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, May 09, 2008

The 2008 Annual Celebration May 6 at the Clay Center was a big success. One attendee called it the "networking event of the year." Meanwhile, Intuit President and CEO Brad Smith is earning rave reviews for his intriguing presentation about leadership. He is one of the best speakers Charleston will host this year.
Below are the Annual Celebration remarks from Alliance President and CEO Matt Ballard.
Thanks to all who helped make the event so memorable.

Tonight's celebration is about every one of you. After all, YOU are the Alliance, and without you, we wouldn’t have the accomplishments to highlight this evening.

Our 600 members, who represent 40,000 employees, form a powerful and productive coalition to lead our community forward toward a promising tomorrow.

Through a wide range of innovative programs the Alliance – and you – are driving the destiny of our region … Attracting new jobs and investments … helping area businesses accelerate profitability … launching visionary community and cultural enhancement projects … and developing the talent and resources to sustain success today, and tomorrow.

“We are the people we have been waiting for.” That Native American proverb has become part of the lexicon this election year. Political slogans aside, it’s a pretty good description of what the Alliance and its members and partners are all about. You see, while our region and state are blessed with natural resources, natural beauty, and hard-working people with a rich cultural tradition, we also face growing challenges.

Who will take on these challenges?

An individual can only do so much working on their own. I would submit, that when community stakeholders work in concert – through groups such as the Alliance – real change can be accomplished.

We – YOU – are the people we’ve been waiting for to make this happen. And together, we are driving destiny.

Three key principles steer us on this journey:

1) We mean business.

n We meant it when we told Kureah we would be their partners if they came to West Virginia. We first met executives from Kureha two years ago, and the Alliance worked with Dupont, one of our strong industry members, and with the WV Development Office to solidify the Kureha project.

We know that just last month they officially broke ground on the 100 million dollar plant which will house 50 new employees in Belle.

And we meant business when we said we wouldn’t just work with them until they got here, we’d work with them forever… we wanted to help them succeed. I think we’ve been fulfilling that obligation and just in the past couple of months, we’ve been helping Kureha in their search of candidates for many of the job openings they seek to fill. Tonight, I am so honored to ask Nori Kuga from Kureha to stand and be recognized and celebrated. Kuga-san we appreciate your commitment and investment to WV and we are with you the entire way.

n We meant business when we went to work to secure 600 jobs in downtown Charleston at the CASCI building. That old Sears building could have easily become a blight in the center of our capital city, but with help from the Mayor’s office and other partners in economic development, we secured those jobs for at least 15 more years and possibly up to 3 more decades.

n The Alliance and the County Commission meant business when we worked to help NGK on its on-going expansion, which is on-going now with a multi-million dollar investment and new jobs.

n We know business and meant business when we realized that as some in the chemical industry downsized, we couldn’t allow our human capital to leave this area, so the Alliance provided the seed capital to start MATRIC which now employs over 70 people at the Technology park in South Charleston.

n We meant business when we applied and received a state grant to fund a road expansion which allowed Lesley equipment to expand their operations in Cross Lanes, and when we assisted Kanawha Electric expand their operations and double their workforce in the Upper Kanawha Valley onto a remediated Brownfield site.

n We mean business when it comes to facing our biggest challenges: One of our biggest economic challenges is expanded air service.

So we meant business in early 2007 when we started down the path to develop a home-grown airline in Charleston. Most of you know we suspended that project for the time being because of fuel prices. I looked back and when we took on that project with all of our partners, a barrel of oil was around 60-70 dollars. All the economic modeling was projected under the assumption of “conservative” estimates of costs going to $95 dollars a barrel. And of course when the project was suspended, it was 107.

I recently got a new perspective on this increase in fuel prices. My Dad, who is here tonight is a meticulous guy … He taught me when I was younger that when you’re pumping gas you give the nozzle a little shake at the end so that when you put the nozzle back on the stand, none of the gasoline leaks onto the paint of your car. I got a new perspective on that a few days ago at the pump, a guy came over to me and said make sure you shake it to get that last drop, each drop is worth 10 cents!

I’d like to thank everyone who had the leadership to join us in that venture and let me assure you we have not been deterred from the goal, bettering the air service to our region. You will see us working on this challenge again in the future.

n When it comes to international contacts and relationships, the Alliance means business. We know business in that the Euro countries are primed and ready to expand and invest in the US. Last year, you may remember we made an announcement about a new company who was coming to West Virginia, DPR, an Italian company in the printing industry. I’m proud to report things are going well for DPR and Micheal Panzeri, the son of DPR Owner Enrico Panzeri is here with us tonight, Michael please stand and be recognized.

We’re so pleased to have you here in our community Micheal working on the US operations of your fathers business.

Tonight we have with us another special guest, Alessandro Fracas, who is the Export Manager for an Italian company who is strongly considering WV for their US expansion. I expect their final decision will be coming soon, so let’s show Alex with our sound of our applause how much we want his company to join the West Virginia business community!

2) Our 2nd Key Principle is that we ignite success.

n The spark has been lit and the design for Gateway Greenspace has been completed, and is underway across the street! Soon, instead of a bleak asphalt lot, you will see an innovative, sustainable park featuring native West Virginia plantings.

n EcoDwell, a model energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly home was built and sold in partnership with the Religious Coalition for Community Renewal. We’re igniting thoughts of energy efficiency and “green jobs.”

n We’re igniting success as our monthly downtown ArtWalk continues to grow in popularly and flourish through its partnership with the Alliance – exposing more residents and visitors to the rich cultural resources in our area and helping to support area artists and downtown galleries

n We have put the kindling in place and the spark has ignited as we actively participated in St. Albans’ efforts to become a Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh Blueprint Community – an economic development program focusing on housing and community redevelopment.

n And who could argue, that success has been ignited on our east end, with our Main Street program façade grants program businesses that improve their properties. These grants have spurred more than $160,000 in façade investments in the East End., making the neighborhood more inviting to residents, customers and tourists. Our Wireless project is still moving forward for the East End business corridor and with any luck we’ll have that up and running this summer.

3) Our third key principle is to “unite and inspire.” We bring stakeholders together on a range of projects that make our area a better place to live, work and play.

n We united the more than 500 young professionals who have joined Generation Charleston, our young professional’s organization. This dynamic group organizes professional development programs, public service projects and social events with the goal of retaining and attracting young professionals to our area.

n We united by building a bridge between the business community and education, when local automotive dealers had to delaying expansion because they couldn’t find qualified technicians to staff their new locations, we brought the automotive industry together with the Kanawha County school system to develop a program to train students in the area of automotive technology as a co-op program during high school.

n We are reaching out through our internship program and to colleges and universities, both locally and in surrounding states – to help area businesses recruit talented employees and hopefully help bring West Virginians back home.

n And we are uniting and inspiring professional women through our Professional Women’s Council which is growing in popularity and substance. Luncheon speakers this year included Secretary of State Betty Ireland and Supreme Court candidates Beth Walker and Margaret Workman. ...

As you can see, we’re not waiting for change. The Alliance, because of each of you, has accomplished much.

With your continuing support and involvement, we will get closer to our goal of a more vibrant community and prosperous economy for our residents and for future generations.


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