley has always been interested in the international market," Herron said. "We had a British firm on retainer and they had sent some prospects from the United Kingdom and we got a couple of one- or two-person operations. We thought it might be more cost effective for us to go over and meet with people face to face.

"The is the first time the West Virginia Development Office has helped put together a trade mission for a specific region of the state," Herron said. "Before, they put missions together and said, 'Anybody want to go?' We said to the development office, 'We want to go over to represent the Advantage Valley West Virginia section -- Boone, Lincoln, Clay, Mason, Wayne, Kanawha, Putnam and Cabell counties.

"We told them we want to stick with what we consider our core industries: chemical, biometrics, biomedicine, metal fabrication, manufacturing, automobile manufacturing and automobile parts manufacturing," he said.

Herron said the development office pointed out that businesses in France had not been targeted recently and France seemed like a potentially fertile market.

With help from the state office, Advantage Valley sent letters to French companies, asking if they were interested in meeting with the delegation. "The response from French businesses was favorable," he said.

Steve Spence, the development office's executive director, said, "The development office is pleased to partner with Advantage Valley on this important marketing initiative. France is one of the top sources of international investment in the United States, particularly in the manufacturing sector.

"From the response to the mailing and the itinerary of sales calls, it is apparent that the market offers great potential for West Virginia," Spence said. "Although we had identified France as a future country to target, this cooperative effort with Advantage Valley and the participating development authorities is enabling us to enter the market much sooner than originally planned."

Herron said, "We'll be in face-to-face meetings with French businesses that have expressed interest in opening an office, developing a partnership. These will be initial meetings. All of the companies have requested that we be confidential. They don't want their competitors in the U.S. and France to know they may be looking to expand to North America. So I've been instructed not to give specific names of companies we'll be meeting with."

The delegation will arrive in Paris on Sunday morning. They will meet with Gerzer to review their plans and will then divide into two teams.

Team No. 1 will include Herron, McDonald, Gerzer and a French assistant. On Monday they'll meet with a manufacturing company in Nanterre. Tuesday they will meet with companies in Valdivienne and Saumur before returning to Paris. On Wednesday they will meet with prospects in Paris in the morning and later with companies in Rueil Malmaison, Chatou and Coueron. They will then return to Paris or go to Nantes. They have Thursday and Friday meetings in Montpellier, Toulouse and Pau.

Team No. 2 will include Mascia, Walton and Dunlap and perhaps an interpreter. "Sven has told us that all of the companies this team is visiting has English-speaking partners but they may still hire an interpreter, just to make sure everything is understood," Herron said.

Team 2 will visit companies in Nice, Exincourt, Sarreguemines, Haguenau, Evreux Nonancourt, and Saint Quentin. Afterwards, Dunlap will return to Charleston. Mascia and Walton will join with McDonald and visit other parts of Europe.

Each agency and the state are paying for their own travel, hotel accommodations and meals. Advantage Valley paid for the mailings to French companies, hired a French assistant for Gerzer, and will hire an interpreter for Team 2 if needed, Herron said.

Advantage Valley's Board of Directors has budgeted $25,000 for the mission, although Herron hopes the total cost will be $15,000 to $18,000.

"This is what my economic development experts told me: 'We want to work,'" Herron said. "This is not receptions, parties, social events. These are face-to-face meetings. We'll hit as many and spend as much time as we can.

"This is my first trip and it is all kind of new to me," Herron said. "These will be first meetings -- get-acquainted meetings. We'll do the courtship, find out about each other. I'm sure they will have a lot of questions. The next step, logically, will be to get them to come take a look. Sometimes this process takes years, not weeks or days. But you've got to knock on the door, get in, establish rapport."

Advantage Valley was formed 11 years ago to promote cooperation among businesses and governments along the Charleston-Huntington corridor.

"Everyone has worked together on this project," Herron said. "There are more than half a million people in this region. I think this makes us more of a player on the international scene than if we were over there just representing Charleston or Putnam County or Huntington. When you put all of our assets together, it's a pretty nice region to sell.

"There are a couple of things working in our favor," he said. "French investment in North America is up. The Euro is very strong. And France has a new president who is much more pro-American."

Contact writer George Hohmann at or 348-4836.

Yeager to offer direct flights from Charleston to Las Vegas

November 29, 2007
by George Hohmann
Daily Mail Business Editor
photo by Rick Lee

Kanawha County officials were set to announce today that direct air service linking Charleston and Las Vegas will begin in early March.

Rick Atkinson, director of Yeager Airport, said, "It is an exciting opportunity for the people of West Virginia to have direct service to Las Vegas, one of the most popular tourist and convention business locations in the world."

Southern Skyways will offer the service from Charleston to Las Vegas on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and from Las Vegas on Tuesdays and Fridays.

According to the airline's Web site,, flights will be offered at fares as low as $169 each way, although the fare posted on the Web site is $189. Tickets can be purchased now online.

Flights will begin March 11, with departures from Charleston on Tuesdays at 6:25 p.m., Fridays at 10 a.m. and Saturdays at 10 a.m.

Flights from Las Vegas depart Tuesdays at 11 a.m. and Fridays at 6 p.m.

Southern Skyways is the company that provided scheduled charter air service linking Charleston and Myrtle Beach, S.C., last summer. That service was wildly popular.

Unlike the Myrtle Beach service, Las Vegas "could be a year-round program because Vegas really doesn't have a season," Atkinson said.

The impact the Las Vegas service will have on Tri-State Racetrack & Gaming Center in Nitro is unclear. Tri-State currently offers greyhound racing, off-track betting and 1,800 slot machines. In August Kanawha County voters approved table games at Tri-State and the resort is gearing up for a major expansion.

Tri-State has said it will invest more than $250 million to hire 1,000 more workers and to build a 250-room hotel, a conference center, an event arena and a 5,000-space parking garage.

"I don't think it will have any impact," Dan Adkins, vice president of Tri-State's corporate parent, Hartman & Tyner, said today of the Las Vegas service.

"Vegas is Vegas," he said. "People will always go to Vegas. You can't duplicate Vegas. They're getting a lot of business travelers.

"In fact, I view it as a positive," Adkins said. "I've never been one to worry about competition, especially when it is 1,500 miles away."

Adkins said Tri-State is pushing ahead with its expansion plans.

Southern Skyways will use Boeing 757 aircraft configured for 176 passengers, spokesman Cary Evans said. There will be 20 business-class seats and 156 coach seats.

After flights from Charleston land in Las Vegas, the aircraft will go on to the Oakland-San Francisco, Calif., airport. That means travelers going to the Oakland-San Francisco area can book tickets and fly there with one stop without having to switch planes or baggage. "They'll be on the ground about an hour in Las Vegas," Evans said.

The aircraft is going to Oakland because it will also be used for flights from Oakland to Hawaii, although those flights will be a private shuttle, Evans said.

Southern Skyways will offer one-stop flights from Oakland-San Francisco to Charleston. The company's Web site says Charleston-Oakland fares will be as low as $258 each way.

Allegiant Air, another scheduled charter air service, offers flights from Huntington's Tri-State Airport to Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and will begin service to Tampa Bay on Feb. 9. Allegiant offers flights from some other cities to Las Vegas.

"Anywhere Allegiant has put Las Vegas service in, they have been very successful," Atkinson said. "We believe these Southern Skyways flights will also be very successful. Las Vegas is always a top destination."

Evans said, "Our experience with Myrtle Beach and Charleston proved that there is pent-up demand for leisure destinations. We have studied Allegiant Airlines' model and we believe their methodology of service from smaller markets to Las Vegas applies to Charleston. The reason Allegiant doesn't serve Charleston and other Eastern seaboard cities is, their aircraft don't have the range. The aircraft we're using can provide coast-to-coast service.

"We would expect to draw passengers from a wider area than just Charleston because there are no other non-stops to Las Vegas from nearby cities," he said.

Atkinson said Las Vegas ranks about sixth among the top destinations of travelers who use Yeager Airport. Other popular destinations: New York City, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Orlando, Houston and Tampa.

The Southern Skyways service to Las Vegas "just proves that there are opportunities for different airline models to serve our market and make money doing it," Atkinson said.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the convention and meetings business in Las Vegas has shifted from being a filler during slow periods "into a pillar of the casino industry." According to the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, 6.3 million business travelers visited Las Vegas last year for conventions or business meetings.

Atkinson said, "We will have more announcements from Southern Skyways in the next couple of months. They're working on a couple more destinations for us and they're working on service to Myrtle Beach. They realize now how long they can run the service to Myrtle Beach so they're trying to make sure they have the aircraft in the market to match the full season -- they know it runs into the fall."

The new service was to be announced at a press conference at the airport. Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper and Commissioner Hoppy Shores were among the dignitaries expected to attend.

The Central West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau passed two policy statements regarding air service at Yeager during a meeting this morning.

The bureau said that air chartered carriers that offer nonstop service from Charleston at least twice weekly to a destination not currently served may be eligible for up to $125,000 in marketing support.

The convention and visitors bureau also said it is committed to investing up to $500,000 "in an airline that would establish Charleston" as a base of operations that would provide significant air service increases to the region."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Local company seeks field technician

AGES (Applied Geology and Environmental Science, Inc.) is looking to fill the following position in their Charleston Office.

Position: Entry Level Field Technician (Full-Time)

Location:Charleston, West Virginia

Reference No.: FT-001C

Job Description:

· Position includes 75% field work with overnight travel required.
· Conduct soil, groundwater, and surface water sampling and oversee well drilling/installation on various environmental projects.
· Oversee and direct subcontractors on field remediation projects.
· Prepare data tables, compile field data logs and assist in report preparation.

Minimum Requirements:

· AA in Environmental Field or Equivalent Experience
· OSHA 40-Hour HAZWOPER Training Preferred.
· No previous experience required.
· Strong verbal communication skills.
· Valid driver's license.
· Employment contingent on passing company physical and drug/alcohol screening

Please send resume to ( or fax (304-344-1302).

Monday, November 26, 2007

Neighborhoods can build prosperity
by Dan Foster
Appeared in The Charleston Gazette on November 25, 2007

National polls show that confidence in our democracy and our government is near an all-time low. Despite this oversimplified perception of the national mood, what is really intriguing is that, according to a recent article in Time magazine, volunteerism and civic participation since the 1970s are near all-time highs.

Amazingly, it appears that more and more Americans realize that doing good often brings them more satisfaction than doing well financially. We have seen this in response to major disasters like Katrina, but more so near to home in our own cities and towns.

In addition to many opportunities to help individuals or families in need, volunteers can also provide for the common welfare. Whether it is working with kids, service to our growing elderly population, helping at a church dinner, building houses with Habitat for Humanity, or serving on a nonprofit board, the possibilities for making a difference are unlimited. Yet one of the most fulfilling and valuable options, in my opinion, is participation in a community development organization.

An exciting, livable community is a thing of beauty and a boon to the economy. Cities, both large and small, that have been successful are those that have created vibrant, culturally fascinating neighborhoods and downtowns. Several large cities come to mind such as Pittsburgh, Chicago and Boston, but even smaller ones like Richmond, Asheville and Little Rock are also notable.

It’s not unrealistic to think that Charleston and other West Virginia locales could ultimately get the same recognition. In fact, Charleston was listed in the top five places for “empty nesters” in a recent survey, and Fayetteville was tapped last year as one of the top 10 “coolest small towns in America” in Budget Travel Magazine.

I am a West Virginian by choice, having arrived in Charleston almost 29 years ago. This state and city have long been known for friendliness of their people, but I appreciate even more the extraordinary quality of life we have here. We may not have exponential growth, but booming growth can be both a blessing and a curse.

As advocates for “Create West Virginia” have declared: “Our vision is not to try and replicate what others have done. It’s to forge a dynamic new West Virginia that is rooted in what has always made West Virginia great. It’s the combination of the simple beauty of our surroundings and the soulful strength of our unique history in which we can use 21st-century tools to share our strengths with the world, and to invite them to share with us.”

Although the Charleston Renaissance Corporation has existed for 25 years in one form or another and greatly affected development in our downtown after the opening of the Town Center in 1983, the rebirth of some of our residential neighborhoods began only in the last few years. Civic activists leading these projects, inspired by Mayor Danny Jones, hope to create a sense of tradition, an aura of cultural uniqueness, the feeling of self-sufficiency, as well as a belief that we’re all in this together. These strategies strive to augment the number of successful business owners, increase home ownership, improve public safety, enhance residential and commercial property values, and attract others to be a part of the community.

A great model is the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street Program, which combines the imperatives of local economic development and citizen involvement. Bill Woodrum, former president of the Charleston West Side Main Street, has noted that this organization emphasizes use of the social capital of volunteers in building these organizations and is thus quite different from traditional community development that relies mainly on professionals.

Simply, the bottom line is that, without volunteerism by local stakeholders, no amount of financial investment will ever be successful in the long term. When you consider that we have, within our city limits, the East End and West Side Main Street programs, the Kanawha City Community Association, and the Bridge Road Neighborhood Association, it’s obvious that this movement has come to life here. My impression is that it is also spreading to many other municipalities in the Kanawha Valley and around the state.

Whether it is refurbishing buildings or designing social and cultural infrastructure, a community can be rehabilitated and the economic vitality of a district and its businesses can be enhanced if there is a comprehensive effort. Even more important, the lives of all of its residents, particularly those who are most at risk, can be improved. If you saturate a challenged area with childcare, early life education, marriage and job counseling, health clinics, and after-school programs — and then add open green space, sidewalks, affordable housing development and accessible entertainment options — job creation is inevitable. When it works, hardly anyone would deny that nonprofit organizations and their leaders are the keys to this transformation.

Webster’s defines philanthropy as a desire to help mankind, and recently deceased West Virginians Lawson Hamilton and Lyle Clay come immediately to mind. Yet this desire is not just for those with significant wealth or maturity. Anyone, no matter their income or age, can always give time or human resources. Not only should all adults find some way to help others, but they must also leave a legacy of service.

When Gov. Manchin and the first lady mention five promises that we as a society must make to our children, remember that the fifth is to provide them an opportunity to give back. Fortunately, education leaders have mandated community service training to be part of the high school curriculum and many colleges now do the same. The Charleston Area Alliance has even gotten into the act by forming the popular young professionals group called “Generation Charleston.” As this concept spreads, it leads to more than mere economic development. It promotes a level of civic pride and self-confidence that is contagious.

Although I am a native of Tennessee, known for obscure reasons as “The Volunteer State,” I am convinced that citizens of Charleston and West Virginia are second to none in their willingness to lend a hand. With a little encouragement, everyone who cares can make this a place where folks from all walks of life want to grow roots. As I found out years ago, this city and state are indeed special, which many, like me, discover only after moving here.

We don’t need to be new Silicon Valleys. We can just be real valleys that have both an abundance of clean water and a multitude of concerned neighbors who are looking out for each other. If we continue to be Wild and Wonderful, businesses and people will follow.

Dr. Foster is a Charleston physician and state senator.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

DPR in West Virginia

It was a pleasure to meet with my friends and our newest international company in West Virginia, D.P.R. LLC. During my recent trade mission to northern Italy I was able to visit the manufacturing facility of DPR in Barlassina, Italy. Enrico Panzeri, President and CEO of DPR welcomed me to his facility and his home during my trip. Also there for the tour was Luca Bortolon, International Sales and marketing Manager for DPR and Enrico's sons Micheal and Manuel.

DPR continues their success in the printing industry through the development of their sturdy an reliable re-winders for labels. They also make a variety of other products as well related to the printing and label industry.

Pictured above from left to right:

Matthew Ballard, President of the Charleston Area Alliance, Enrico Panzeri, Luca Bortolon, and Micheal Panzeri at the home and manufacturing facility of DPR, November 2007.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Generation West Virginia
New Groups Bring Fresh Ideas, Enthusiasm to Address Old Problems in State
A young professional looking across West Virginia's landscape might not perceive much company, but a group of like-minded young adults has banded together to hone in on the reasons why so many of their peers leave the state and why they have stayed.

Generation West Virginia, the young professionals' movement, began as a handful of separate regional organizations.

"It all begins and ends with the concern of the brain drain in West Virginia and losing young talent," said Paul Daugherty, an architect of one of the first organizations, Young Emerging Leaders of the Mid-Ohio Valley in Parkersburg, where he still is co-chairman, and now is a member of Generation Morgantown.

"In these six regions of West Virginia, the different groups of young leaders were interested in how do we retain, attract and advance young talent within the state ... so as each group got started, we each, through our own professional networks, began connecting the dots."

And the vanguard of the young professionals' movement looks at West Virginia as a place to build up, not tear down. They even see the moniker "young professionals" in the broadest sense, not bound by stereotypes of lawyers and accountants. They welcome those who have careers in the arts, health care, education, entertainment and hospitality.

Getting Started
Daugherty said he and Mindi Line in Parkersburg a few years ago recognized a large generational gap among the residents there. They began thinking of how to build opportunities for people starting out in their careers to become connected to the community to build their careers. He said he and Line researched young professionals' groups in other parts of the country, and he thought the Mid-Ohio Valley needed something similar.

At nearly the same time in Huntington, unaware of Daugherty in Parkersburg, Chris Slaughter began rallying young professionals in the area to create resources for one another as the Young Professionals' Committee of the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce. Joe Randolph, the committee's current chairman, said the organization has built a brand in the three years since its inception and has about 162 members.

"This is a way to stimulate relationships and network," Randolph said. "This is just one more way of trying to keep folks here."

Shortly after the first two groups started, Ashley Hardesty in Morgantown thought there had to be more to the city than students and established professionals.

"We all kind of started in different ways at the same time without knowing about the other ones," Hardesty said. "I kind of embarked on this grassroots effort to start something in Morgantown. I sent an e-mail to all of my friends and told them to send it to their friends."

Generation Charleston then began as part of the Charleston Area Alliance, with Erica Mani spearheading the effort. Hardesty told Mani at a statewide Bowles, Rice, McDavid Graff and Love retreat that she'd been at it for a few months, so she'd be happy to help. Then the Bowles Rice connection helped Kristin West get started in Martinsburg, too.

"We were urged by some of the other state groups that this would be something great for Martinsburg," West said. "We went to the first statewide organizational retreat back in February, and at that point we were kind of going just to observe. After we left, we were so inspired, we got so many great ideas, we got up and running."

As the founding members of the regional groups began to discover one another, they decided they should get together. In February 2007, they asked Bowles Rice attorney Tom Heywood to join them as a facilitator when they got together to identify common concerns and determine similar interests. They met again in August to hone in on statewide issues and pound the nails into the statewide concept of Generation West Virginia. The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation helped sponsor both meetings.

And most recently, OVConnect began in Wheeling after a push from Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce President Terry Sterling.

"Many years ago, when I moved back to Wheeling in the early 1980s, there was a young professionals' organization," Sterling said. "One of the projects our chamber is working on, in conjunction with our regional economic partnership, is an initiative to encourage recent graduates and individuals about to graduate from our local colleges to consider staying or moving back.
"That was really the reason I wanted to get this started again, and I originally approached members of our Leadership Wheeling alumni group many months ago."

Organizational Roots
The Junior Chamber of Commerce, or Jaycees, once was the premier young professionals' organization, but Generation West Virginia -- with its social, service and policy participation -- is a little different.

"Both the Junior Women's Club and Jaycees were feeders to the Kiwanis, Rotary and Chamber of Commerce," said Pete Torrico of BJW Printing, and former Beckley Jaycee. "There are still Jaycee chapters nationwide, but they don't have nearly the membership numbers of the past. It has declined, along with Junior Women's Clubs, and, right now, we need that.

"We don't have a young crop of energetic young people coming along to fill the slots in civic organizations."

Torrico said he thought all civic organizations were losing members and in need of new blood. He said the Jaycees were a social group with fraternal activities that performed a lot of community service. He pointed to the hospital in Hinton as an example of how Jaycees "rolled up their sleeves and got things done."

"We needed a rescue squad in Beckley, so the Jaycees went out and raised enough money to buy a rescue squad," he said. "But today, civic organizations would never think about doing anything, because if the city needed a rescue squad, they'd go buy it because government has replaced a lot of things civic groups used to do.

"We pay taxes, so we expect all these services to be free; we don't expect people in the communities to roll up their sleeves because it's easier to apply for a grant than to roll up your sleeves or sell raffle tickets or whatever."

Sterling said he thought a networking group of the area's young professionals would be very beneficial, and OVConnect's rapid growth -- from eight people at the initial meeting a few months ago to about 200 people on the current mailing list -- demonstrates the need for such an organization that pools together a network the area had been trying to tap into for some time.

"I'm very proud of them," he said. "They've really embraced this concept. Our interest here at the Chamber was to get it started and hand it off. I think they can serve as a valuable resource here in the Ohio Valley."

'Retain, Attract & Advance Young Talent'
Each group has its own focus. Wheeling and Martinsburg want to build their brands. Charleston and Morgantown want to gain more structure. But the overarching mission for Generation West Virginia includes outreach to inspire other regional groups, spur economic development, influence legislative and policy issues, provide statewide marketing and establish a young leadership conference.

The group wants to create best practices to help other regional groups that may begin. When it comes to economic development, Generation West Virginia wants to share its viewpoints and concerns for things such as quality of life. Generation West Virginia doesn't want to back any political candidates but rather focus on legislative and policy issues important to the young professional, which ties into statewide marketing for West Virginia as a destination for young leaders and families.

And the groups already recognize they have a responsibility to not only learn from established leaders and step up themselves but also hand it down to even later generations.

"One thing we want to share is that in West Virginia you can build a career as well as be successful at a young age, and part of our role is going to be to tell other people," Daugherty said. "We know that it's going to take a number of years to achieve our goal, but, in essence, part of it is building partnerships and the resources and really pulling people together."

Daugherty said according to West Virginia's 2000 census, more than 650,000 West Virginians fall into the 18-44 bracket, and while most of the groups focus on the 21-45 age bracket, that many people connected to their local communities would have a huge effect.

This group recognizes that it's not about each region on its own. Members have said that what advances one area in turn advances the entire state, and that's their push.

"Most of the existing leaders, whether it's business, civic or education, they're looking at where will the next generation of leadership come from," he said. "We don't want to have this issue of the brain drain going on in our 50s and 60s when we're in the board rooms making other decisions."

Huntington's current chairman, Joe Randolph, said he once heard from West Virginia Chancellor of Higher Education Brian Noland that among 100 West Virginia high school students, roughly 60 would graduate and 30 would go to college. Of the 30 in college, only three will stay in the state. Randolph said if that's true, the outreach has to start even earlier.

The groups' social aspect of simply finding like-minded individuals plays a big part in quality of life.
Justin Seibert of OVConnect said when he recently moved back to his native Wheeling to start his online marketing business, his wife wanted ways to meet people and become a part of the community. They established a deadline to move if they weren't happy within a few years.

Generation Charleston Chairman Matt Kingery moved to the capital city from Huntington. After seeing the successful YPC in Huntington, he said he first looked for a similar movement in Charleston before he moved.

"I said I don't want to be the guy who just works all the time; I do want to be connected," Kingery said. "I said if there's something like this group, I definitely want to get keyed into it.

"We don't want to be just a social organization, but we can use that as a tool to capture that energy."

Hardesty said Generation Morgantown has a goal to bridge the gap that exists between students and established professionals, and social events are what put 600 people on its mailing list.

Dave Stinson, Generation Morgantown's marketing director, said bringing people into the state and keeping them here is as simple and as complex as networking.

"I went golfing about a month ago ... and we had a couple of caddies who had moved back here to be closer to family," Stinson said. "I got one gentleman an interview ... and the other gentleman will be doing acting in my commercial productions, so it spiderwebs, and that's a big part of what we do.

"Ultimately, it's about securing our financial success and careers in this town, and that's the bottom line, but it goes deeper than that."

Stinson said Generation Morgantown, as a chamber of commerce entity, policy is part of the mission.

"If we can start effecting policy that will affect our generation, just think about what that can do for a state where we lose a lot of our young, bright professionals," he said. "I think that ball's already rolling, but the jobs are here; they just don't know how to find them sometimes."

In Martinsburg, West said she tentatively started the group with four other attorneys, but about 40 people attended their first social event -- including an employee of the bank across the street from her office.

"I'd been working here for two years and had never seen him before," West said. "We might have plenty of young people who come to the Panhandle, and they live in our communities, but they might travel outside to work, and on the weekends travel again, so we kind of thought one of the things we really need to focus on is giving people a sense of community and a reason to become a part of their community."

Daugherty said as the Baby Boomer generation begins to retire, many regions of the country will deal with a major vacuum in talent across every professional field.

"On a national spectrum, it's predicted that by 2008 there will be a shortage of 10 million workers across all employment categories nationwide," he said. "West Virginia already deals with the challenge of retaining talent, and it's going to be an increasing concern."

Outside Opinions
Each regional organization is connected to its local chamber of commerce, and it would be easy for the "old guard" to be threatened by these "young bucks." But the reception has been warm as the groups take their place under the umbrella of Generation West Virginia and their affiliations with chambers of commerce.

"I am active with a lot of groups that are just ecstatic with this," Heywood said. "One of the things I see in a lot of these business and trade organizations I participate in ... is a sense that people are always going, and it's always the same people sitting around the table.

"There's plenty of work to go around, and the existing organizations I think uniformly, the ones that I'm involved in, have been really just delighted with the energy and the focus and the enthusiasm."
Heywood said when what is now Generation West Virginia first contacted him to guide them through their first two meetings, he was struck by their thoughtfulness and enthusiasm along with the accomplishments already under their belts.

"By the time they had approached me, many of the young leaders groups had very active groups," he said. "As I listened to them articulate their vision for West Virginia, their process, how they would go about it, they were saying the exact same things the older leaders I had worked with for many years were saying, and it was like a breath of fresh air.

"When I had the first facilitation opportunity in February, and I was able to meet the larger group and see them in action ... the future of the state is secure. These young people are very much about action; they are out there doing it and making all the right moves."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Who's Who in West Virginia Business 2007 Winner: Jack
Arnett & Foster PLLC

Story by Beth Gorczyca Ryan
Email Bio

CHARLESTON -- Jack Rossi isn't the type of business leader to spend his off-time playing golf.
As the presiding member of Arnett & Foster PLLC and chairman of the board of directors of the Charleston Area Alliance, as well as belonging to several other volunteer organizations, Rossi simply doesn't have the time.

And even if Rossi did have free time, he said he would prefer to be working to make West Virginia better than hanging out on the links trying to improve his handicap.

"I do it because West Virginia and the people in West Virginia have been really good to me," Rossi said from his office in Charleston. "If we can create jobs, if we can make West Virginia better, then everyone benefits."

That simple goal of making West Virginia a better state that can attract new residents and keep natives here sets the pace on everything Rossi does at Arnett & Foster and at the different groups he belongs to. And it's the reason he was selected as one of The State Journal's Who's Who in West Virginia Business for 2007.

"I'm just really flattered," he said of receiving the award. "I didn't expect it at all."

Rossi said he decided to go into accounting when he was a boy in Coalton, a small town in Randolph County. One of his neighbors owned the local general store, and every so often an accountant would come in and do work for the storeowner. Rossi would watch the accountant and got interested in the numbers side of business. Soon, the young man became the general store owner's bookkeeper. And he quickly fell in love with it.

"Every day is new," Rossi said, adding, "You deal with people. You can help people meet their needs."

Over the years, Rossi said he's seen the accounting industry change a lot. The industry has moved from a completely paper-dominated field to having everything done on computers. As a result, instead of having to dig through boxes full of paper containing a client's information, all Rossi now has to do is click his computer mouse a few times. And in the blink of an eye, the documents and data Rossi is searching for pop up on the two large, flat-screened monitors sitting side by side on his desk.

But the technology upgrades aren't the only way the accounting business has changed, Rossi said. Nowadays, accounting firms are under more scrutiny than ever due to the bank failures of the 1980s and 1990s, new emphasis on national security since the Sept. 11 attacks and the flurry of ethical and financial scandals at corporations such as Enron, MCI and Tyco within the past few years.

"The Enron debacle subjected accountants to additional regulations," he said.

These days, Rossi's job at Arnett & Foster focuses on working with financial institutions and manufacturers. One of his clients is Champion Industries, which is based in Huntington. Champion CEO Marshall Reynolds said he's known Rossi for between 20 and 25 years and said Rossi has a "pristine reputation and impeccable character."

The two haven't always agreed about everything, but Reynolds said Rossi has always been correct and methodical.

"He's bright and sharp, but he can be hard-headed as well," Reynolds said from his Huntington office.

Rossi said a lot of the success he enjoys now can be linked to his childhood. His father was an Italian immigrant and coal miner, who tried to instill in his 14 children the importance of working hard, helping their community and helping each other.

Rossi said his father would wake up his 14 children every day before sunrise and kept them busy until they collapsed in bed at night. By the time Rossi was 12, he was working for the neighbor who owned Coalton's general store. Rossi said his job responsibilities included planting potatoes and tending the garden. His salary was $1.

"We were taught you needed to step up to the plate," Rossi said. "Because, coming from a family with 14 children, if you didn't step up, you didn't eat."

In addition to demanding that his children helped out around the house, Rossi's father also was determined that his children, 10 of whom are still living, would all get a good education. College was a must, and for Rossi his dream college was West Virginia University.

"I grew up listening to Jerry West playing basketball," he said. "Morgantown might as well have been a million miles away from Coalton at that time. David & Elkins College was a lot closer, but I wanted to go to WVU."

But before moving to Morgantown, Rossi took classes at Potomac State College of West Virginia University in Keyser. It had smaller classes and gave Rossi a chance to adjust to college life. After a few semesters, Rossi transferred to the main campus. He loved being at WVU, but living there was a lot different than living at home. After all, some of his classes had more students than the population of Coalton.

"It was really eye-opening," he said. "But it was a great experience, and WVU was great for me."
One day, Rossi was getting ready to go into class when he saw another student on crutches walking down the hall. Rossi walked up to the other student to offer him some help. The student on crutches introduced himself to Rossi.

"He said, 'My name is Joe.' But I knew that. He was a football player and had been injured," Rossi said. "I told him my name was Jack. And we just started talking."

The injured football player's last name was Manchin. The conversation they had that day started a friendship between the two men that lasts to this day, through Joe Manchin's varied career as a salesman, business owner, state senator, secretary of state and now governor. In fact, Rossi is the treasurer for Manchin's re-election campaign.

After graduating from WVU, Rossi went into the military and spent some time overseas. When he returned to the states, he and his wife, Joy, whom he met in high school, moved to North Carolina. There he worked for a major accounting firm. But his heart was still in West Virginia.

"Every weekend we came back," he said.

So in 1974, Rossi and his wife moved back home. And they stayed.

"I have no desire to ever leave West Virginia. I don't want to retire and move away," he said.

Matthew Ballard, executive director of the Charleston Area Alliance, nominated Rossi for the Who's Who award. He said Rossi's commitment to the state and community is extraordinary. He said Rossi is completely willing to dedicate as much time as necessary to help groups and organizations thrive and succeed. He said Rossi was key in helping the Alliance form a few years ago and worked tirelessly to help the organization buy the CASCI building in downtown Charleston earlier this year.

"Someone who signs up to volunteer with an organization doesn't anticipate spending days, weeks or months working on a project like that," Ballard said. "But Jack did it willingly. He's the epitome of what a great board member and volunteer should be. When you think of Who's Who in West Virginia Business, he is on the short list. It sounds very cheesy, but it's the truth."

Rossi's volunteer work isn't limited to the Kanawha Valley, however. An avid supporter of WVU, Rossi also sits on the board of directors for the WVU Alumni Association. His love for the school is easily evident in his Charleston office, which is decorated with cutouts of football coach Rich Rodriguez and former basketball coach John Beilein. When Beilein left WVU at the end of the 2006-07 season, a cutout of new coach Bob Huggins' face was taped over Beilein's.

His office also has an old helmet worn by a member of WVU's marching band. Last year, he sent the band money for new uniforms and received the helmet, as well as a note from one of the band's members, as a thank-you gift.

"The note was very nice. It meant a lot to me," he said.

But Rossi said none of his success would be possible if not for the team of people who help him every day. The team includes his wife of 40 years, his co-workers at Arnett & Foster, other members of boards that he serves on and his friends.

"I personally can't do it alone," he said. "I've been lucky to surround myself with a great team."

South Charleston Christmas Parade and Railroad Dining Car

The Holiday Season kicks off in South Charleston, WV beginning with the South Charleston Annual Christmas Parade on December 1st at noon! The festivities begin with the helicopter landing of Santa Clause on Oakes Field at noon.

The Christmas Parade will commence following the landing and go down D Street then to 7th Avenue. After the parade, CSX Railroad Authority along with Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society, will bring in a railroad dining car which will park at the end of D Street in downtown South Charleston.

Children will have the opportunity to board the train to have pictures taken with Santa Clause. This is the first time in Kanawha Valley history that children will have this unique opportunity!
After Saturday, December 1st, the train will remain in South Charleston until December 10th. During this week, students are invited to come aboard the train each day (except Sunday from 10am-11am and 1:30-4pm) for public readings and entertainment.

The dining car, which can accommodate up to 100 people, will be available for rentals to businesses during this week as well. Breakfast hours are 8am-10am at a cost of $200.00. Lunch hours are 11:30am-1:30pm at a cost of $300.00. Dinner hours are 6pm-9pm at a rate of $400.00. Catering will be provided by Beau-Tea-Full Moments Tea Room (phone: 304.744.3855).This event is being sponsored by the South Charleston Convention & Visitor's Bureau, CSX Railroad Authority, and Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Members from the Charleston Area Alliance's Generation Charleston committee spent Saturday volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. Thanks to all of our volunteers who worked so hard and to Krispy Kreme and Papa Johns for making sure we had the energy to get the job done.

Congratulations to Margie Dudley on her new home!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Charleston Area Alliance Young Professionals
Announces New Name, New Leadership

A little more than a year ago, the Charleston Area Alliance launched a new group to attract and retain young professionals to the region and cultivate the next generation of leaders dedicated to building a more vibrant community and prosperous economy.

The Alliance “Young Professionals” network now includes nearly 400 members who have devoted their time to community concerns such as increasing downtown housing options, public service projects including a Habitat for Humanity home, professional and social networking activities, and placement of young professionals in leadership roles, such as on non-profit boards.

As the dynamic group begins its second year, it is unveiling new leadership and a new name, “Generation Charleston.”

“This group has shown great leadership born out of their understanding that the future of West Virginia is being created by decisions and projects we work on and accomplish now. We encourage everyone who wants to be a part of this progressive group dedicated to improving our quality of place and our economy to join ‘Generation Charleston,'” said Matthew G. Ballard, Alliance President/CEO.

In addition to the new name, the group will have new co-chairs in the year ahead, Matt Kingery and Danielle Waltz.

Kingery is an attorney at the law firm Dinsmore and Shohl, LLP. His practice focuses on general real estate with emphasis on title and financing issues.

Waltz is an attorney at the law firm Flaherty Sensabaugh and Bonasso, PLLC. Her practice emphasizes civil litigation in the areas of mass tort, toxic tort and general litigation.

Kingery and Waltz will replace founding co-chairs Brad Rowe, General Corporation, and Erica Mani, Bowles Rice McDavid Graff & Love. “Brad and Erica have been integral to getting the Young Professionals group off the ground,” said Ballard. “Their enthusiasm, time, energy and ingenuity have put this group on the map and established it as an effective network for promoting economic and community development. We are indebted to them for their service and dedication.”

For more information regarding “Generation Charleston” or to join, call 304-340-4253 or email

The Charleston Area Alliance is a multi-faceted community and economic development organization as well as the largest regional Chamber of Commerce in West Virginia.