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.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Restoring the ‘Nobility’ of Chemistry
by Matthew Ballard, Alliance President/CEO
Jack Rossi, Alliance Chair

Coal may be king in West Virginia, but in the Kanawha Valley, the chemical industry has achieved a level of nobility as well.

For decades, the Kanawha Valley was one of the world capitals of the chemical industry. Its “reign” brought great prosperity and stability for our region.

(Coincidentally, the concepts of nobility and stability are intertwined on the periodic tables as well. To refresh the recollections of those of us for whom high school chemistry class is a fuzzy memory, there is a class of elements known as the “noble (inert) gases.” These elements are very stable because their outer shells are full. It is this stability that has led some to call the noble gases the “happiest elements.”)

At the Alliance we are working on several levels to buttress the reign of the chemical industry -- which has faced challenges in recent times – in order to bring stability to our local economy. One way is through our historical and ongoing support of MATRIC, which plans to hire a good number of scientists impacted by Dow’s recent downsizing plans. MATRIC, a non-profit research and development corporation located at the Dow Technology Park, was created by one of the Alliance’s predecessor organizations, BIDCO.

MATRIC already employs 70 scientists and is working to accelerate its business plan to expand projects that could be implemented by researchers impacted by Dow decision. We commend Governor Manchin, the Kanawha County Commission and the City of South Charleston for their recent public commitments to assist MATRIC in retaining these valuable, highly skilled employees in our area.

Our partnership with the Governor’s office to recruit Kureha to the Kanawha Valley is another example of our efforts to strengthen the chemical industry. Kureha is a publicly traded Japanese company that will begin construction on a new $100 million facility at the Belle DuPont site. Its presence will, in the short term, bring good-paying construction jobs to the area, and once the new facility is completed, will generate 50 new jobs with competitive pay and benefits.

The Alliance was pleased to partner with state leaders to bring Kureha to West Virginia. We assisted Kureha with the permitting process of the project, supplied important labor information to the company during the decision-making process, and will be providing free office space at our Alliance incubator for construction engineers and staff while the new facility is being built.

In addition to the major capital infusion and new job creation this project brings to our area, it will provide a sorely-needed boost to existing businesses in the region. For example, Kureha will use raw materials manufactured by DuPont, which will need to increase own production. The employees who will build and work at the new facility will spend their wages on goods, services and property in the surrounding area. The construction and spending will generate tax revenues to fund our schools, roads and critical government services. All of this will have a very positive ripple effect throughout the region.

The Alliance is honored to be a part of this noble effort to bring stability to our chemical industry and economy. It’s a critical element in advancing our mission to build a more vibrant community and prosperous economy


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