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, December 28, 2007

Kureha Corp. Announces New 100 Million Dollar Plant, 50 jobs.

Kureha Corp. of Tokyo announced it will invest more than $100 million to build a plant in Belle, W.Va., that will produce and sell the groundbreaking, high-performance polymer, polyglycolic acid (PGA).

The Charleston Area Alliance worked in close collaboration with the West Virginia Development Office, DuPont and Governor Joe Manchin to assist Kureha during its search for a location for its newest U.S facility. The Alliance supplied technical expertise and guidance, including providing key information on workforce readiness and labor availability and working with Kanawha County officials to manage the permitting process for the plant throughout the last year. Kureha plans to begin construction of the facility at DuPont site in 2008 and commence production in 2010 .

This announcement heralds many exciting possibilities for the future, says Charleston Alliance President /CEOMatt Ballard.
“This project showcases the opportunities available for other chemical manufacturers to take advantage of the infrastructure in place in the Valley. It also demonstrates the success of our ongoing efforts to recruit international businesses to West Virginia. These international ventures are key to diversifying our economy and growing our intellectual capital,” Ballard says.

Kureha Corp. is a leading global supplier of specialty chemicals and plastics used in consumer packaging, household products, pharmaceuticals, agriculture and other industrial applications. PGA is a high-strength polyester resin that offers a high gas barrier to carbon dioxide and oxygen with controllable hydrolysis. This unique combination of properties makes PGA ideally suited for high-performance packaging and industrial applications.

“The establishment of this PGA business is another milestone in Kureha’s vision of becoming a specialty products company, radically redefining the way we approach our markets and customers,” said Dr. Takao Iwasaki, President and CEO of Kureha Corp. “With the development of this breakthrough technology and the strong intellectual property surrounding our work, PGA will become a centerpiece in the company’s strategy of focusing on value-added, highly differentiated products, setting us on a path of strong growth and profitability.”

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller said he is thrilled Kureha has become the 20th Japanese company to invest in West Virginia. “Our state has seen so much growth and success with Japanese companies in recent years, and I have no doubt that with this innovative product being made in Belle, that growth will only continue,” Rockefeller said. “Each time you see an important announcement like the one Kureha made today, what you’re really seeing are more sound investments in our state’s economy, more jobs for West Virginians, and further validation that West Virginia is a serious competitor in the global marketplace.”

DuPont Belle Plant Manager Bill Menke said, “We believe the new Kureha plant is a great synergistic fit with our operations here at Belle. It also will support our infrastructure at the site to make all of our businesses more competitive.”

The targeted application for PGA is multi-layer PET bottles for carbonated soft drinks and beer. Because PGA offers a gas barrier 100 times greater than that of PET, it is possible to reduce the amount of PET used in these bottles by more than 20 percent, while maintaining the equivalent barrier against carbon dioxide loss. This bottle redesign has the potential of yielding cost reduction as well as source reduction opportunities in the marketplace.

PGA is highly compatible with widely practiced industrial PET recycling processes and its multi-layer designs have been shown to enhance the gas and moisture barrier of bio-based polymers. Through expanded use in biodegradable applications, PGA will further contribute to environmental conservation. In addition, Kureha is working to commercialize industrial applications that utilize the easily controllable hydrolysis rate and excellent mechanical strength of PGA.

For many years there has been no high-volume, cost-effective manufacturing process for PGA, so its production has been limited to relatively small-scale operations for the manufacture of surgical sutures. Kureha is the first and only company to successfully develop technology to produce large volumes of PGA.

In 2002, a 100-ton pilot plant was built at Kureha’s Iwaki Factory in Japan, and from then on Kureha has been vigorously developing applications suitable for PGA.

“PGA definitely fits in the sweet spot of Kureha’s focus on the triple bottom line: economic, environmental and social responsibility, Iwasaki said. “Our aim is to maximize value while remaining committed to environmental and compliance issues, and in doing so, contribute to the local community as a responsible corporate citizen. When considering the potential unique and diverse opportunities for PGA, we estimate the business could eventually achieve a turnover in excess of $1 billion.”

In the summer of 2005, the Charleston Area Alliance supported the “Keep ‘em Flying” initiative publicly and financially in an effort to secure the presence of the 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston. In addition to community, government, public support and a $25,000 contribution from the Alliance, the National Guard was able to maintain its presence and in our city and state.
We salute our men and women who are in the military.

December 22, 2007

Byrd secures funding for Guard at Yeager

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., has secured $17.3 million in federal funds to upgrade the West Virginia National Guard’s facilities and hangars at Yeager Airport in Charleston.

Congress sent the White House a spending bill this week that includes the funds to replace Yeager Airport’s 55-year-old maintenance hangar.

“I am very pleased that Congress has completed action on this bill, which includes needed funding for the 130th Airlift Wing. I have fought hard to secure this investment,” Byrd said.

“The 130th is unparalleled in its commitment to duty, preparedness and record of success. To stay on the cutting edge, our Guard must be provided with top-notch facilities.”

Byrd tried to get funds to build a new hangar back in 2005. But those efforts fell flat when Bush administration leaders placed the 130th Airlift Wing on the Pentagon’s Base Realignment and Closure list.

Byrd and the entire West Virginia Congressional delegation worked with the state leaders, local officials and grassroots supporters to save the base.

West Virginia Adj. Gen. Allen Tackett said building a new hangar will help “ensure the 130th Airlift Wing is positioned to execute 21st-century homeland defense missions in support of the nation, both at home and abroad.

“Sen. Byrd understands the significant role the National Guard plays in the defense of our nation; we are indeed fortunate to have his national leadership and to have him represent West Virginia in Congress.”

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Nationwide Tour to hold July $1 million event in West Virginia

Dec. 18, 2007

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. -- The PGA TOUR’s Nationwide Tour announced today that the Tour’s West Virginia tournament has been designated to conduct the first Nationwide Tour Players Cup beginning in 2008.

The Nationwide Tour Players Cup will be a marquee event featuring a unique 144-player eligibility criteria and a $1 million purse.

The tournament will be held July 7-13 at Pete Dye Golf Club in Bridgeport, W. Va. and be the first regular season tournament on the Nationwide Tour to offer $1 million in prize money. GOLF CHANNEL will provide coverage of all four days of tournament play (July 10-13).

Four of the Tour's original events -- the Knoxville Open, Price Cutter Charity Championship, the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open and the Albertsons Boise Open -- will return for the 19th consecutive year.

"We are delighted with the news that the Nationwide Tour will showcase West Virginia by hosting one of its two most prestigious golf events in our state," said West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin. "West Virginia and the Nationwide Tour have been excellent partners the past few years, and we’re honored that the PGA TOUR wants to make this partnership stronger. We have outstanding golf offerings in West Virginia, with some of the most beautiful courses in the world.

"We welcome the Nationwide Tour and we look forward to this opportunity to showcase all that West Virginia has to offer."

"There were three excellent reasons that led us to the final conclusion to designate West Virginia as host of the first Nationwide Tour Players Cup – the support of the state of West Virginia, a terrific venue in Pete Dye Golf Club and a perfect July date," said Nationwide Tour President Bill Calfee. "This marquee event will attract an international field and showcase West Virginia to the Golf Channel’s national and international audience that includes Japan, China, Korea, the United Kingdom and Latin America."

Nationwide Tour players will have the first 16 tournaments of 2008 to secure their position among the top 144 available on the Nationwide Tour money list and a spot in the Players Cup field. The cutoff will be the preceding event, the Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic in Canada (June 23-29).

A 36-hole cut will be made to the low-60 scores and ties after play on Friday, July 11. There will be no open qualifying or sponsor invitees.

Tournament officials entered into a four-year agreement that extends the Tour’s presence in West Virginia through 2011.Tournament proceeds will benefit charities throughout West Virginia.

"We are thrilled that the PGA TOUR has selected West Virginia to host this new and exciting event," said Executive Tournament Director Tim McNeely.

"It is certainly a credit to all of our sponsors, volunteers and fans that have made this event so special."

First prize will be a record $180,000 and the winner will, in all likelihood, earn his PGA TOUR card for 2009.

The forerunner of the Nationwide Tour Players Cup is the National Mining Association Pete Dye Classic, which has been on the Nationwide Tour schedule and held at the Pete Dye Golf Club since 2004. The first four West Virginia winners (2004-2007) were D.A. Points, Jason Gore, Jason Enloe and Jimmy Walker. All but Enloe have been members of the PGA TOUR.

Pete Dye Golf Club opened for play in 1995. Designed by its namesake, it plays to a par of 36-36-72 at 7,308 yards for the Nationwide Tour.

Last month, the Nationwide Tour announced the $1 million Nationwide Tour Championship at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas (Nov. 3-9), the Tour’s season-ending event.

The largest purse prior to the West Virginia and Dallas announcements was this year’s $775,000 Nationwide Tour Championship at Barona Creek near San Diego, Calif. Its first prize was a then-record $139,500.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Congratulations to the Generation Charleston committee for surpassing their fundraising goal for the Holiday Hope project. The Community Enhancement committee, co-chaired by Brooke Pauley, BB&T and Kate McCoy, Steptoe & Johnson, took the initiative to adopt a family for the holiday season through the YWCA’s Resolve Family Abuse Program. In order to purchase all of the items on this family’s wish list, the group set their fundraising goal at $1000. Because of the generosity and spirit of the Generation Charleston members, who helped raise more than $1200, this family of four will have a wonderful Christmas.

Thanks to all for making this a successful project!

Generation Charleston is the voice of the Capitol City’s emerging leaders. This group was formed by the Charleston Area Alliance to create opportunities for young professionals to get connected, engaged and make a difference in the area.

To learn more about Generation Charleston, visit

Alliance approves $1.7 million budget
George Hohmann
Daily Mail Business Editor

The Charleston Area Alliance's Board of Directors has approved a $1.7 million budget for 2008, a 4.5 percent increase over this year.

The budget anticipates receiving $449,720 or 25.9 percent of revenues from government grants, including money from the Kanawha County Commission and the cities of Charleston and South Charleston; $426,022 or 24.6 percent from member dues and events; and $287,145 or 16.5 percent from rents and leases.

On the expense side, the budget anticipates spending $792,870 or 47.7 percent on wages and benefits and 29.9 percent on special projects.
The wages expense assumes 13 full-time-equivalent employees and an estimated 3.5 percent increase in wages, which will be used on a merit basis for salary, increases, employee bonus or cost-of-living increases.

Special projects include $189,400 for community development, $121,597 for member services and $101,550 for business development.

Matt Ballard, the Alliance's president and chief executive officer, said, "I think this is the most comprehensive budget we've put together since the Alliance was formed. I think it's a solid budget for the upcoming year."

The Alliance was formed three years ago to merge the efforts and interests of the Charleston Chamber of Commerce, the former Charleston Renaissance Corp. and the former Business and Industrial Development Corp., which was also known as BIDCO.

In his report to the board of directors, Ballard said The Dow Chemical Co.'s announcement earlier this month that it will cease most of its research operations in West Virginia was disappointing. But he praised the board for its foresight in helping establish the Mid-Atlantic Technology Research and Innovation Center, known as MATRIC.

The Alliance board, when Tom Potter chaired it, was instrumental in getting MATRIC started. The nonprofit organization was established more than three years ago to harness the brainpower that Union Carbide Corp. had brought to the Kanawha Valley over the decades.

MATRIC is patterned after the Research Triangle Institute at Research Triangle Park, N.C. That organization has attracted more than 100 high-tech companies that employ thousands of people in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area.

MATRIC now has 72 employees. Following Dow's announcement, MATRIC's leaders said the organization hopes to pick up many of the 150 researchers who will be leaving Dow.

The Alliance was - and remains - one of MATRIC's key financial backers, having extended a $500,000 line of credit to the organization.

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones, a member of the Alliance board, asked if it's correct that MATRIC owes the Alliance $422,000. "Are we going to loan them more money?" he asked.

Board member John Skaff of Butler International said, "They're going to need more money."

Board member Mark Dempsey of Appalachian Power, who serves on MATRIC's Board of Directors, said MATRIC has a cash-flow problem because there's a lag between the time it does research and the time it is paid for its work.

Skaff said, "It depends on what MATRIC ends up obligating itself to, how cash-strapped it may be. We won't overextend ourselves. As far as money from the Alliance is concerned, nothing (new) is being put on the table at this time."

Ballard said MATRIC's line of credit comes due in May. He said MATRIC Chairman Paul Arbogast has requested a meeting in January to talk about the credit line.

Ronald Beane of JP Morgan Chase, vice chairman of the Alliance board, said MATRIC's current obligation is being handled as agreed. He said MATRIC had drawn $422,000 on the credit line and had not yet requested the $78,000 that remains available.

"Do we ever expect them to pay it back?" Jones asked.

"Yes," Dempsey said.

Skaff said Keith Pauley, MATRIC's president and chief executive officer, "knows where every dime is, where every dime has gone. He runs a pretty tight ship. The things that are on the table are not really a concern, but an opportunity to help. In an ideal world, MATRIC will turn out like the Research Triangle with thousands of jobs. I think we could be up to 200 people in the next few years."

Jones said, "Four hundred thousand dollars is a cheap buy - real cheap."

Ballard said MATRIC currently has available jobs posted on its Website, Click on the "Employment" button at the top of the page.

Also at Tuesday's meeting, Ballard reported on his five-day trade mission to Italy in November. He said he had the opportunity to visit DPR, an Italian manufacturer of products used in the label industry. It was announced in April that the company would open an office in Charleston.

Ballard said he also had the opportunity to meet with members of the manufacturers association of Varese, Italy. Gov. Joe Manchin met with members of the Varese association during his trade mission to Italy last year.

The association has become a valuable ally, Ballard said. When Italian companies express an interest in locating in the United States, the association refers them to West Virginia.

Ballard said that during his visit, he had an opportunity to talk to companies about the value of the Euro, which has gained strength in recent months against the U.S. dollar. A strong Euro makes investments in the United States less expensive for companies in European Union.

Ballard said that as a result of his trip, one prospect visited the Kanawha Valley earlier this month and plans to return in January. "Four more companies will visit in January," he said. "They range from manufacturers to other types of companies. I have a feeling this trip will result in three or four companies coming to West Virginia."

In other news, Alliance Senior Vice President JoEllen Zacks reported on a membership survey. Seventy-one percent of respondents rated the Alliance "effective" or "very effective" in advancing its overall mission and in promoting economic development, she said.

Monthly ArtWalk includes additions
Jim Balow
Charleston Gazette Staff writer

Still looking for the perfect present for that hard-to-buy-for aunt? You might find it Thursday night, when a collection of downtown galleries and gift shops open their doors for the monthly ArtWalk.
The final ArtWalk of the year offers several surprises, like holiday carolers and two new venues, said Susie Salisbury of the Charleston Area Alliance.

“The first thing new and different are the new additions,” Salisbury said. “Charleston Catholic High School has an exhibition by their art students,” Salisbury said.

The exhibit includes works by advanced placement artists Avrah Urecki, Rob Fluharty, Aidan Kim, Elyse Campbell and Mark Thompson, a lifesize Nativity installation by middle-schoolers and art from students in grades 6-12.

“The other one is the Clay Center is joining us, which is great. The museum [art gallery] will be open for free.”

Visitors can see the current shows in the art gallery: Lightscapes for the Holidays, sculpture and installations by local and regional artists that include Christmas lights; and Seasonal Selections from the Permanent Collection. The gift shop will also be open.

If the weather is cold or you have trouble walking, you can hitch a ride on a trolley. The free trolley will be making loops along Quarrier, Capital and Lee streets and Leon Sullivan Way, with six stops near the 12 venues, from 5:30 to 8 p.m.

Carolers from Girl Scout troops 4833 and 4829, plus family and friends, will add a festive air both on the trolley and along downtown streets.

Other shops that will join ArtWalk from 5 to 8 Thursday evening are Art Emporium, Stray Dog Antiques, Roger Lucas Gallery, Gallery Eleven, Annex Galley at Taylor Books, Good News Mountaineer Garage Gallery, Blue Door Art Studio, Chet Lowther Studio, The Purple Moon and The Squire Tobacco.

“It’s an opportunity to buy local art from local artists and support local, independently owned businesses, and enjoy a traditional holiday experience,” Salisbury said.
To contact staff writer Jim Balow, call 348-5102.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Film Office announces Feb. 1 deadline to get listed in next edition of Production Services Directory

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Film Office, a section of the WV Department of Commerce, Tourism Division, is ready to accept modifications and new listing applications for the 2008-2009 edition of its Production Services Directory (PSD).

A complimentary service provided by the state, "the PSD is an essential resource for anyone mounting production projects in West Virginia," said Pam Haynes, director of the state film office. "It serves as the key connection between producers and West Virginia's workforce and vendors."

It also contains filming guidelines, instructions for business registration, technical and other support services, accommodations, and much more. Haynes says it is the only state publication that identifies workforce available for hire to the filming industry and businesses that provide support services to the industry.

So, who should be listed? Jamie Cope, the location services manager for the film office, says that during filming, the industry relies heavily on production companies and professional freelance crews, lodging facilities, transportation rentals, heavy equipment rentals, construction/lumber companies, landscaping/greenery companies, dry cleaning facilities, catering firms, office furniture rentals, telecommunications firms, warehouse space rentals (soundstages), security firms, gasoline/diesel companies, and much more.

Using an example, he says that if you or your business provided services to the Warner Bros. production of "We Are Marshall", then the PSD needs you.

To determine whether you or your company are eligible to be listed in the PSD, read the instructions on the film office Web site at or call the office and ask to receive an application package in the mail. Only individuals and companies with a physical West Virginia address are eligible. Still unsure whether you qualify after reading the instructions? Just call the film office for guidance.

All modifications for current listings and applications for new listings must be received by Feb. 1, 2008 to be included in the 2008-2009 edition, expected to be published and distributed in May.

The PSD is published annually and is available in print and on the film office Web site at To request a complimentary copy of the current 2006-2007 edition, contact the film office at 304-558-2200, ext. 382.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Monday, December 03, 2007

Alliance receives grant in honor of volunteer

The Charleston Area Alliance received an AEP Connects grant from American Electric Power in honor of employee H. Joseph Jones, and his significant volunteer service.

The AEP Connects program recognizes the commitment of AEP employees and retirees to their communities and supports causes that are important to them, according to Mark Dempsey, vice president, external affairs. More than 780 grants representing 130,000 volunteer hours donated by AEP employees and retirees and their families were made last year across AEP’s 11-state service territory.

“Although no monetary grant can compare to the value of the time our employees and retirees give to worthwhile causes, the $150 grants made by this program in the names of AEP volunteers will help schools and nonprofit organizations meet the challenges of fulfilling important human needs,” Dempsey said.

“The Alliance is privileged to have Joe as a volunteer. His dedication to our organization and our programs has helped us move forward in our progressive strategy,” said Matt Ballard, Alliance president/CEO.


Presenting: The “Not-So” Apparent Details of Workers’ Comp

When: December 5, 2007, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Where: Summit Conference Center, Charleston, West Virginia
Goal: Educating each attendee on the continuing changes in the West Virginia
Workers’ Compensation system and how it impacts their business.


Registration form

ASHE names GAI employee to board

At the recent National Conference of the American Society of Highway Engineers (ASHE), Gerald J. Pitzer, P.E., was installed as a member of the National Board of Directors of the Society. Mr. Pitzer, an engineering manager with GAI Consultants, Inc. in Pittsburgh, also serves as the chairman of ASHE’s Region 3 Board, which encompasses southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia and serves as treasurer of ASHE’s Pittsburgh Section. GAI also has a branch office in Charleston, W.Va.

ASHE, which was incorporated in 1958, is comprised of members from both the public and private sector and incorporates individuals from government, contractors, material suppliers and consulting engineers. The Society’s mission is to provide a forum for members and partners of the highway industry that supports education, innovation and fellowship, while promoting a safe and efficient highway system for mobility now and in the future.

During his 23 years with the engineering and environmental firm GAI Consultants, Inc., Mr. Pitzer has served as a project manager on numerous bridge and highway engineering projects, including many for the West Virginia Department of Transportation. He has also served as the corporation’s officer in charge of quality, training and risk management.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2008, GAI is a multidisciplined engineering firm specializing in power plant support, transportation, industrial, land development, government, environmental and energy services. In addition to Pittsburgh and Charleston, GAI office locations include: Philadelphia, Pa.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Florence, Ky.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Orlando, Fla.; and Jacksonville, Fla. For more information, visit

Cost of Living Index shows West Virginia residents pay less for goods and services
Three times a year, the Charleston Area Alliance takes part in the ACCRA Cost of Living survey. This survey is designed to provide a measurement of relative difference among urban areas in the cost of consumer goods and services appropriate for professional and managerial households.

The most recent report showed that it is 9 percent less to live in West Virginia than the national average.

The Index rests on the premise that prices collected at a specified time, in strict conformance with standard specifications, provide a sound basis for constructing a reasonably accurate gauge of relative differences in the cost of consumer goods and services.

The standard approach used by the ACCRA Index, is to divide consumer expenditures into categories, and then select items that represent those categories. The items used in the ACCRA Index thus are surrogates for entire categories of consumer spending. For this approach to work, price differences among urban areas for the items in the Index must accurately reflect differences for the categories they represent.

The ACCRA Index consists of six major categories: grocery items, housing, utilities, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous goods and services. These major categories in turn are composed of subcategories, each of which is represented by one or more items in the Index

The 57 items in these categories are used solely to show price differences in the categories they represent. For example, a pound of whole frying chicken is used to represent poultry products, it is assumed that if an area’s price for this item is 10% above the nationwide average, its prices for poultry products as a whole also are about 10% above the nationwide average.

This is the most reliable source of city-to-city comparisons of a key consumer costs available anywhere.

The Charleston Area Alliance is the only organization in the state to participate in this survey
To learn more, visit

Charleston Area Alliance promotes community and wellness through walking

On Nov. 15, the Charleston Area Alliance and members from the community, braved a blustery morning as they took part in the Walkstyles’ WeWhoWalk Tour, as part of a national campaign to spread the message of wellness through walking – an ambitious, healthful endeavor covering all 50 states in just 50 weeks.

Participants met at Bluegrass Kitchen for a healthy breakfast and then were led by Sue Parks, CEO of Walkstyles, Inc., and Matt Ballard, Charleston Area Alliance president/CEO.

“I am very excited that the Alliance and other walking enthusiasts took part in the WeWhoWalk Tour,” said Ballard. “We all need to make an effort to take better care of ourselves, and help raise awareness about the importance of a healthy lifestyle.”

The WeWhoWalk Tour is the idea of Parks, whose company WalkStyles is dedicated to helping people live a healthier, more balanced lifestyle that includes walking. Parks enlisted the sponsorship of United HealthCare to move this concept forward. Additional sponsors are American Airlines, Citracal, Lindora Comprehensive Weight Control, Foot Solutions, Liberty Fitness, and a nationally syndicated radio program, the Satellite Sisters.

To learn more about WalkStyles Inc., and how you can get involved, visit

Governor requests statewide hotline to answer business questions

Entrepreneurs across West Virginia now have a toll-free number to help answer their business questions. Gov. Joe Manchin requested a full-time statewide business hotline during the Nov. 19 Vision Shared E-Policy meeting at the Embassy Suites in Charleston. Effective immediately, businesses can call the West Virginia Business Answer Line at 1-888-982-7232 (1-888-WVA-SBDC) to connect with information on business services available in the state. The Business Answer Line will be staffed during normal work hours, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The statewide service expands a pilot program launched by the West Virginia Small Business Development Center (WVSBDC) this summer. The program was designed to enhance delivery of essential services to West Virginia’s small businesses. Businesses anywhere in the state can call the West Virginia Business Answer Line during normal hours of operation. The SBDC staff review callers’ needs and direct them to services and resources that best match their specific requirements.