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, September 30, 2008

A Celebration for the Ages!

Join Generation Charleston from 7 to 11 p.m. Nov. 1 at the Charleston Civic Center for the Generations Celebration!

Celebrate your favorite decade and enjoy the best 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's music from DJ Libby Jo Salyers.

Costumes are optional but encouraged. Prizes for the best dressed from each decade will be awarded.

The event also includes heavy hors d'oeuvres, a cash bar, door prizes, a gift basket auction and a preview of upcoming Generation Charleston events!

Tickets in advance are $35 per person or $60 per pair. The cost will be $40 per person at the door.

For more information, call Danny Forinash at (304) 340-4253 or e-mail

Monday, September 29, 2008

Mix It Up Wednesday!

You're invited to the Capitol Market Oct. 1 for the Market Mixer!

The event runs from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Invite your friends and family and enjoy food, surprises, drinks, music and fun!

Tickets are $50 and are available at the Market office. All proceeds GROW Capitol Market.

For more information, visit or call (304) 344-1905.

The Charleston Area Alliance is a sponsor.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Mark Your Calendars for Boo Ball!

The Junior League of Charleston invites you to Boo Ball 2008. It's an evening of Halloween fun, featuring a DJ, dancing, contests, an open bar and hors d'oeurves.

The event is scheduled for 8 p.m. to midnight Oct. 25 at the 405 Capitol St. atrium and ballroom.

Tickets are $40 in advance and $45 at the door. Raffle tickets are $10.

For more information or to purchase tickets, contact a Junior League members, call the office at (304) 346-5856 or e-mail

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Meet the Women Candidates Oct. 7

Cast your vote for an engaging evening of politics and networking and join the Alliance Professional Women’s Council at its “Meet the Women Candidates” cocktail reception on Tuesday, October 7, 5:00-7:00 p.m. at the Summit Conference Center.

Hear first-hand from the women running for Congressional, state-wide and local office in a relaxed setting, and share your views on the future of our country and our region with the candidates and your colleagues. The reception will feature a tempting array of hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar.

Tickets are $15 for Alliance members; $20 non-members. Walk-ins are $25 per person.

Click here to register! For more information, contact Deb Coffman at (304) 340-4253.

Also mark your calendar for a special Professional Women’s Council luncheon to be hosted by Edgewood Summit on Wednesday, October 29. Award winning writer D.G. Fulford will be the featured speaker. She is the author of several best-selling books, including Designated Daughter: The Bonus Years with Mom, which she wrote with her mother, Phyllis Greene; the classic To Our Children's Children, which she wrote with her brother, Bob Greene; and The Things I'd Love to Know, the companion fill-in journal to Designated Daughter.

Ms. Fulford has been a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show, Good Morning America and National Public Radio. She speaks to adult children across the country about how she found the "bonus years" with her mother to be their best. During her presentations, she shares stories about her relationship with her mother, Phyllis Greene, from their refreshing and inspiring new book, Designated Daughter: The Bonus Years with Mom. She will read excerpts from their book and divulge a humorous and hopeful message about living deliberately.

11:00 Book signing and luncheon
12:00 Author Presentation

Tickets are $25 for Alliance members ($35 after October 24) and $35 for non-members ($45 after October 24). Click here to register!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Job Posting

The West Virginia Department of Commerce is looking for a webmaster.

The position involves marketing the state’s travel, business, work force and natural resources to their best advantage online.

Commerce Communications is seeking a Webmaster and digital production artist. The candidate will help the agency maintain its Web content and create high-caliber visual and interactive design for online communication projects. Adobe Creative Suites and WYSIWYG coding skills are essential. Portfolio review required, including URLs for online work. This is a full-time staff position with benefits, $22-41K.

For the complete job description, see:

Apply online:

Reference Job #: DEVO090022

Please send a resume to:
Diana Spence
West Virginia Development Office
Building 6, Room 645
State Capitol Complex
Charleston, WV 25305

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Generation Charleston Teams With
UC Graduate School of Business Tomorrow!

Generation Charleston members will be some of the first to tour the new University of Charleston Graduate School of Business during Generation Charleston's September meeting!

The informal meeting and reception will be hosted at the new downtown location (former Boll Building at the corner of Virginia and Dickinson streets) at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The event is free and open to the public.

CLICK HERE to register.

Presenters will include Dean Charles Ryan, University of Charleston President Dr. Edwin Welch and Triana Energy President Henry Harmon. Discussion will focus on the University's contribution to the community and the latest developments from the “On the Move” campaign.

Dr. Robert Bliss also will detail the Executive MBA program, which is tailored to working professionals!

In addition, Robert Rufus, director of programs for the university's Forensic Institute, will highlight UC's role as an innovator in forensic accounting.

This meeting will allow for open dialogue regarding how the partnership between Generation Charleston and UC can lead to more meaningful change in the community. Come be a part of this exciting event! And invite others who might not have a good idea about what Generation Charleston is all about!

Refreshments and beverages will be available.

Monday, September 22, 2008

West Virginia Education Portal Recognized Twice for Innovation in National Competitions

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The recently unveiled West Virginia Education portal ( has been declared one of the best education Web sites in the nation by the Centers for Digital Government and Education.

The new portal was presented the 2008 Best of Web Special Award and the 2008 Digital Education Achievement Award based on its innovative approach to integrating over 900 education resources into one centralized starting point located within the state’s official Web site,

“We were very pleased to finally see a state develop a comprehensive education component into their overall state Web site strategy," said Cathilea Robinett, Executive Director of the Center for Digital Government. "The West Virginia Education Portal takes the right approach to providing diverse online education resources to West Virginia’s citizens.”

The Best of Web Award and Digital Education Achievement Award are national programs that recognize outstanding agency and department Web sites and applications that enhance information interactions, transactions, and services. The awards were presented by the Centers for Digital Government and Education, which are national research and advisory institutes on information technology policies and best practices in government and education.

“West Virginia is the first state in the nation to develop a centralized online resource for families to seamlessly access the numerous educational offerings in the state,” said First Lady Gayle Manchin. “These awards highlight the commitment of the State of West Virginia to improving the educational opportunities for our citizens and educators.”

The education portal is the result of the work of the 21st Century Jobs Cabinet, which was formed in 2006 to focus on promoting a seamless education system that connects every level of education from early childhood to graduate study.

It encompasses job training and lifelong learning to both support and enhance West Virginia's job creation and economic development efforts.

The West Virginia Education Portal was built without using taxpayer dollars by leveraging an innovative public-private partnership between the state and West Virginia Interactive, a Charleston-based subsidiary of eGovernment firm NIC (NASDAQ: EGOV). Additional services are slated to be released in the upcoming months that will further streamline citizen access to government services and save taxpayer dollars.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The West Virginia Power announced a fantastic deal this week. The team is now a Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate after a long relationship with the Brewers. The partnership with the Brewers has been great for Charleston, but now the Power can identify more closely with many fans in the region. The team is an imporant part of revitalizing Charleston's downtown, so if this development attracts more fans, it's great news for everyone. The story below comes from WOWK-TV.

Power Fans Pumped Over Pirate Partnership

Charleston franchise will affiliate with Pittsburgh, not Milwaukee, next season

Story by Sara Gavin
CHARLESTON -- For West Virginia Power players, the trip up to the big leagues might soon seem a bit shorter.

Next season the Single-A team will switch farm systems from the Milwaukee Brewers - located about ten hours from Charleston - to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who play a little more than three hours to the north.

"I think it's a good thing probably for the team because of the proximity of Pittsburgh. Maybe it will generate some more interest," said Charleston resident Jeremy Brown.

The announcement also brings back fond memories for many fans of the old Charleston Charlies - the Triple-A Pirates farm team from the 1970s.

"We go back to the days of Dave Parker, Richie Zisk back to the glory days of the Charlies at Watt Powell Park so I think it's terrific," said Sam Femia of South Charleston.

Power officials are hoping the new affiliation with the Pittsburgh Pirates will help put more fans in the seats by next spring for the team's fifth season.

2008 saw the lowest average attendance at Power Park since it opened in 2004.

But leaders say Pittsburgh could help create more faithful followers.

"As the pirates kinda build their farm system and build themselves into a winner now you'll have an opportunity to see our guys up close and personal at PNC Park," said Andy Milovich, the Power's Executive Vice President.

"It's really neat to watch them in their developmental stages and then seeing them on the Bigscreen and in the Big Leagues," said St. Albans resident and Power season ticket-holder Matt Crouch.

Next season Power fans find out for sure whether the Pittsburgh partnership will prove to be a homerun. The contract between the two teams is good for at least the next two seasons.

Target Announces Job Fair

Target's upcoming job fair is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 22 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Southridge store.

Positions Available: Cart Attendant, Cashier, Food Service, Logistics Backroom, Logistics Flow (Stocking), Sales Floor, and Service Desk.

Target team members deliver fast, fun and friendly service to Target guests

Make a difference by responding quickly and responsively to guest and team member needs

On the spot interviews will be held during the job fair. If unavailable to attend, please apply at

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tailgate at Business After Hours Thursday!

The West Virginia National Guard, Cecil I. Walker Machinery Company and West Virginia Committee, ESGR invite you to tailgate at the next Business After Hours from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday!

CLICK HERE to Register!

Tailgate food and beverages will be available. Columbia Gas Transmission is sponsoring door prizes.

Explore military aircraft, including the C-5 Galaxy and Blackhawk helicopter, and other military displays.

The cost is $10 for members and $20 for non-members.

If you're going to the YWCA's Guy's Night Out Thursday night, this is a great way to begin the evening! CLICK HERE to learn more about that event!

The Air National Guard Complex, 1679 Coonskin Drive, is the site. Take exit 99 from Interstates 77 and 64, go north on Greenbrier Street and turn left on Coonskin Drive. After about a half mile, turn left to the 130th Airlift Wing entrance and stop at the gate. Have a photo ID and let security know you are there for the Business After Hours.

Call Lesley Hager at (304) 340-4253 for more information.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The good news below appeared in today's Charleston Daily Mail.

Charleston's beBetter Networks makes national list of fastest-growing companies

by George Hohmann
Daily Mail Business Editor

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston-based beBetter Networks is the 15th fastest-growing private company in the U.S., according to Inc. Magazine's annual list.

Only one other West Virginia company made the Inc. 500 list. Innovative Management Technology Services of Fairmont is ranked 323rd.

The list is published in Inc.'s September issue and can be viewed online at

In addition to ranking beBetter Networks the 15th fastest-growing private company, Inc. named beBetter the industry leader in the health care field in the United States.

Ralph Gaines, beBetter's president and chief executive officer, said today he is pleased with the recognition.

Inc.'s 500 list is based on revenue. Gaines said 2007 revenue was $14 million. To date, the bulk of beBetter's income has been in the smoking cessation business. For example, the company has the smoking cessation contract with the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health. "But most of our growth now is from employers in the delivery of health screening and health risk assessment services," Gaines said.

The company just won a contract to provide health and wellness programs to members of the St. Louis Area Business Health Coalition. "That business is the result of us competing against 19 of the top health and wellness providers in the United States, both public and private companies," Gaines said.

As a result of the contract, beBetter has opened an office in St. Louis, he said.
"We've been a company that's been regionally focused," Gaines said. "We're now becoming a national company."

BeBetter was established in 1999. Gaines said the company has grown from four employees in 2004 to about 115 today.

Of the 115 employees, 60 to 65 are full-time. Gaines said 30 to 35 work at 109 Capitol St., in the former Kanawha Bank Building now known as Renaissance Tower. The company occupies the first floor and mezzanine and is about to take half of the second floor.

Gaines said beBetter has 23 to 25 employees at its Morgantown office.

The company has developed several Web sites. Gaines said the most popular is, a trademarked effort to fight childhood obesity. "It's become popular with school, employer and state groups," he said.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Generation Charleston and UC Graduate School of Business Partner for
Sept. 24 Event

Generation Charleston members will be some of the first to tour the new University of Charleston Graduate School of Business during Generation Charleston's September meeting!

The informal meeting and reception will be hosted at the new downtown location (former Boll Building at the corner of Virginia and Dickinson streets) at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 24. The event is free and open to the public.

CLICK HERE to register.

Presenters will include Dean Charles Ryan, University of Charleston President Dr. Edwin Welch and Triana Energy President Henry Harmon. Discussion will focus on the University's contribution to the community and the latest developments from the “On the Move” campaign.

Dr. Robert Bliss also will detail the Executive MBA program, which is tailored to working professionals! In addition, Robert Rufus, director of programs for the university's Forensic Institute, will highlight UC's role as an innovator in forensic accounting.

This meeting will allow for open dialogue regarding how the partnership between Generation Charleston and UC can lead to more meaningful change in the community. Come be a part of this exciting event! And invite others who might not have a good idea about what Generation Charleston is all about!

Refreshments and beverages will be available.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Introducing Member Market!

Are you trying to advertise a sale or discount? Do you have an event to promote?

The Charleston Area Alliance is pleased to offer Member Market, a new opportunity to reach more than 3,000 business people, young professionals and community leaders. Alliance members now have an exclusive new avenue to promote their business, announce an event or just share good news.

The Alliance's subscribers will read your message - and link to your advertisement, announcement or Web site.

By using Member Market, you'll be reaching the influential people who are making changes happen for our region.

We are limiting Member Market to one per week, and each message is exclusive to each advertiser. Don't worry about sharing space. Your message will stand out. The Member Market service is available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The cost per send-out is $150 for businesses and $100 for non-profits. This feature is available only to Charleston Area Alliance members.

Reserve your space today and put your message in front of the involved and influential people who are making change and growth happen in the Kanawha Valley.

For more information or to secure a week on the calendar, please contact Danny Forinash at (304) 340-4253 or

The story below appears in today's Charleston Gazette.

Metro vote could come within two years

By Kellen Henry
Staff writer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With business community support and legal changes, Kanawha County residents could vote on metro government in less than two years, county commissioners said Thursday.

Commissioners said they do not want taxpayers paying more than $200,000 for a special election on metro government, but they would consider putting the issue on the ballot for special election or an election financed with private funds.

At Thursday's meeting, commissioners decided to file a letter of intent with the county clerk for a 2010 deadline after county, city and business officials spent two days observing a similar arrangement in Louisville, Ky., last week.

"There's got to be support from the business community," Commission President Kent Carper said Thursday.

Members of the Charleston Area Alliance joined government leaders in Louisville and will attend the next commission meeting to discuss what business can contribute to the push for metro government.

Commissioners also want to change the majority required to authorize implementing metro government in Kanawha County. Under a state law passed in 2005, 55 percent of both the largest city and the rest of the county must approve a switch to metro government.

"It took three tries to pass in Louisville and it only passed with 54 percent and that was with a $1.2 million campaign," Commissioner David Hardy said. "I think the issue of the 55 versus 50 percent threshold is the issue that has to be addressed."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Join Us for Show & Tell!

The Charleston Area Alliance's next CEO Roundtable is scheduled for noon Wednesday, Sept. 17 at the Alliance office, 1116 Smith St.

Jackson Kelly's "Education Elevators" program presents "Show & Tell: How to Create a Successful School/Business Partnership"

Click here to register!

The Education Elevators mission is to heighten both the abilities and the aspirations of students. Jackson Kelly permits and encourages its lawyers and staff to serve as "Elevators" who are willing to spend 30 minutes each week with an individual student. Personnel, as the education professionals, train and deploy this volunteer resource at schools such as Piedmont Elementary.

Thomas McJunkin, Cathy Chestnut and Luke Fleshman of Jackson Kelly, along with Piedmont counselor and teacher Emily Patterson, will be among those on the discussion panel. Patterson is co-chair of Piedmont's Education Elevators Committee.

The CEO Roundtable Luncheon is limited to 30 participants. Pre-registration is required.

Please contact Danny Forinash at (304) 340-4253 for more information.

The event cost is $10 for Charleston Alliance members and their employees and $20 for non-members.

State Film Office Hitting the Road with
Community-Oriented Workshops

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Film Office will host community-oriented workshops that will help counties and municipalities become familiar with what to expect when filming occurs in their communities and how they can become known as a "film- friendly" location.

"As West Virginia becomes a more popular place to shoot feature films, television programs, music videos, and commercials, it is more important than ever for the Film Office to be able to reach out to communities and community leaders to better prepare them when their region is chosen for filming," said Pam Haynes, director of the Film Office.

While the workshops are free and open to the public, Haynes encourages representatives of convention and visitor bureaus, chambers of commerce, economic development authorities, mayors and city managers, county managers and commissioners, film and video production companies, and freelance film crew to attend.

"The workshops will occur in several regions across the state," said Jamie Cope, location services manager for the Film Office. "We will kick off the first workshop in Wheeling on Sept. 18, followed by Martinsburg on Oct. 3 and Charleston on Oct. 6," Cope added.

Cope explained that an expected increase in filming activity relates to tax credit incentives recently passed by the legislature. "The incentives allow the Film Office to participate more competitively with other states to recruit film production to West Virginia," Cope said.

Haynes said that the workshops, titled "The Business of Film: Paths to Opportunity," will provide an overview of the tax incentives and how they will benefit West Virginia businesses, how communities may become film friendly, what to expect and how to handle filming when it knocks on the door, how locations are chosen, and how to work effectively with the Film Office. A brief tutorial on location scouting also will be highlighted, and there will be an assortment of helpful handouts.

Beverages will be available throughout the workshops, and participants will be encouraged to take advantage of local dining options during the lunch breaks. The current workshop schedule is as follows:

Thursday, Sept. 18, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., The McLure House, 1200 Market Street, Wheeling
Friday, Oct. 3, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Holiday Inn Express, 301 Foxcroft Avenue, Martinsburg
Monday, Oct. 6, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., WV Dept. of Environmental Protection, 601 - 57th Street, Charleston (Kanawha City)

Haynes said additional workshops are slated to occur in the spring. She also added that the Film Office will conduct the workshops in any county or community where interest and participation would be significant.

The West Virginia Film Office is a section under the WV Department of Commerce, Division of Tourism, and can be visited at

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Join Communities United Against Hate Tonight!

The next Communities United Against Hate meeting is 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 10 at St. John's Episcopal Church, 1105 Quarrier Street. That is the corner of Quarrier and Leon Sullivan Way.

As part of an effort to strengthen our region by building a community that embraces and benefits from the contributions of all of its citizens, the Charleston Area Alliance is joining the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of West Virginia, the West Virginia Hate Crimes Task Force, the YWCA, Covenant House and many other organizations in supporting the effort.

Please RSVP to or (304) 340-3584.

The focus Wednesday is bringing concerns about discrimination to light and translating those concerns to action.

The Aug. 5 "Not In Our Town" forum kicked off the series, and more than 125 people attended. It also produced many creative ideas, which we help create action plans to address racism in the community.

Child care will be available at Wednesday's meeting, and if you want to take advantage, contact the number or email address above.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Investment means more than
200 new jobs for Charleston, Kanawha Valley

CHARLESTON, W.VA (August 15, 2008) – TRG Customer Solutions, the proprietary technology and outsourcing company formerly known as Telespectrum, has announced it will be expanding its Charleston facility and hiring more than 200 new employees.

“TRG was considering a new expansion in its global network, and with locations all around the world, they had several alternative locations to consider,” said Matt Ballard, president and CEO of the Charleston Area Alliance.

“Thankfully, after working with the site consultant on this project and with our peers at the West Virginia Development Office and the Governor's Office, we were able to propose a package that resulted in the company choosing Charleston for its next expansion,” Ballard continued. “The new employees will have competitive wages, health care and retirement options”

The expansion means a capital investment in the TRG Charleston facility, located in the Southridge Business Park along Corridor G. It currently employs more than 200 at the location.

The 24,911-square-foot first facility opened in 1996 as SOMAR, Inc., a telecommunications firm based in North Carolina. It was the first company to locate in the business park. The original investment totaled more than $2.4 million.

TRG ­– The Resource Group – became the new owner at the end of a 10-year lease that Telespectrum Worldwide, Inc. had in place with the Business and Industrial Development Corporation (BIDCO). BIDCO was one of three organizations that combined to create the Charleston Area Alliance in 2004.

The call center was originally built to accommodate 254 workstations and had 305 parking spaces. An additional parcel was acquired in 1998 to expand the parking if required in the future. This additional parcel, which TRG now owns, would allow for continued growth.

“TRG has ownership in the community,” said Mike Aeiker, Charleston Area Alliance vice president, who has been working with the project since its inception. “That's why Charleston was on their list of possible locations to grow their business. And I would hope the work force had a major role in their decision, as well. …This expansion also will benefit the local businesses in the area.”

TRG boasts a broad knowledge of industry, including the automotive, health care, insurance, pharmaceutical and retail sectors. It offers voice and non-voice communications, along with data analysis. The company’s technological capabilities include intelligent call mapping, emotional response management and universal agent contact.

“We are proud of this project,” said Alliance Chairman Jack Rossi. “We’ve worked with TRG for many years, and we are encouraged by its continued growth and investment in the Charleston area.”

“This announcement is a testament to the region’s ongoing growth,” Ballard added. “It’s yet another step in creating a more vibrant community and prosperous economy. We are very excited.”

The story below appeared yesterday on the Charleston Gazette's website.

Area call center expanding, adding 200 jobs

By Sarah K. Winn
Staff writer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A call center in South Charleston will be adding more than 200 jobs and investing $250,000 to its operations center, the company announced today.

TRG Customer Solutions, formerly Telespectrum Worldwide Inc., will be expanding and renovating its customer services center at the Southridge Business Park along Corridor G
The company currently employs more than 200 and will be hiring more than 200 for technical and product support positions, which are full-time and provide health insurance.

TRG provides customer care, technical support and telesales services to Fortune 500 companies in the telecommunications, financial services, technology, healthcare and utility industries.
TRG worked with the West Virginia Development Office to help facilitate the expansion, the company said in a news release. The Governor's Guaranteed Work Force Program will provide employee training assistance grants for the 200 jobs.

The Charleston Area Alliance has also offered a low-interest loan for the building improvements.

The 24,911-square-foot facility opened in 1996 as SOMAR Inc., a telecommunications firm based in North Carolina. It was the first company to locate in the business park, with an original investment of more than $2.4 million.

The call center was originally built to have 254 workstations and 305 parking spaces. Additional land was purchased in 1998 to expand parking.

TRG became the new owner at the end of a 10-year lease that Telespectrum Worldwide Inc. had with the Business and Industrial Development Corp. (BIDCO), which was meshed with two other organizations to form the Charleston Area Alliance in 2004.

The service center has shifts from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week and work schedules are available for both day and evening.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The story below appeared in Saturday's Charleston Gazette.

Louisville metro mayor: 'We are better off today'

Small-town leaders tell Kanawha colleagues system works

By Rusty Marks
Staff writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - After reaching consensus that metro government is probably a good idea for Kanawha County, representatives from most of the county's towns and cities, county officials and leaders of the local business community started talking about how the sell the idea to voters.

Local mayors, county officials and others met with Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson on Thursday to hear about how metro government works in Kentucky before splitting up into groups that demonstrated how the concept works in different government departments.

On Friday, local officials met with mayors of three of Jefferson County's smaller cities to help ease fears that metro government robs small towns of their identities and robs citizens of a voice in government. Louisville and surrounding Jefferson County voted in 2000 to combine their municipal and county governments into a huge, countywide government centered in Louisville.

Mayors of three communities in the combined area said Friday that they maintain their rule and city councils under the arrangement.

"We are better off today," said Byron Chapman, mayor of the 6,000-resident community of Middletown. Although Chapman said he originally voted against consolidating the city and county governments, he said metro government has helped the Louisville metro area as a whole.

"The back-and-forth conversation is there now," he said. "It's not mine, it's not yours, it's ours."

Middletown maintains its own zoning control, garbage pickup and public works department for its citizens, but the town does not maintain its own police department. The neighboring towns of Anchorage and Prospect do have their own police departments.

Prospect Mayor Todd Eberle and Anchorage Mayor W. Thomas Hewitt said officials in the larger Louisville government take them more seriously than under the old system, and said they see local communities banding together more for the common good.

After meeting with the mayors, Kanawha County's delegation started talking about how to convince Kanawha County residents that metro government should be adopted back home.

"The devil's always in the details," said County Commissioner Dave Hardy. "We've been talking about it for months on how we're going to sell this."

Matt Ballard, director of the Charleston Area Alliance, then turned the meeting over to consultant Mike Shea to talk about how to conduct a public relations campaign to sell metro government to local voters. The alliance will probably be tapped to head up fundraising and the election campaign.

Shea, who helped Jefferson County and Louisville officials pass metro government, said the idea failed four times before voters finally approved it in 2000.

"It is the most complex conversation you're ever going to have with the electorate," Shea said. He said Louisville succeeded in passing metro government by constant opinion polling, tracking polls to see if their approach was working with voters and constantly tailoring their message and delivery to meet the different concerns of voters and the attacks of opponents.

He also advised local officials to set aside politics and band together if they want to pass metro government in Kanawha County. "If you are going to do this, you're going to have to set your guns at the door," Shea said. "This is not a partisan issue."

Senator Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, said he thought the time was right to start selling the concept and put metro government to a vote.

McCabe said he also would look to reducing the number of votes required for passage of metro government from 55 percent to a simple majority, at least in Kanawha County. Under state law passed in 2005, if a county pursues metro government, 55 percent of voters in each affected locality must vote in favor.

The article below appeared in Friday's Charleston Daily Mail. Charleston Area Alliance officials were among those visiting Louisville to learn more about the many ways metro government could be implemented.

Local officials learn about Ky. merger of governments

by Matthew Thompson
Daily Mail staff

LOUISVILLE -- Officials representing Kanawha County towns and cities and county government itself are getting a first-hand look at a metro government success story.

A couple of dozen of them are on a two-day trip to learn more about metro government, which has been a controversial topic in Kanawha County for decades.

Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson greeted the West Virginia contingent Thursday and held forth at a question-and-answer session.

"In the word 'community' is the word 'unity,' " Abramson said. "We have to remind each other that we have more in common with each other than that which separates us."

Under metro government, cities and counties merge services. Not only does streamlining save money, but also the combined areas are in position to take advantage of federal grants available only to larger cities.

Louisville merged in 2000 with Jefferson County. It took 40 years and four tries at the polls before voters approved the proposal by 54 percent to 46 percent.

Abramson described how libraries, emergency and other government services were merged to create efficiencies.

"I felt like Noah," Abramson said. "I had two of everything."

A $6 million savings resulted from having a combined fleet of vehicles and $800,000 was saved by consolidating banking services.

Prior to the merger in 2000, Louisville had a mayor and 12-member board of aldermen. The county had a judge-executive and three commissioners.

Now the area has a Metro Mayor and a 26-member Metro Council.

Before the merger, Louisville covered 60 square miles. It had a population of 256,000, making it the 67th largest city in the nation.

Now it's the 16th largest, with 694,000 people and 386 square miles.

Kanawha County has three county commissioners, and Charleston has a mayor and a 27-member City Council.

County Commissioner Kent Carper said he wants the public to vote on the issue soon.
But he would like to have the full support of all mayors in the county and have public meetings to inform people thoroughly.

"You don't want to do it too quickly," Carper said. "We need a definitive plan of what we are going to do and what it will all mean and then we can tell people the truth."

Abramson said the business community, including the city's Chamber of Commerce, was the main financial force behind the metro government campaign.

They spent about $1.2 million on advertising.

Carper said the Charleston Area Alliance has already agreed to make metro government a top priority and help raise funds.

The alliance is the county's economic development arm.

Carper said it would take about $500,000 to fund a local metro campaign and he doesn't want to use taxpayers' money.

"It's a political campaign and I will not support using public money for a political campaign," Carper said. "You can call it an educational campaign, you can call it informational, but it's a political campaign. The business community needs to indicate this is a critical thing to do and they need to pay for it."

Carper said the business community needs to develop a hook for the campaign, using Louisville as an example.

"It needs to have a sensible theme," Carper said. "They need to remind people we are losing jobs, we're losing population. If you believe in consolidation of government, less government and less taxes, you need to go no farther than Louisville."

Commissioner Dave Hardy requested financial records from the Louisville effort.

"We need to look at how they raised their money and how they spent it," Hardy said.
Abramson said he regretted not making the metro government a non-partisan governing body.
"Many people changed because of the politics," Abramson said. "That's the biggest mistake we made."

Hardy said he was intrigued by that comment.

"I had not even considered that notion," Hardy said. "We do that with the school board, but I was surprised with all the advice the mayor had that's the one thing he regretted."

Hardy said also that the mayors in the county need to support the issue in order for it to be successful.

"If the mayors don't buy into this, then their councils won't buy into it and we can't get an election passed," Hardy said. "There's no question the mayors have to embrace the concept."
Carper said he's optimistic the trip will be a catalyst for bringing about metro government in Kanawha County.

"I can not imagine the average taxpayer in Kanawha County being against this, if they fully understand how it works," Carper said. "It works well."

Friday, September 05, 2008

First Friday Fiesta at Los Agaves!

Wind down from a hectic workweek tonight from 5 to 7:30 p.m. with Generation Charleston! Los Agaves in South Charleston is hosting the event.

Generation Charleston, a network for emerging leaders in the area, creates opportunities for young professionals to get connected and engaged - and make a difference in the area.

First Fridays provide a great opportunity to find out more about Generation Charleston and how you can get involved.

For more details about Generation Charleston, go to the Web site at or its parent site,

So come out for a networking happy hour. Find how you can get involved with Generation Charleston and the community!

Contact Danny Forinash at (304) 340-4253 for more information.

Join the Dog House Blitz!

The Habitat for Humanity Dog House Blitz is scheduled for 2 to 5 p.m. Sept. 21 at Magic Island Park.

The entry deadline is Sept. 17. The fee is $40 per team.

Can your civic, work or church group build the fastest, the best and the most attractive dog house?

The Big Dog Prize goes to the team that finishes first with the least number of defects in workmanship.

The Show Dog Prize goes to the team that decorates the completed dog house with the most creativity and style.

Teams can be of any size, but all work has to be done inside a 10-foot-by-10-foot area. All material required for construction will be supplied, although teams must provide decorating materials such as paint. Teams also will provide their own tools. No power or battery-operated tools are allowed.

No team will see the plans until the competition begins.

For more information, contact or visit

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Deadline for Applying to Leadership Kanawha Valley is Sept. 12

The Leadership Kanawha Valley program, sponsored by Chesapeke Energy, runs from October through May. Classes are once a month, and participants can miss no more than one session.

The deadline for applying is Sept. 12!

The program is limited to 35 participants. The tuition rate is $495 for Charleston Area Alliance members and $595 for non-members.

CLICK HERE to download the application.

"Leadership Kanawha Valley is a fantastic opportunity to network and be a part of the community," said Susie Salisbury, vice president of community development at the Charleston Area Alliance. "It's a way to be a part of the region's future and truly make a difference."

The program's objectives include developing, informing, training and enhancing committed, potential leaders to understand the issues and needs of our community; creating an environment that nurtures involvement in the community through volunteerism, service organizations and board appointments; and creating the opportunity for potential leaders to meet, establish rapports and maintain ongoing professional relationships.

The curriculum includes team building, time management, strategic planning, persuasion, media training, business etiquette and more. The program focus includes major industry, local government, area business, community development, public health, education, recreation and volunteer activation.

Applicants may be self-sponsored and self-nominated. In addition, community members may nominate individuals with leadership qualities for the program.

Contact Susie Salisbury at or (304) 340-4253 for more information.


CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Aug. 25, 2008) -- The Charleston Area Alliance has created a special task force to spearhead the formation of a community-wide organization to engage and educate voters on metro government issues.

Alliance Chairman Jack Rossi, appointed five Alliance members to the Metro Government Task Force: Mike Basile, Spilman Thomas & Battle; Pat Bond, Mountaineer Capital; Dave Hardy, Kanawha County Commission; Skip Lineberg, Maple Creative; and James Sturgeon, Pauley, Currey, Sturgeon & Vanderford.

“Helping government serve citizens more effectively and efficiently has always been a priority for the Alliance,” said Rossi. “We look forward to working with Senator Brooks McCabe, who has been at the forefront of metro government, along with other local leaders, to explore how it could benefit the people of Kanawha County.”

“While it can take many forms, metro government is essentially a way for the citizens and communities in our area to work together to meet the many common challenges we face,” noted Alliance President/CEO Matt Ballard.

“We believe metro government has the potential for giving more county residents a voice in their government, strengthening essential services such as fire and police protection, enhancing government effectiveness and saving taxpayers money,” he added.

“It is up to the people of our county, not the politicians, to decide how they should be governed,” Ballard cautioned. “Such an important decision needs to be based on the facts, not rhetoric or rumors. Understandably, many have questions about metro government and what form it might take in Kanawha County. We hope this community-wide group will help people make an informed choice.”

“If metro government is to be truly successful, all sectors of our county -- government, businesses, community groups and citizens – need to be involved in the process,” noted Hardy, a metro government proponent who serves as the county commission’s representative on the Alliance Board of Directors.

Ballard and two other Alliance staff members will join a delegation headed by County Commission President Kent Carper that is traveling to Louisville, Ky. on Sept. 4-5 to study how metro government works there. “We hope we, along with the mayors of local municipalities and others participating in the trip, will gain a better understanding of the pros and cons of metro government and share our findings with our respective constituencies,” Ballard said.

“We appreciate Commissioner Carper’s initiative on this issue and for organizing this important fact-finding mission,” added Rossi.

The Alliance’s participation in the Louisville trip is a continuation of its efforts on metro government. The Charleston Chamber of Commerce, one of the components of the Alliance, successfully advocated for the passage of state legislation allowing for metro government. In 2006, the Alliance hosted a presentation by Louisville Deputy Mayor Joan Riehm to area leaders. The Alliance also gave financial support to a series of community forums on metro government presented by the South Charleston Area Community Advisory Panel.

“There are many serious challenges facing our region,” said Rossi. “But there is strength in numbers. Metro government is one way we all can work together to build a more promising future for our families.”

The story below appeared last week in the Charleston Daily Mail.

Alliance creates metro task force
Officials to visit Louisville, Ky., to seehow it works there

by George Hohmann
Daily Mail Business Editor

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Charleston Area Alliance announced it has created a special task force "to spearhead the formation of a community-wide organization to engage and educate voters on metro government issues."

The announcement comes one week before Alliance President Matt Ballard, Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper and others go to Louisville, Ky., to see how metro government works there.

Alliance Chairman Jack Rossi appointed five members of the Alliance's Board of Directors to the task force: Mike Basile of the law firm Spilman Thomas & Battle; Pat Bond of Mountaineer Capital; Kanawha County Commissioner Dave Hardy; Skip Lineberg of Maple Creative; and James Sturgeon of the law firm Pauley, Currey, Sturgeon & Vanderford.

How much money will be spent to promote metro government has not yet been determined.
Earlier this month Carper sent a letter to Ballard offering the Alliance $100,000 in county funding if the Alliance or the Charleston Chamber of Commerce agree to come up with another $100,000.

Carper also asked Ballard to come up with an additional $300,000, all to be used to promote the idea of metro government.

"The total of at least $500,000 would then by used by the Charleston Area Alliance and/or Chamber of Commerce to perform an independent study on Metro Government in Kanawha County and facilitate an action/marketing plan for the subsequent implementation of Metro Government in Kanawha County," Carper's letter says.

Carper was asked this morning for his reaction to the Alliance's creation of the task force.

"I'm glad they responded to my request," he said.

Asked if he's heard back from the Alliance about his funding proposal, Carper said, "I've been told they indicated it wasn't enough - it'll take more. Of course. But I thought that was a starting point."

Carper added, "I've also been told it will be very difficult to raise that amount. Which is probably true. But that is what it is going to take."

Carper was asked if the county commission has agreed to his proposal to commit $100,000 of county money to promote metro government. "I don't have a commitment," Carper said. "But I cannot imagine I would not have support on this. Let's put it this way: I have my commitment."
Ballard said this morning, "It is still too premature to put a number to it (the metro government campaign).

"We have to determine what form of metro government we're talking about," he said. "If we're talking about two small municipalities in the upper Kanawha Valley or the merger of Charleston and Kanawha County, those would be two entirely different campaigns that would require entirely different resources.

"The task force will look at those things," Ballard said. "I think when everybody gets back from Louisville we'll have a better idea of what resources it took there."

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Commuter Bus Service a Good Start in Quest To Find Additional Public Transportation Options
From The Governor’s Desk: A weekly column by Gov. Joe Manchin

Last week, I joined county commissioners and transportation officials from Cabell and Kanawha counties to announce that we are working to provide a low-cost commuter bus service that will connect our state’s two largest cities: Huntington and Charleston. This weekday bus service would be operated jointly by the Tri-State Transit Authority and the Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority, and would provide a reliable and efficient link that would truly help to bring the Metro Valley together.

This service will help provide transportation to citizens throughout the Metro Valley and will help families address the budget-busting fuel prices by saving on fuel costs and it will also provide more access to citizen transportation needs. West Virginia is one of the more rural states in the nation and we don’t have the network of public transportation systems found in larger metropolitan areas.

That means that high gas prices take a heavier toll on our working families because they simply don’t have any other options but to drive to work or to the grocery store. I’ve said many times that West Virginians have to drive to survive – we cannot afford to keep paying these gas prices without some relief.

While just recently we’ve started to see a slight decrease in the price of fuel after months of increases, people across this state are looking for alternative transportation and continue to search for ways to save fuel. That is why I was pleased to announce the pilot project that will expand transportation services to citizens residing in the cities of Charleston and Huntington and suburban residents in Putnam County.

We were fortunately able to identify a federal grant that, if approved, will help to pay a good portion of the startup cost of providing this service. I have committed state funds to make up the rest, which will enable us to keep roundtrip prices well below $10. With gas prices at more than $3.50 per gallon, that’s substantial savings for our commuters.

If this pilot project is successful, I hope we will be able to implement it on logical routes connecting our citizens in other cities across the state. We know that the individual public transportation services in Charleston and Huntington have been effective for many years, and I thank the transportation authorities and our county commissions for their support of this project.

This is an easily implemented option to help provide some relief to our commuters, but I recognize that we need to look ahead at long-term transportation options that connect our communities. We’ll evaluate the demand for this service and see what, if any, additional buses or routes may be needed.

If this service is effective, it could also help to relieve some congestion on I-64, as well. While this is just a start, I think we all understand that efficient transportation is a key to growing our economy and, working together, we are finding new solutions to make that possible.