Comments Off on Inflation Uptick, What You Need to Know and Should Expect
The recent pandemic has caused significant construction supply chain challenges. Material costs have increased drastically; lumber futures are up 280%, steel mill product costs are up 55.6%, and gypsum product costs (plaster, drywall) have increased 12.5%. On top of the cost increase, lead times for construction materials have doubled or tripled, in many cases.
One example to offer…a BDR client recently called a contractor for a 6,000 square foot build-to-suit retail structure. Upon giving the bid, the contractor stated, “We will hold this pricing for two days.” This is in stark contrast to the typical pricing hold of 30 days. The urgency on both sides is a result of supply chain challenges.
Tensions like these extend beyond material cost increases. The Federal government recently injected an estimated $6 trillion dollars into our economy. Many businesses, communities, and families depended on this money to sustain their livelihood during the government shutdown. While the government took this step to rescue our economy in the short-term, the long-term impact should not be overlooked.
Inflation is a reality we will face in the years to come. Dating back to 1914, the yearly inflation rate in the United States has averaged 3.23%. The highest single month of inflation was in June 1920 when it skyrocketed to 23.70%. Since 2009, inflation has averaged 1.5-2% per year. According to tradingeconomics.com, April 2021’s inflation (most recent data point) is 4.2%. Each month in 2021 has seen an upward inflation trend.
There are several reasons inflation can uptick. Some of the causes include:
Injecting money into an economy. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States government injected around $6 trillion in the economy, which has ballooned our national debt to an astonishing $25 trillion. Since February 2020, the monetary supply in the United States has increased 26%. This is the largest one-year jump since 1946. According to USA Today Money, “Creating too much money that chases too few goods leads to price inflation, decreasing the purchase power of the dollar.” To note, there is more US currency in circulation today than ever before.
Demand-pull effect in an economy. Staying at home has led many folks to save up money (fuel cost, eating out for lunch) while consistently living hours in a single space (home). The reality many have lived for the past 12+ months provides an abundance of opportunity to find things to upgrade within a home. This COVID-sparked phenomenon has led to a surge in demand for goods and services. Look at the current residential housing market. Virtually any residential real estate agent will emphatically tell you it is currently a seller’s market. This extends well beyond our home base in Morgantown, WV, to the entire country.
Cost-push effect in an economy. In addition to increased demand, suppliers have been unable to maintain pace due to labor and raw material shortages. For an extended period of time, factories were shut down or stalled due to the pandemic. The effect is large gaps in the supply chain across many sectors – from chicken wings to construction materials. Increased and/or consistent demand with a decrease in supply results in higher prices.
These signs and more point to high rates of inflation. The volume of currency (USD) circulating in our system, pent-up demand for product and current supply chain issues are key indicators of increased inflation, which means tomorrow’s dollar will be worth less than today’s dollar.
One way to invest smartly given this circumstance is an inflation hedge. An inflation hedge typically involves investing in an asset expected to maintain or increase its value over a specified period of time. The investment goal is to secure assets close to, at, or greater than the rate of inflation. Investors should weigh their options across all investment opportunities.
Real estate is considered a strong hedge against inflation because property values and rents typically increase during times of inflation. Real estate has intrinsic value, is in limited supply, and is a yielding asset. People need to have shelter regardless of the value of their currency. Real estate investing also allows investors to utilize other people’s money, include the banks’, to make money.
Interest rates are still hovering around all-time lows which makes real estate a particularly attractive option in the current investment environment. When the rate of inflation goes up, fixed-interest rate financing costs less than when the loan was taken out since the dollar has lost some of its value. The borrower is essentially paying the lender back money that’s worth less than when the borrower took out the loan. This allows investors/borrowers to pay back loans using cheaper dollars.
“A dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow.”
At Black Diamond Realty, we have seen an uptick in demand for multifamily assets and other investment properties, income producing assets, across all sectors. We anticipate this trend to continue due to many of the reasons highlighted in this article. West Virginia has received tremendous positive economic momentum. From the Hyperloop announcement to the Smith’s Ascend WV program, momentum is building in WV. North Central WV remains an economic shining star in the state.
Call Black Diamond Realty today to explore your investment options. We have a team of professionals who understand complicated dynamics driving the various markets we serve. Let us underwrite your next investment project. Hedge against inflation wisely.
Article by: Article by: David Lorenze, Caleb Wooldridge Edited by: Dr. Stephanie Lorenze
Black Diamond Realty has created a family-like, teamwork-oriented culture in which our team is vested in each other’s success. Our process is detailed and diligent but it surrounds core values and beliefs that are summarized by the acronym, HIT. “ H ” stands for honesty, hard work and humility. “ I ” stands for integrity, intelligence and innovation. “ T ” stands for teamwork, tenacity and technology. Maintaining a consistent focus on honoring our HIT value system, BDR’s team works tirelessly to achieve our clients’ goals. Recharging the battery is paramount to providing a high level of service.
Each year, Black Diamond Realty provides an incentive trip intended to reward team members who meet individual and company goals. 2021’s destination was Key Largo, Florida. The team soaked up some much needed sun at the Key Largo Bay Marriott Beach Resort. The five days included lots of sun, amazing food, beverages, entertainment and a jet ski tour through the local mangroves. Our team returned to Morgantown recharged and excited for another successful year.
Thank you to all our clients, customers and reliable referral sources for trusting us with your projects. Check out some of our favorite moments below.
Comments Off on Toyota West Virginia announces $210 million new investment and 100 new jobs
New investment to upgrade existing engine production line; new jobs to add third shift.
To help meet customer demand, Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia (TMMWV) will invest $210 million to upgrade existing engine production and add 100 new jobs to increase assembly capacity of its four-cylinder engine line. Once complete, TMMWV’s total investment will be more than $1.8 billion and total employment will exceed 2,000.
“Today’s announcement represents Toyota’s continued commitment to our customers as well as our community,” TMMWV President Srini Matam said.
“We are thrilled to expand our Toyota family and continue our long-standing commitment to provide top-quality engines and transmissions for our customers.”
The $210 million investment will upgrade TMMWV’s current six-cylinder engine production line with new equipment and machinery, creating flexibility based on market demand for Toyota’s vehicle assembly plants in the U.S. and Canada.
The 100 new jobs will create a third shift due to a significant increase in Rav4 engine production at the Buffalo site, increasing assembly of an additional 5,900 engines per month, or more than 70,000 engines per year.
The upgrade project and hiring will be complete in the second half of 2022. Information regarding available positions at TMMWV can be found at www.tourtoyota.com.
“Toyota’s commitment to increase its investment in West Virginia and into our hard-working West Virginians prove they continue to be a wonderful business partner right here in the Mountain State,” West Virginia Governor Jim Justice said.
“This is such exciting news for West Virginia’s business community as well as our families that businesses are choosing to grow their organizations here. Toyota is a wonderful example of how a global company can be successful right here in West Virginia.”
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, praised Toyota for their long-term commitment to the Mountain State.
“In 2005 as Governor, I had the opportunity to travel to Japan to meet with Dr. Toyoda and company officials and since then they have been a strong partner for West Virginia,” Manchin said.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Toyota as they continue to build on their investments in the state, which now total more than $1.8 billion and support 2,000 good-paying jobs,” Manchin said.
“Today’s announcement of 100 new jobs and its continued investment in the state is testament to the team in Buffalo and the West Virginia workforce. The partnership between Toyota and West Virginia is stronger than ever and I look forward to continuing to work with Toyota officials to foster more long-term investments in our economy, communities and people.”
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said Toyota’s success in West Virginia sends a clear message to other companies about West Virginians’ skills and work ethic.
“Since Toyota first came to West Virginia more than 25 years ago, they have expanded their operations multiple times in Buffalo and proven to the country that our state has the skilled and dedicated workforce necessary for any company to be successful here,” she said.
“I have seen this dedication and strong work ethic of the Toyota Team Members firsthand during facility visits, and I’m glad that today’s announcement will create new job opportunities for hardworking West Virginians to pursue,” Senator Capito said.
“I’m thrilled that the Buffalo engine plant is continuing to play a key role in producing the engines and motors that power U.S. vehicles as Toyota continues to develop and incorporate exciting new technologies into their fleet. West Virginia has a long and productive relationship with Toyota, and this announcement today further solidifies the company’s commitment to investing in our state and our workers.”
Toyota has created a tremendous value chain in the U.S., with more than $28.4 billion direct investment in the U.S., nine manufacturing facilities, 10 including our joint venture with Mazda, nearly 1,500 independently owned dealerships and approximately 180,000 people working across the U.S.
TMMWV currently employs approximately 2,000 team members and has invested more than $1.8 billion into its nearly two million square-foot facility. TMMWV will commemorate its 25th anniversary this year. It annually produces nearly one million engines and transmissions for North American-assembled vehicles, including Avalon, Camry, Corolla, Highlander, Highlander Hybrid, Lexus ES, Lexus RX350, Rav4, Sienna, and Sienna Hybrid.
But there is a deeper possibility in this unusual alignment of one senator, one struggling state and one suddenly attentive capital.
“The joke is that we’re going to have a futuristic West Virginia,” said Kelly Allen, the executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. “The honest answer of it, from our perspective, is that West Virginia and Appalachia deserve an outsized piece of any federal recovery policy.”
That’s because the region’s decades-long role in powering the nation through coal, she said, came at enormous cost to the health of local residents, their environment and their economy. A serious federal response to that history could both bolster the state and be a model for other parts of the country that have been left behind.
West Virginia ranks among the most distressed states in child poverty rates and median incomes, in population loss and in working-age adults out of the labor force. Economists and local community leaders agree that the federal government has done a poor job helping to lift up such places. Maybe West Virginia, with all its newfound leverage, can force Washington to do better.
The state’s residents have ideas. They dream of broadband, vast brownfield cleanup efforts, greater aid to community lenders who operate where traditional banks won’t, more resources for high-quality housing and health clinics — investment on a scale that would return to the region all the wealth that was taken out of it by resource extraction.
“What we see is a part of the country that has been neglected by the change of an industry, and nothing came behind it,” said Jim King, the president and chief executive of Fahe, a network of more than 50 organizations working to make Appalachia more prosperous. “And it seemed that no one noticed or cared outside of our region.”
Within West Virginia, a number of organizations short of money are already operating with what Brandon Dennison, an eighth-generation resident, described as a “righteous anger” about rebuilding the state.
“On a spiritual level, in my bones, I know this place, it’s good, I know it has a lot to offer,” said Mr. Dennison, who founded Coalfield Development, an organization that provides work force training and jobs in construction, tourism and solar power, across the southern part of the state hurt most by coal’s decline. “And I know it’s not been able to offer all that it can because of various barriers.”
Many of those barriers went up generations ago, said William Hal Gorby, a historian at West Virginia University. In the 1870s, the state established a system for legally separating land ownership from mineral rights. This meant that families who owned land seldom profited from the coal underneath, which was mined by companies based out of state and used to power industrialization elsewhere. The coal industry also amassed political power early in the 20th century faster than anyone could mount a campaign to tax it. So to this day, West Virginia doesn’t have the kind of longstanding permanent fund that enables some other states to return resource wealth to their residents.
“The big theme of West Virginia historically is our wealth and our income is not here, it’s taken somewhere else,” said Sean O’Leary, a senior policy analyst with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. “That leaves us with very little to grow and invest and work on ourselves.”
And, indeed, much of the country prospered as West Virginia remained poor. Changing that picture now may require rethinking what it means for this part of the country to get its fair share from Washington.
Resources ‘tend to flow to places of density’
Many of the dynamics today in West Virginia would be familiar in old industrial towns in the Northeast, or in rural communities across the Midwest. The population is declining as young residents move away. So the tax base and ability to fund services are also shrinking. That makes it hard to support businesses, to prop up the housing market, to reinvent the economy.
This is a relatively new pattern: that broad parts of the country are falling further behind, as other places grow more prosperous. For much of the 20th century, poorer parts of the country were catching up in wages. That trend ended around 1980, according to economists, when globalization and knowledge work began to reorder the economy, with tremendously unequal consequences depending on where you live.
“We’re never going to have equal growth in the country geographically,” Mr. Lettieri said. “But we can’t tolerate a situation where a significant share of the country is actually losing ground as the national economy grows.”
In Washington, the problem isn’t simply that the federal government lacks a comprehensive strategy for the state and others like it; many existing federal programs weren’t designed for these places. To qualify for federal housing aid, families must earn below a given share of the local median income. But entire counties in Appalachia have median incomes below the poverty line, leaving many poor families ineligible.
Federal grant programs often require local matching dollars — money the poorest communities don’t have. Some health programs devote extra resources to rural communities, but misclassify which ones are “rural.” The federal government incentivizes banks to invest in struggling neighborhoods. But those incentives don’t work well in rural communities with no local bank branches. The government also has an array of tax credit programs to support development. But they work best with large-scale urban projects, not small rural ones.
“Scale is really the enemy of rural development,” said Dave Clark, the executive director of Woodlands Development Group and its partnering community lender, which have helped restore historical properties in small West Virginia downtowns. “Nobody’s getting rich off of these projects. We can structure them in such a way that people won’t lose money. But they’re not going to be making a lot of money off these projects with the current tools we have in place.”
The economics of redevelopment in the state are particularly tricky given that the state government has limited resources, local governments have meager tax revenue, and philanthropic dollars are scarce (those out-of-state coal companies didn’t leave behind a lot of local family foundations).
“Resources — all resources — tend to flow to places of density,” said Jen Giovannitti, president of the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the largest donor in West Virginia of any private foundation. “I’m talking about philanthropic density, population density, the institutional density. All of that money tends to cluster there.”
His predecessor, Robert C. Byrd, joked during his 51-year Senate career that he would be a billion-dollar industry for the state unto himself (and, indeed, he was).
What is potentially different for Senator Manchin today is that his influence is rising as recognition of spatial inequality is, too — and that this comes as the economy is in the midst of another jolt.
If more workers can live anywhere, why not West Virginia?
The pandemic, for all its pain, has hastened a number of trends that could aid West Virginia. It has driven a shift toward telehealth, a vital tool in rural communities. It has pushed more consumers into outdoor recreation, a market West Virginia’s scenic gorges and mountain trails are primed to capture. It has boosted political will in the state to prioritize broadband. And the pandemic has sped up a move toward remote work to parts of the country with a more affordable cost of living.
This last trend, which is tied to the other three, could have broad consequences for how states think about economic development. If more workers can live anywhere, states don’t have to throw tax breaks at companies to attract them. They can try to attract workers directly.
“Making a place a good place to live becomes much more important now,” said Adam Ozimek, the chief economist at the freelance platform Upwork. “That’s also a much healthier type of competition than who’s going to give the Bass Pro outlet the biggest tax cut.”
That idea reframes the major infrastructure investments Senator Manchin and President Biden have proposed. Broadband, above all, is an essential precondition to remote work. Well-maintained roads, new parks and other public amenities also enhance quality of life. And major investments in environmental cleanup — because the environment is central to West Virginia’s allure — become an economic development strategy, too.
Until now, many organizations in West Virginia lament that the state has focused too heavily on luring outside employers, rather than building up the state’s own assets.
“If we’re going to think big about this, do we want any job at any price?” said Karen Jacobson, who leads the housing authority in Randolph County. “From any employer who’s going to take the deal now and leave 10 years from now?”
An effort to leverage remote work could also help the state keep more of its college graduates. William Franko, a political scientist at West Virginia University, said many of his students who leave wish they didn’t have to.
“My sense is they would love to stay in the state after they graduate,” he said. “Most West Virginians love the state. But I think they look at the economic landscape, and they say, ‘I don’t see how I can make it work.’”
Mr. Lettieri and Mr. Ozimek have also proposed that the federal government do more to stem population loss and its harms, offering “heartland visas” to skilled immigrants who commit to settling in communities that have been shrinking. That idea is the kind of place-based program that recognizes what’s different about Southern West Virginia than, say, North Carolina’s Research Triangle three hours away.
All of this, locals said, would have to work alongside investments in residents who are unlikely to have remote jobs, but who could build the infrastructure, or run the tourism businesses, or remediate the land. After coal, many are leery of relying on any one fix-it-all idea, whether that’s tourism or remote work. What they’re asking for is something more comprehensive, something that will take years to grow.
“We have generational problems,” said Mr. Dennison, the head of Coalfield Development. “And they’re not going to be solved in one appropriations cycle, or even two or three.”
Comments Off on Buyer-Tenant Representation: How Black Diamond Can Assist You
Choosing the commercial real estate that is the best fit for you and your success can be tricky. Does the location align with the business’ demographic focus? How will visibility and accessibility positively or negatively influence the business’ performance? What deal structure preserves capital while minimizing long-term risks? These are a few examples of many challenging and complex questions that should be thoroughly analyzed when striking a commercial real estate deal.
Black Diamond can be your commercial real estate parachute. Our team of experts adds value to a buyer and/or tenant representation relationship by providing sound market and experience-driven advice, utilizing resources to thoroughly canvass the market for all assets which potentially service your needs, advocating for your best interests during the negotiation process, connecting you with helpful professionals, and taking a comprehensive, team-oriented approach focused on looking out for your best interests. Our team works hard to service and protect our clients’ interests.
Commercial real estate transactions are complex with many potential hurdles. The information below is intended to expand upon reasons you should consider securing buyer and/or tenant representation when searching for your next commercial real estate asset.
Expertise/Market Knowledge. We all have areas of expertise in life. One individual’s strength is another’s weakness. Day in and day out, our team of experts are discussing, assessing, experiencing and closing complex deals in the commercial real estate markets we serve. This experience creates market knowledge that is unique to working in the commercial real estate trenches on a daily basis. Market knowledge can help minimize the risk associated with choosing an asset that becomes a profitable venture versus a financially challenged and stressful endeavor.
Greater Options. Our team has access to off-market opportunities which are properties with no public advertising. A prospective tenant or buyer receives a greater range of opportunity when working with a real estate professional. The contacts we have developed in the region allow us to ensure our clients have a comprehensive understanding of the available assets that could service their company’s needs.
Connections. Successfully navigating commercial real estate transactions requires knowledge in a number of specialty fields. Some of those fields include, but are not limited to, real estate law, construction, accounting, banking and marketing. Our team of experts works with regional professionals on a daily basis. Through our exposure to thousands of deals, we have developed a referral network of professionals that we feel confident can properly service the various needs of your organization.
Lease vs. Buy. Our team has a strong understanding of underwriting, preservation of capital and resources needed to continue to grow. Having an open dialogue about the decision to buy or lease is healthy to ensure the correct long-term decision is executed.
Experienced Negotiators. Navigating a commercial real estate negotiation is a dance. Many unknowns can arise. Exposed to thousands of deals over a collective career, BDR’s team has seen myriad circumstances. We utilize that experience and exposure to help our clients successfully navigate the negotiation to finalize a deal.
Save Time & Money. Hiring a team of experts allows you to focus your time on your business while knowing a professional is working in your best interest. We handle most items needed in the process. For the items we do not handle, we have referrals to specialty services (see Connections above). There is typically no cost to a buyer/tenant representation except in unique scenarios. Traditionally, the seller/landlord pays the brokerage fees.
Whether you are in the market for investment assets, office, industrial, land or retail space, we will assist you with finding the right location and property. Clients benefit from our market knowledge, putting them on the inside track to evaluate locations, rental rates and purchase prices, negotiate lease and purchase agreements, and assess other pros/cons. We specialize in finding properties that are off market or not advertised as available, and we can recommend knowledgeable attorneys, architects, engineers, contractors, accountants, and other professionals to assist any purchase or lease transaction.
We understand that every situation is unique, ranging from large corporations to small local businesses, which is why we tailor our approach to meet the needs of each industry. When you choose Black Diamond as your buyer-tenant representative, you will gain support from a brokerage firm that will help you achieve you short or long-term goals.
If your business’s lease is near expiration or you’re looking to relocate or expand, call us today at 304.413.4350 and we will assist you in evaluating a new location for success!
Comments Off on Agreement between UK company DST and Blue Rock Manufacturing to bring new manufacturing facility, up to 1,000 new jobs to West Virginia
Jim Justice announced today that DST Innovations, a UK technology company headquartered in Wales, has chosen West Virginia as the home of its new American manufacturing base; agreeing on a contract with West Virginia-based company Blue Rock Manufacturing to establish a new facility for the development of its new energy cells.
The new facility will be the forefront of green technology, using existing organic material such as coal to create new clean energy storage solutions. The development is expected to create up to 1,000 new jobs in the manufacturing and technology sectors. The manufacturing base will be located in Morgantown, with a Phase 2 expansion planned for the Southern Coalfields region of the state.
“This is a gigantic announcement for West Virginia and I could not be happier,” Gov. Justice said. “It’s wonderful to be able to announce a new international partnership for business in West Virginia. The development is a great example of the special relationship we have with the UK and, now, specifically, with Wales.
“West Virginia and Wales are both proud mining communities,” Gov. Justice continued. “They share their heritage and appreciation for the natural resources, and this special partnership will see us both at the forefront of new energy.”
When successfully completed, the production facility will use the latest material science techniques, combining them with cutting-edge manufacturing knowledge to turn West Virginia coal and other organic materials into clean, sustainable energy storage products. The facility aims to produce large scale, printed energy storage systems and clean, high-grade electronic inks and coatings for use in battery and capacitor products worldwide.
“We want, in West Virginia, to chase every opportunity we have to bring goodness and jobs to West Virginia,” Gov. Justice said. “This is another great example of how all the work that we’re doing within the state of West Virginia makes these things become a reality, but these things only become a reality with the goodness of the people on the other side of the equation. These people from Wales probably looked at many places within the United States, but they have chosen West Virginia, and I could never be more thankful.”
The pioneering facility in West Virginia will be integral to a new, internationally-funded $1.4 billion natural energy project: Dragon Energy Island, located in Swansea, South Wales. Products created in West Virginia will enable the efficient storage of energy generated at the groundbreaking project, harnessing the power of nature.A DST spokesperson said “We want to thank Governor Justice and his team for the warm welcome we have received. We are excited to create our American home in West Virginia, and truly believe, together, we can turn West Virginia coal into the clean resource of the future. The technology that will be used in Swansea for the Dragon Energy Island project can be utilized throughout the world, and we welcome the opportunity to aid governments achieve their sustainability and green ambitions.”
Rob Stewart, Leader of Swansea Council said “Swansea Bay offers an unprecedented opportunity to deliver the world’s first truly integrated tidal energy project. This project has the potential to spur a new industry not just for Swansea but for Wales and the UK. The impacts on employment and our local economy are set to be significant and perfectly timed as we address the post-COVID economy.”
“We remain 100 percent committed to seeing the project delivered in Swansea and are grateful for all of the efforts made by DST to bring together such a strong consortium of organizations with a proven track record of success,” Stewart added.
“We’re delighted to be making this announcement today with the Governor, who has been a great support and aide in making this project become a reality,” said Mary Anne Ketelsen of Blue Rock Manufacturing. “We will be so pleased to add so many jobs. We need them, and I can’t think of a better place to bring jobs than West Virginia.”
Article by Office of the Governor, Jim Justice. Click HERE to see from source.
Comments Off on Reflecting on 2020 and Projecting on 2021
The page has turned on one of the most complicated, volatile and disheartening years in recent history. Families worked hard to maintain their values and moral fabric. Remote learning, hand sanitizer and Zoom calls became societal norms. Businesses diligently pursued creative means to keep their team members employed. Accessorizing with a mask is now commonplace and yet so many unknowns remain. Will businesses survive the continued stress of the pandemic? How will the new president affect the commercial real estate world?
Closer to home, Mylan recently closed its doors and other businesses could not survive the pandemic. Will we see more businesses closing their doors in our community? The Black Diamond team does not have all the answers but we can provide perspective on what we witnessed in 2020 and what we anticipate in 2021. Take it at face value, considering our regional sample size.
In February 2020 (pre-pandemic), we were able to enjoy our annual company reward trip to Aruba. Our work family added a key team member, Kim Licciardi, this summer. We took proactive steps to begin the journey of upgrading our process via new CRM (customer relationship management) system. To top it off, we reached many of our 2020 company goals. In 2020, we served a key role in consummating 64 sale and lease transactions. Of the 64 deals, 23 were sales which represents 36% of our business. We continue to gain positive traction in securing and successfully selling investment (income producing) assets.
We were also successful in other sectors with sale and lease volume in descending order: Office – Investment – Land – Retail – Industrial. 2020 was a challenging but productive year. Certainly 2021 will bring additional challenges, but many positive market opportunities exist. Below is a list of our top 5 commercial real estate predictions for 2021.
Interest in purchasing assets will remain high. Low interest rates, combined with stock market fears created by an 11 year bull run and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will continue to encourage folks to invest capital into commercial real estate. For some, parking money into an income producing commercial real estate asset is less risky than riding the wave of a stock market that has been on a bull run since the financial crisis of 2009.
More businesses will close their doors permanently. We have not seen the end of the COVID fallout. Many entrepreneurs continue to struggle as government mandated shutdowns have created unprecedented challenges for business owners. Cash will be king in some scenarios as companies look to divest quickly to avoid bankruptcy and negative credit effects.
Growth in government and high tech jobs in the region. Under a new presidential administration, increased government and continued focus on high tech will likely be in play. This will lead to opportunity in many CRE sectors, most notably office, throughout the region.
Flexible lease terms will be more prevalent. COVID-19 has created many challenges including top line and bottom line challenges for many tenants. This will lead to a willingness of landlords to be more flexible with lease terms and conditions in an effort to secure tenancy.
Industrial sector demand will shift. Oil & gas is anticipated to face heightened scrutiny and additional challenges in 2021. Low commodity pricing, combined with anticipated stringent environmental policy (aimed at creating clean energy), will be challenging for some O&G companies while creating opportunity for others. A shift in market demand will predominantly be seen via a focus on distribution warehouse space and industrial space utilized for logistical centers. Some heavy and light manufacturing opportunities will also present themselves in 2021 as our country attempts to bring jobs home. The traditional, average O&G facility, 10,000sf industrial building with ~1,000sf of office on a 2 acre yard, will face lower demand.
A new year provides the opportunity, even if only mentally, for a fresh start, a renewed sense of optimism. Knowing there are only certain things in life we can control, our team is choosing to move forward with a positive, growth mindset. We hope you will enter 2021 in the same way. Make it a great 2021!
Click HERE to view our 2020 Q4 Closed Transactions.
Comments Off on Coming Soon: The Bridge, a 156,000 SF recreational facility in Bridgeport, WV
The Bridge is the newest destination for all things sports, recreation, and wellness.
With 156,000 square feet of courts, turf, aquatics, fitness, and more, The Bridge is the most comprehensive venue in West Virginia and beyond. When you’re competing at The Bridge, you’re playing at the region’s top destination for tournaments, championships, and competitions. The Bridge Sports Complex has something for everyone. From exceptional sports programming to exciting family entertainment, this state-of-the-art facility is the premier sports and recreation destination for North Central West Virginia.
Comments Off on Massive Project Moving Forward in Bridgeport Could See Annual Economic Impact of More than $1 Billion
Three years ago, Harrison County Commissioners and Benedum Airport Authority members Ron Watson and David Hinkle got with fellow Authority member and Bridgeport Mayor Andy Lang to form a special projects committee at the North Central West Virginia Airport.
The committee expanded to include NCWV Airport Director Rick Rock, Deputy Director Shawn Long, Mid-Atlantic Aerospace Complex Director Tracy Miller, and Amy Wilson of the Harrison County Economic Development Corporation. The group, Lang said recently, meets about every week.
“This coming October it will be three years,” Lang told members of the Bridgeport Development Authority last week.
Unlike many committees, this committee is not only making noise, but it is making serious financial noise with the first leg of a project that has just got started. Lang said that entire buildout of the much-discussed airport terminal project, which involves much more than just a new airport terminal building, is being looked at as having a potential 10-figure impact.
“We’re at $1.2 billion right now of economic impact,” said Lang on the status of the airport’s aerospace impact now. “The whole goal … it doubles what’s already on the airport. That’s based on square footage.”
The estimate of having an additional $1 billion-plus impact does not include other property that could be acquired and developed, which will be discussed below. It does include land many that follow the airport know has been targeted for development and that this committee has zeroed in on.
“We wanted to figure out a way to utilize the property lays between (State Route) 131 and (State Route) 279 and Route 50 back to Bridgeport,” said Lang on the property that is mainly owned by the airport and within the city limits.
The driving factor is that formerly Bombardiere, now Mitsubishi, is looking to expand their massive operations at the airport. To provide them space for future growth, the existing terminal building would need to be moved, which would also allow for other issues with the current terminal to be eliminated. That led to the committee looking at how the land referenced above could be utilized.
“(Moving the terminal) has nothing to do with the building, it has more to do with tarmac space, security and so many things we’ve learned over the last few years,” said Lang, who said parking is also a problem. “… There are a whole lot of issues that make it best to get that terminal out of there.”
That led them back to something that had been started on and never finished. The moving of a “mountain,” said Lang, on property that abuts Route 279. The idea has long been to remove the mountain, use fill to bring up lower elevations, and create flat land for development.
“(The flat land made accessible to the runway) is what brings value to our area,” said Lang.
The first part of that efforts, with a near $15 million price tag, is expected to get started before the end of the year. The earthmoving is funded through a $10 million grant awarded to the airport by Gov. Jim Justice and the remainder is being covered by the airport and the county commissions of Harrison and Marion Counties, the owners of the airport.
Once finished, Lang said there should be nearly 100 flat and contiguous acres. The land will be connected to the runway.
“The terminal building will take up about 18 of those acres and we’ll be left with about 80 acres that can be developed, hopefully for aerospace,” said Lang.
The $15 million only covers the first phase. Two additional phases will take place will include the concrete work needed for the airport aprons, the lighting and other airport essentials that the Airport Authority is hopeful will receive FAA funding.
The final phase is the construction of the terminal. The parking area, which along with the terminal will be designed for expansion, will also be part of the final phase.
Throughout the process, all infrastructure such as water and sewage will be done to allow the airport to go easily into surrounding properties. If everything goes as planned, private property surrounding the airport could be purchased as those owners have indicated they are willing to sell their property. And other large pieces of property are owned by the Harrison County Commission, including the former Thrasher farm.
There is no set timetable for the completion of the terminal, but the process is well under way. The Development Authority was impressed with Lang’s presentation.
“They’ve done a great job up there to aggressively keep moving forward,” said John Stogran, the president of the Development Authority.
Comments Off on Virgin Hyperloop to build Hyperloop Certification Center in West Virginia
(Additional information, including resources from the State of West Virginia, West Virginia University and Marshall University, is available in an online media supplement.)
West Virginia, birth place of Chuck Yeager, the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound, will now be at the center of developing the next innovation in barrier-breaking transportation.
Virgin Hyperloop announced Thursday, Oct. 8, that it will locate a certification facility on nearly 800 acres of land spanning Tucker and Grant counties where it will leverage intellectual capital and resources from West Virginia University, Marshall University and from across the state.
“West Virginia is well-positioned to provide a fully integrated solution that advances the nationwide opportunity for hyperloop,” Jay Walder, CEO of Virgin Hyperloop, said. “The engineering and scientific talent, combined with the skilled workforce and collaborative spirit we know is critical to this project, is all right here.”
Hyperloop moves people and goods in pods through a vacuum tube at speeds exceeding 600 mph enabling travel from Pittsburgh to Chicago in 41 minutes or New York City to Washington, D.C. in just 30 minutes.
Walder noted that the Hyperloop Certification Center’s role is critical, a necessary next step in taking proven technology and demonstrating to regulators and certifiers that it works and is safe for passengers.
Work on the HCC is expected to begin in 2021 with a planned Welcome Center, Certification Track and Operations Center, Pod Final Assembly Facility, Production Development Test Center and Operations, Maintenance and Safety Training Center.
Virgin Hyperloop plans to directly hire 150-200 engineers and technicians for the facility with plans to source talent locally. In addition, the construction and manufacturing of the project will create 7,300 jobs throughout the region over the next five years and the longer-term operation phase will create 6,000.
“Today is a fantastic day for the state of West Virginia, and I’d like to be the first to officially welcome the folks from Virgin Hyperloop to their new home,” Gov. Jim Justice said. “For years, I have been saying that West Virginia is the best kept secret on the East Coast, and it’s true. Just look at this announcement and all it will bring to our state—investment, jobs, and tremendous growth. It’s a true honor and privilege to be selected as the site for the Hyperloop Certification Center and lead the nation in this next step forward for transportation. When we approached Virgin Hyperloop, I told them that we would do everything we could to bring this opportunity to West Virginia. We look forward to working with the Virgin Hyperloop team to create a lasting partnership for years to come.”
The land, owned by Western Pocahontas Properties and located near Mt. Storm, is being donated to the WVU Foundation in partnership with Virgin Hyperloop.
“As part of this process, Western Pocahontas Properties employed some of the world’s best environmental planners, including SWCA Environmental Consultants, Planned Environments, Inc. and others, to ensure this new development would complement the area’s uniqueness and beauty,” Corby Robertson, owner of Western Pocahontas Properties, said. “This thorough planning and commitment to our community and environment make this site very attractive to Virgin Hyperloop because they share our values for sustainable growth.”
However, the anticipated reach extends far beyond the state’s borders.
“I am committed to building a consortium of universities from around the country who will lend their expertise to further develop the vision of hyperloop,” WVU President Gordon Gee said. “We will also create educational and institutional opportunities for students, faculty and staff to be a part of this program. There is no greater learning lab than what we will build here in West Virginia.”
Marshall University has worked closely with WVU and others throughout the process.
“Higher Education institutions are hubs for research, innovation and talent,” Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert said. “Colleges and universities help build and strengthen our communities and in this partnership with Virgin Hyperloop, the awesome opportunity to build the communities of the future is now at our doorstep.”
The West Virginia Community and Technical College System will also play a key role in helping to create education and job training programs
Sarah Biller, executive director of Vantage Ventures at WVU, explained these partnerships will help to generate additional interest in a number of innovative projects starting up across West Virginia.
“This is another example that proves we actually can attract investors, attract the talent and really reframe the conversation for our future,” Biller said.
Glenn Adrian proposed interchange idea to commission. If you build it, they will come.
Sure, the line originated with disembodied voices and ghosts playing baseball in a cornfield, but the principle is a bit broader. For example, you could say if you build the proper infrastructure, investment, development, jobs and tax dollars will come. That’s precisely what Glenn Adrian is saying. Adrian, with Enrout Properties, is the owner of the Morgantown Industrial Park.
Adrian recently told the Monongalia County Commission and Delegate Mike Caputo, D-Marion, that after two years of back and forth with the West Virginia Department of Transportation and the governor’s office, he believes a deal is imminent that will allow various feasibility studies regarding a new I-79 interchange at the Harmony Grove/River Road overpass to begin.
He said building the interchange would not only make the park the only industrial site in West Virginia with barge, rail and interstate access, it would also remove the heavy flow of truck traffic that is funneled through Westover to access the 500-acre park via Dupont Road. It would also make the park far more attractive to potential investors.
Commission President Ed Hawkins called the proposal put forward by one of those potential investors “mind boggling.”
“We’re working very diligently with a significant clean manufacturer that wants to be here in the county … We’re talking about a 300,000 to 600,000 square-foot facility, up to 250 jobs and a lot synergies with WVU and the ag sciences and engineering departments,” Adrian said, adding, “This company, at its peak, will probably have 60 to 70 trucks a day. They’re a 24/7 operator. They cannot go here unless this becomes a reality.”
In order to help make it a reality, park ownership is working with the state on the creation of a second industrial park TIF district, the increment from which would expand water, sewer and road infrastructure to undeveloped portions of the park and reimburse the state for the estimated $20-$30 million interchange construction.
Both Adrian and the commission point to the $22 million construction of I-79 Exit 153 as proof that such an arrangement can work.
“The question is what’s the cost to the taxpayers, and in Mon County we don’t like running to Charleston and saying ‘We have this problem, what are you going to do for us?’ We try to bring solutions,” Commissioner Sean Sikora said. “That’s what happened with the first interchange. We found a solution to pay for it, and within a couple years it was paid off. It didn’t cost the taxpayers. It was all paid for from the increments out of the district. Same thing with this.”
The original industrial park TIF district was created in 2008. Adrian said the tax value of the park has gone from $26 million when Enrout purchased it, to between $45-$50 million. Add in the hundreds of miles of pipeline staged on the site for the now abandoned Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, that value jumps to approximately $90 million.
Sikora referenced a WVU economic study from 2019 that indicated the park as it’s currently configured has had a $1.1 billion impact on the state’s economy. Adrian said the interchange and park expansion would double that number over the next 10 years, according to projections.
Before any of that becomes reality, however, it must be determined if the interchange project makes sense.
“Interchanges like this are very arduous, A lot of studies have to go into it, which we’re going to pay for, but we’re very close to signing that collaboration agreement, Adrian said, adding, “We can draw all the pretty pictures we want, but the studies will determine the feasibility of this interchange.”
Comments Off on $20 Million Small Format Hospital Approved – Fairmont
Mon Health CEO says project will be finished by the end of 2021.
Mon Health System received its Certificate of Need from the West Virginia Health Care Authority to proceed with plans to construct a $20 million, small format hospital in Fairmont. Mon Health CEO David Goldberg said the next step is to put the project out for bid. Construction, he said, should take 16 months to complete.
“We’ll be open by the end of the year 2021,” he said. The 10-bed hospital, dubbed Mon Health Marion Neighborhood Hospital, will be constructed on land the health system already owns along Interstate 79 near Fresenius Kidney Care in Pleasant Valley. Small format hospitals are accredited by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to offer hospital-based services that include inpatient and outpatient medical beds, diagnostic imaging and lab services and full-service emergency services. The hospital will not have an operating room, a Cath lab or offices, Goldberg said. When it is up and running, it will be the first small format hospital in West Virginia, several of which already exist in the Greater Pittsburgh area. More than 100 people are expected to work at the facility, Goldberg said.
The Fairmont area has been without a full-service hospital since the 207-bed Fairmont Regional Medical Center was closed in March by its California-based owner, Alecto Healthcare Services, after it could not find a buyer for the facility. Alecto said the hospital lost $19 million in three years. West Virginia University Medicine will begin using a portion of the shuttered Fairmont Regional later this year after it receives its separate CON from the state Health Care Authority. That facility will act as an arm of J.W. Ruby Memorial, WVU Medicine’s flagship hospital. WVU Medicine also filed for a second CON from the state to construct a 25-bed, full-service hospital next to its Urgent Care Center at the Gateway Connector, a $35.3 million project estimated to take 18 to 24 months to complete.
Comments Off on O’Brien’s Viewpoint: Innovation DNA can fuel Industry 4.0
Between the late 1700s and late 1800s, Pennsylvania became the center of the energy universe. The development of coal, then the discovery of oil and the first natural gas well created unprecedented economic opportunity — for energy businesses and for the energy-intensive manufacturers who relied on those heat, power and fuel sources.
Industrial producers of all kinds flocked here, which over time delivered the world’s full spectrum of materials — glass, steel, aluminum, paper, chemicals and coatings. Clustered around them were the makers of the tools, machines and equipment needed to make those products — and the innovations that followed.
Now, the 21st century chapter of that story is unfolding, and it’s an even bigger opportunity. With our natural gas and natural gas liquids, we again have an abundant and economical resource, but that is just one ingredient for growth. Today, there are other important assets that can drive the world’s next industrial revolution: Industry 4.0. It’s a data-driven, automated and environmentally sustainable future of manufacturing. It will shape how we make the materials, chemicals and finished products that contribute in countless ways to the high quality of life we enjoy.
Our region is uniquely positioned to be the global center of Industry 4.0 because we have all the right ingredients to build it, including:
Manufacturing base, legacy and workforce. According to Forge The Future, a 2017 study by McKinsey & Co., Pennsylvania lost about 35 percent of its manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2015. Even so, manufacturing remains a leading contributor to our economy, and many of those displaced workers have invaluable industry experience that can be applied to new roles in an automated, advanced manufacturing future.
Manufacturing and technology converge. The region’s manufacturing legacy, combined with a growing technology sector, puts us in the position to apply computing power, artificial intelligence and machine learning to manufacturing. For example, the software, sensors and other technologies that automate transportation can be applied to drive performance, productivity, cost and energy efficiencies, and sustainability in the factories of the future. Firms operating here in energy, manufacturing and materials science are, in fact, tech companies. General Electric’s Center for Additive Technology Advancement (CATA) is a prime example of the marriage of metals, manufacturing, software and automation.
World-class research institutions. Carnegie Mellon University is building on its reputation in advanced robotics, artificial intelligence, materials science and 3D printing with its Manufacturing Futures Initiative and its U.S. Department of Energy-backed Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute. These and other initiatives bring together public- and private-sector partners to help commercialize innovation. Our world-class network of research institutions — University of Pittsburgh, Penn State, Ohio State, West Virginia University, Case Western and more, complemented with the National Energy Technology Laboratory and other programs – is research horsepower that’s second-to-none.
Infrastructure and sites. The decline in older, heavy manufacturing — not to mention the closure of old power plants over the past decade — has yielded numerous brownfield locations where the manufacturers of the future can be built. Rail, highway and water transportation are here, all in efficient proximity to major domestic markets and export channels.
Those assets, combined with our vast hydrocarbon reserves, are unique in this world. We can leverage them to drive advanced manufacturing’s future and extend our reputation for leadership across a diverse economy that includes energy, health care, biosciences, software, materials and more.
This opportunity carries risk: that we settle for the status quo of below-average economic growth and low-to-no population growth. That threatens our ability to fund the infrastructure needs, social services, cultural amenities and community development needs of the Pittsburgh region we love. Let’s not settle for status quo.
Morgan O’Brien is president and CEO of Peoples Natural Gas Co. and chair of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce.
Comments Off on Black Diamond Realty’s response to COVID-19, a note from our Principal
At Black Diamond Realty, our team has shifted to a work-from-home setup filled with screen sharing, remote server access and unique daily distractions, like children dodging in and out of video calls. We certainly are living in challenging and unprecedented times. Several weeks ago, the movie Contagion felt more like a sci-fi thriller, but has now become the reality for many Americans. We main strong as West Virginians and Pennsylvanians, and we know that we are in this together.
For some, the devastation is far greater than others. Some businesses survive and thrive on people, check that – lots of people, traversing through their doors on a daily basis. Some industries, like hospitality, require people to travel from different states to spend time in a city outside of where they call home. How do these types of businesses survive? For some, resiliency will keep the lights on and doors open. For others, despite their strongest efforts and desires to stay open, the task at hand is insurmountable. The margins and cash reserves are simply not there for some businesses who operate on a week-to-week or month-to-month basis. However, for most, hope remains and modifications to our previous routines can turn that hope into a positive outcome.
At Black Diamond Realty, we want to do our part to help support those struggling. We encourage our readers to do the same. Here are some tips of how you can support a local business.
Order take-out as much as you can afford it. Choose restaurants you love, especially locally-owned, ones you patronized prior to the introduction of COVID-19. Your support may help keep their doors open after this is all over.
Give to your local food bank, food pantries and non-profits battling hunger/food insecurity. Many of our neighbors are food insecure and do not know where their next meal will come from.
Pre-book parties and gatherings at your favorite establishments that are many months out. This could serve as a boost for business owners who greatly need it.
Buy gifts, wine and household needs from local establishments rather than big box retailers.
Share your positive stories on social media. Tell the world about your funny quarantine experiences. Share photos of things you and your family are doing.
Connect with one individual per week who you have not spoken to in a long time. Physical distancing does not mean social distancing. Today’s technology allows many to remain connected.
Write a letter to some of your favorite businesses in town letting them know you are thinking about them. The psychological boost will mean the world to many business owners.
Additionally, the federal government has come to the aid with various programs aimed at maintaining jobs and aiding our economy during these challenging times. Last week, Black Diamond Realty posted some valuable information on our website and social media outlets identifying helpful federal loan and grant programs aimed at aiding business owners, independent contractors and individuals. Applications for business owners were accepted, beginning Friday, April 3. Independent contractors can submit their applications starting Friday, April 10. Please spend a few minutes reviewing your options.
A reoccurring question has emerged over the past few weeks. How has the commercial real estate market been affected? Before answering, please keep in mind our experiences and observations are only a small sample size of real estate activity. With that in mind, Black Diamond Realty has experienced two sale deals that have been derailed due to buyer uncertainty associated with the economy. In addition, a handful of leases have been put on hold, hopefully temporary in nature, for the prospective tenant to “wait and see” how things shake out. On the positive side, numerous deals continue to press forward as many still believe in the long-term vitality of investing and establishing in this region. Several new deals have surfaced in the past three weeks since Corona made its unwelcomed introduction to America. Investors are looking for stability and economic opportunity. Interest rates are at a historic low while stock market volatility is extremely high after an 11 year bull run. For many, a shaky stock market mixed with low cost of funds results in a great time to diversify portfolios into commercial real estate.
At Black Diamond, we work hard to initiate positive change in all the communities we serve. Please reach out if you have any questions, concerns or suggestions on how we can help our neighbors overcome this challenging situation.
In an unprecedented way, COVID-19 and the corresponding challenge has the potential to make our nation and moral fabric stronger. Let’s do our part to help turn a negative into a positive. Be kind. Be grateful. Share your love, time, talent and treasures with others in need. We will emerge stronger.
Comments Off on CARES Act & Other Business Assistance Programs
As our nation navigates through the COVID-19 crisis, businesses are beginning to feel the effects first hand. As a means of financial relief, the government has passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and economic Security (CARES) Act.
The CARES Act will provide $377 billion to help prevent workers from losing their jobs and small businesses from closing their doors due to economic losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Download the printable sheet HERE.
Paycheck Protection Program:
The bill provides 8 weeks of cash-flow assistance through 100 percent federally guaranteed loans to small employers who maintain their payroll during this emergency.
If the employer maintains its payroll, then the portion of the loan used to cover payroll costs, interest on mortgage on obligations, rent, and utilities would be forgiven.
The bill provides this support to small employers 500 employees or fewer, self-employed individuals and gig economy individuals, nonprofits and 501(c)(3) organizations and 50(c)(9) veteran organizations.
Loans will be available immediately through more than 800 SBA-certified lenders, including banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions.
The size of the loans may equal 250 percent of an employer’s average monthly payroll. The maximum loan amount is $10 million.
The bill would require the SBA to pay all principal, interest, and fees on all existing SBA loan products, including 7(a), Community Advantage, 504, and Microloan programs, for six months to provide relief to small businesses negatively affected.
The bill provides $265 million for grants to SBA resource partners, including Small Business Development Centers and Women’s Business Centers offering assistance those small businesses impacted by the coronavirus.
The bill expands eligibility for companies suffering economic harm due to COVID-19. The bill allows businesses to apply for EIDL expedited access to capital through emergency grants – an advance of $10,000 within 3 days to maintain payroll, provide paid sick leave, and service other debt obligations. See below for detailed information and links to more information.
Comments Off on Bridgeport, WV’s, White Oaks Continues Serving as Place of Business and Continued Growth
Bridgeport’s White Oaks development has seen much growth since its beginnings in 2008, with even more progress planned for the future this year. Austin Thrasher, White Oaks project manager, said the three-phase development project began right at the beginning of a recession. “It was almost a terrible time to start the development. We had a few years of slow (progression) but things started to grow and increase. I’d say the past five years has been the best growth we’ve had,” he said.
Thrasher said the thought behind the development was to create a place to have support services for the then-new United Hospital Center, the expanding FBI and oil and gas services. From that it has grown into much more, he said. The White Oaks planned business community comprises 470 acres that are home to offices, FBI support services, medical support services, oil and gas businesses, national retailers, restaurants and vital amenities.
Located at the intersection of Interstate 79 and W.Va. Route 279, the busy corridor sees an estimated average of 48,500 vehicles per day. It is adjacent to the $350 million United Hospital Center, at the doorstep of the FBI’s CJIS Division and the Biometric Center of Excellence. White Oaks is also located in the heart of Marcellus Shale play.
Thrasher said White Oaks is divided into three separate phases, with work continuing to progress in all three. Within the last year, some of the development’s newest additions include the Clear Mountain Bank, Minard’s Spaghetti Inn Express and Dyer Group. This time last year, Thrasher said construction was still ongoing for the Clear Mountain Bank as well as the Dyer Group facility. Minard’s now occupies the area in Retail Village Building 1 that formally housed Hermosilla’s Deli.
Nick Dyer, insurance producer and director of bonding, said the move from their Clarksburg location to the White Oaks Development was seamless. “It’s been a fantastic transition for us. Everything has gone very smoothly and all of our neighbors here at the White Oaks development have been very gracious as well as welcoming us as new members of the community here,” he said.
The Dyer Group, previously located in Clarksburg, is one of Harrison County’s oldest businesses was originally founded as P.M. Long and Son Inc. The company has been in business since 1896 and is a sixth-generation, family-owned operation. Being at the new location, Dyer said, can aid in fostering future growth. “I think the location and accessibility to the interstate makes this a great location for our clientele and our staff as we transition into growing our agency,” he said. Dyer expressed the development was an asset to the entire region of North Central West Virginia and is happy “we can be a small part of it.”
Minard’s Spaghetti Inn, a popular Harrison County staple for 83 years, held its grand opening in November, and owner Joe Minard expressed how convenient it was for customers in Bridgeport because they would no longer have to wade through lengthy traffic to visit the Clarksburg location. General Manager Heather Gillespie said the restaurant has a primary convenience factor, providing meals in a to-go container whether customers eat in or take out, making it more convenient for those on a lunch break or in a hurry.
After a soft opening two weeks ago, the new restaurant is starting to see some of its Bridgeport patrons more often than previously, Gillespie said. Some of its menu items include a hot Italian sub sandwich that is normally only available at the Clarksburg restaurant on special as well as soups like minestrone, Italian wedding soup, cheddar broccoli, potato, lobster bisque, pasta fagioli, and, starting next week, it also will sell vegetable beef soup and chili.
Thrasher said there is work continuing throughout the year. There is one bay that remains vacant in the retail section of the development and a national fast food chain, which Thrasher did not name at this time, will find a new home in the lot in front of the Huntington Bank, with construction most likely beginning this year. Though nothing is solidified, Thrasher said there is potential for residential development behind the Harmony Assisted Living Facility, which also opened its doors this year.
In addition, The Thrasher Group built a 4.5-acre pad behind the Freedom Kia dealership located right off of the Saltwell Exit and he said plans are in the works to utilize it for future developments. “If things work out, hopefully we will see some stuff come up before too long,” he said. Thrasher said the impact the development has in the region remains large with other surrounding factors in the area that help facilitate its growth.
“You kind of look for a nice place when you invest in a big building like this. If you’re (The Thrasher Group) and you are going to pay for a building of this size, you’re going to put it in a nice place that’s going to hold its value so we allow bigger companies like that to have place right here where people can come to work. I think it’s got a lot of value there,” Thrasher said.
The hotels, restaurants and other aspects of the development are also essential, he said. “It’s also a really nice benefit having the airport over there with their runway and having the ability to have things land there, seeing them expand and opening up options. I think it really is going to open us up to a bigger area and close things down in terms of travel for us,” he said.
Bridgeport Community Development Director Andrea Kerr said White Oaks from the very beginning has been aggressive and successful in developing their properties, having “done a tremendous job.” “We are excited to hear about the possibility of future development and hope to continue our working relationship to grow not only Bridgeport but North Central West Virginia,” he said.
Comments Off on Monongalia County Starts to see Fruits of its Labor, Continues to Grow
Monongalia County is, according to area officials, in a state of economic development that residents are finally going to be able to see with their own eyes. Many of the projects that have been in the works for years are finally coming to reality and will make an impact on even further growth, according to Monongalia County Commissioner Tom Bloom.
“I think the biggest issue the public is going to see will be the development of buildings on the WestRidge area,” adding that this month visual progress will be made on Bass Pro Shops and Menards home improvement store in the business and retail park. “In the past, it’s always been land moving … now they’re going to see that next step and how they’re going to be able to benefit.”
WestRidge is a mixed-use development in Morgantown that will also be home to MVB Bank and the Steptoe & Johnson law firm, as well as 160,000 square feet of space for soft good retailers of nationally recognized brands and 60,000 square feet of retail space specifically for local businesses, according to previous reports.
“We have several announcements coming about businesses coming there,” Bloom said. Money coming to and staying in Monongalia County is a major concern and focus for the commission, according to Bloom. “We will fight everyday to make sure our funds stay here and not get lost in Charleston,” Bloom said, adding that he hopes residents see more expansive ways to shop locally and experience expanded services in their home county as tangible results of all the focus on growth and development.
One thing many residents might not immediately consider when it comes to economic growth is the 2020 Census. “People do not understand that’s how we get our federal funds,” Bloom said. “As important as Bass Pro and Menards is — the census and filling out the form is just as important, and we need to get many more people than in the past.”
Official Census Bureau forms began being distributed in mid-March, and households will have the option to respond by mail, by phone or online, according the Monongalia County government website.
“The 2020 Census will help determine how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding flow into communities every year for the next decade. In West Virginia, that amounts to more than $5 billion in federal funding for things like Medicaid, SNAP, highway planning and construction, the National School Lunch Program and much more! That funding shapes many different aspects of every community, no matter the size, no matter the location,” according to the website.
Bloom advises residents to take their participation seriously as it makes a substantial impact on our community and our ability to grow and change based on what people need. As far as building new structures, it’s not all localized to just one point in the county. Advancements in the area of Mylan Park and even more potential growth in the Morgantown Municipal Airport area are also coming up the pike.
“The growth in Mylan Park with the 4-H building, with the swimming and track center and future growth out in that area is going to be very big,” Bloom said. “There are some major housing developments that are going to go in.” A runway extension project and a proposed Tax Increment Financing district for the Morgantown Municipal Airport and Commerce Park is in the early stages of being determined, and if it moves forward, it could add even more to the already growing footprint of Monongalia County.
The project “will improve capabilities and attractability for the airport, but also we are utilizing a lot of the soils that would need to be moved in order to do the runway extension to then create a 90+ acre business industrial park adjacent to the airport,” Russ Rogerson, president and CEO of the Morgantown Area Partnership said in a previous interview. “It’s an opportunity for two benefits out of the same action.”
The project would be an improvement for the airport but also a job center for the area, according to Rogerson. There have been some differing views on the TIF up to this point, as some of the land included Commission President Ed Hawkins’ 17-acre property and several questions remained, from the county’s perspective, about planning and application. And while area officials on both sides are still in early stages, such a potentially large economic driver will remain a major part of economic and government conversations in the recent future.
“In all things economy based, it’s important that as a community we continue to attract new businesses and to help existing businesses expand,” Rogerson said previously, adding that this park would be the most significant business park land in Morgantown. The runway extension project of 1,001 feet, which would make the final runway length 6,200 feet, would have a total estimate cost of $50 million and take between five and 10 years, according to overview documentation from the Morgantown Municipal Airport. Major construction would be expected to begin in the fall of this year. And while the continuous construction that goes along with exponential expansion can be bothersome to residents or seek like it will never end, Bloom said it really does have the potential to positively influence quality of life in Morgantown and in the entirety of Monongalia County.
“Because of this growth, we are able to keep our property taxes low and provide more services,” Bloom said. “We are very fortunate that our community, Mon County, is looked at as a growing area and I believe it’s really important to continue that.” Being such an area does come with its own concerns and problems, like with infrastructure and road conditions, and that is not lost on the county. “We need a better working relationship with the state on fixing our infrastructure and our roads,” Bloom said. “We have our own concerns and problems with more cars and traffic.”
Monongalia County’s concerns in that area being so much different than other, more rural parts of the state, can sometimes make such communications difficult, according to Bloom. But it’s something that will continue to be addressed, he said. Other areas the county has its sights on includes the working relationship between surrounding counties and continuing to strengthen those bonds will be a focus as 2020 ticks onward, Bloom said.
Feature Image Caption: The WestRidge leasing office is a 15,000 square foot, three-tenant, mixed-use building in Morgantown.
Comments Off on Mon Health Seeks Equal Treatment When State Reviews Fairmont Hospital Projects
Mon Health System hopes that it will be treated on par with WVU Hosptials when the state Health Care Authority evaluates their somewhat parallel plans to open new hospitals in Fairmont. Both systems want to fill the gap left by the recent closure of Fairmont Regional Medical Center. In a statement released Tuesday, Mon Health President and CEO David Goldberg referenced a March 13 visit by Gov. Jim Justice to Fairmont to tout WVUH’s two projects.
“Politicization of healthcare is not safe and not smart, especially at a time with national, regional and local impacts from COVID-19,” Goldberg said. “What is happening across West Virginia is a perceived focused toward a single source of healthcare by one non-profit dominant healthcare system. National evidence shows that this leads to increased costs, diminished efficiency of convenient access, and ultimately a market monopoly. Most of all, the choice patients have and the right of citizens to choose where they want to get healthcare is taken away from them.” He continued, “Mon Health System has filed a worthy and appropriate Certificate of Need application to build a new hospital to serve Fairmont and the surrounding region and deserves fair and balanced review and consideration so that Mon Health System is not excluded from the Fairmont market.”
On March 10, Mon Health notified the HCA that it will seek a certificate of need (CON) for a Mon Health Marion Neighborhood Hospital with an emergency room, 10 inpatient beds and the services of an acute care hospital. The estimated cost is $25 million and would take 18 months to complete.
On March 20, WVU Hospitals notified the HCA of two projects it will seek CONs for: a 10-bed hospital in the FRMC building to serve as an interim facility and Ruby Memorial campus, at a cost of $8.79 million and taking one month to complete upon approval; and a subsequent 25-bed hospital at a separate site, to cost $35.3 million and be completed within 32 months. Justice characterized the WVU effort as a 100-bed hospital, but he conflated WVUH’s plans indicated in its letter to the HCA. WVUH said that after the initial project it anticipates two or three additional construction phases that “could approach approximately 100 beds.”
Goldberg said in his statement, “The governor has suggested that West Virginia’s Certificate of Need laws might be set aside so that WVU Medicine can move more quickly to replace hospital services. … There has been no indication from the governor that the possible set-aside of the Certificate of Need law will be applied in a fair and equal manner for any other independent entity, including Mon Health, to more quickly proceed with its project.”
The Dominion Post reported that on March 13, while the governor said he was thrilled and “tickled to death” about Mon Health’s plans for Fairmont, it wasn’t enough to amply serve the area. The Dominion Post asked Justice about this issue during his Tuesday COVID-19 press update, but his answer was unclear, as he focused instead on his idea of using FRMC as a backup hospital should virus cases overwhelm existing hospitals, and waiving any CON process to make that happen.
Justice on Tuesday again talked about using if for overflow. “If you don’t dream big enough you’ll never get it done.” Without addressing Mon Health’s plan, he said he’s looked at way to speed up WVUH’s process, but the state rules and regulations regarding CONs are clear. Some rules have been relaxed for the COVID-19 pandemic, but others haven’t. “It doesn’t mean I’m not to going to go back and try to change the answer.”
Mon Health and WU Medicine both offered comments on Tuesday via email exchange. WVUM spokeswoman Heather Bonecutter said, “As I’m sure you understand, we’re focused entirely now on making sure WVU Medicine is fully prepared to respond to a surge in COVID-19 cases. We were surprised to hear the statements made yesterday. We are supportive of Mon Health’s project in Fairmont.” Goldberg said, “We have had multiple conversations with many parties to ensure healthcare choice and access is maintained in the Fairmont community for hospital-based services, outpatient care and durable medical equipment.”
“Mon Health System and WVUH have a strong working relationship. I have personal and professional respect for Albert Wright and the stellar providers at WVU Medicine, who are our partners in many services like tele-neurology/stroke, neonatology, nephrology and others. But, I also want to ensure the record is clear that Mon Health wants to be included in solutions for Fairmont and that our Certificate of Need application to build a hospital there is fairly reviewed in Charleston and that equal access, choice and balance in the market is preserved.”
Comments Off on Fed Takes Emergency Steps to Slash Rates and Ease Bank Rules
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve took massive emergency action Sunday to try to help the economy withstand the coronavirus by slashing its benchmark interest rate to near zero and saying it would buy $700 billion in Treasury and mortgage bonds.
The Fed’s surprise announcement signaled its rising concern that the viral outbreak will depress economic growth in coming months, likely causing a recession, and that it’s poised to do whatever it can to counter the risks. It cut its key rate by a full percentage point to a range between zero and 0.25%.
The central bank said it will keep its rate there until it is “confident that the economy has weathered recent events.”
The Fed will buy at least $500 billion of Treasury securities and at least $200 billion of mortgage-backed securities. This amounts to an effort to ease market disruptions that have made it harder for banks and large investors to sell Treasuries as well as to keep longer-term borrowing rates down.
All told, the Fed’s aggressive actions are intended to keep financial markets functioning and lending flowing to businesses and consumers. Otherwise, as revenue dries up for countless small businesses that have suddenly lost customers, these employers could be forced to lay off workers or even seek bankruptcy protection in some cases.
“This is a break-the-glass moment” for the Fed, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “They are throwing everything they’ve got at this. My sense is they must be nervous about the credit system not functioning properly. They are trying to shore up confidence.”
By slashing its benchmark short-term rate and pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into the financial system, the Fed’s moves Sunday recalled the emergency action it took at the height of the financial crisis. Starting in 2008, the Fed cut its key rate to near zero and kept it there for seven years. The central bank has now returned that rate — which influences many consumer and business loans — to its record-low level.
The new bond purchases will be similar to the several rounds of “quantitative easing,” or QE, that the Fed conducted during and after the Great Recession to bolster the financial system and the economy. Chairman Jerome Powell, in a conference call with reporters, said the Fed’s purchases are intended to ensure that credit markets function properly.
Shoring up the Treasury bond market and other sources of credit, Powell added, is vital to the health of the economy.
Powell warned that the economy would likely shrink in the April-June quarter because of the widespread shutdowns from the coronavirus and a broad pullback in consumer spending. He noted that the necessary behavioral changes being made across the country to stem the outbreak — an avoidance of travel, shopping and mass gatherings — are inherently harmful to the economy, which he said had been in solid shape before the virus hit.
“Ultimately, the virus will run its course and the U.S. economy will resume a normal level of activity,” Powell said, though he didn’t speculate on when the rebound might occur.
“The virus is having a profound effect on the people of the United States and across the world,” Powell said. The primary response will need to come from health care providers, he stressed, as many experts have.
Still, he added that “economic policymakers must do what we can to ease hardship caused by disruptions to the economy, and support a swift return to normal once they’ve passed.”
Powell acknowledged a concern sounded by many economists in recent weeks: That the Fed, the European Central Bank and other leading central banks have only a limited ability to ease the economic damage caused by the virus. The chairman said that Congress and the White House would also have to use tax and spending policies to boost the economy.
“We don’t have the tools to reach individuals and particularly small businesses,” he said on the conference call. “But this is a multi-faceted problem, and it requires answers from different parts of the government and society.”
A statement from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York noted that the central bank’s new Treasury purchases will begin with $40 billion on Monday, while the mortgage bond purchases will total roughly $80 billion over the next month.
“We’re going to go in strong, starting tomorrow, Powell said, “and … do what we need to do to restore market function.”
The Fed is also joining in a coordinated global action, with the the Bank of Canada, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan, the European Central Bank and the Swiss National Bank, to provide cheap dollar credit to banks. This move is intended to ensure that foreign banks continue to have access to dollars that they lend to overseas companies.
Powell said the Fed acted Sunday after having decided to meet this weekend in lieu of the meeting its policy committee had been scheduled to hold Tuesday and Wednesday this week. He also said the central bank decided not to issue its usual quarterly projections for the economy and interest rates this week because the virus is altering the economic picture too quickly to make such projections useful.
U.S. stock futures began falling after the Fed’s announcement. Futures for the S&P 500 index were down about 4.5%. Gold prices rose 3.5%.
Sunday’s action drew rare praise from President Donald Trump, who had attacked the Fed as recently as Saturday, as he has frequently, for not acting quickly or aggressively enough.
“It make me very happy,” Trump said as he opened a White House briefing on the coronavirus. “I think that people and the markets should be very thrilled.”
One dissenting Fed member, Loretta Mester, president of the Cleveland Federal Reserve, voted Sunday against the full-point rate cut, favoring a half-point cut instead. She did support the Fed’s other actions to boost credit markets.
As more businesses across the country see their revenue dwindle as consumers stay home, many of them will seek short-term loans to maintain their payrolls. The Fed said it has dropped its normal requirement that banks hold cash equal to 10% of its customers’ deposits, thereby allowing banks to lend that money instead. It also said banks can use additional cash buffers that were imposed after the 2008 financial crisis for lending.
“It confirms that the Fed sees the economy going down … very sharply” toward recession, said Adam Posen, president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said.
Yet with the virus’ spread causing a broad shutdown of economic activity in the United States, the Fed faces a hugely daunting task. Its tools — intended to ease borrowing rates, facilitate lending and boost confidence — are not ideally suited to offset a fear-driven shutdown in spending and traveling.
“This isn’t going to be the magic bullet that saves everything,” said Timothy Duy, an economist at the University of Oregon who follows the Fed, but sends a signal to Congress that the economy needs emergency stimulus.
Duy predicted that the Fed will follow up with further actions, including possibly changing its inflation target to allow for more stimulus and providing more support for commercial paper — the short-term notes that companies issue to meet expenses.
“I don’t think they’re done yet,” Duy said.
Earlier Sunday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that both the central bank and the federal government have tools at their disposal to support the economy.
Mnuchin also said he did not think the economy is yet in recession. Many leading economists, though, have said they believe a recession has either already arrived or will soon. JPMorgan Chase predicts the economy will shrink at a 2% annual rate in the current quarter and 3% in the April-June quarter.
Comments Off on Why the Future of Retail is Offline
Today, we announced Fifth Wall’s $100 million Retail Fund (see coverage in The Wall Street Journal). This fund seeks to invest in emerging brands and retail concepts to accelerate their brick-and-mortar expansion through partnerships with Fifth Wall’s network of more than 50 corporate strategic investors from 11 countries. It also continues the “industry consortium” that Fifth Wall pioneered in that the Retail Fund has added many of the largest, most innovative retail landlords, operators, and service providers as investors in the Retail Fund to help the very companies we’re investing in.
This comes at a time — often referred to as “the Retail Apocalypse” — when investors are generally shifting away from brick-and-mortar retail — which begs the question: Why has Fifth Wall launched this strategy? Below are the observations and logic that make Fifth Wall and our partners so enthusiastic about this opportunity.
The Report’s of Retail’s Death are Greatly Exaggerated
The claim that retail is dying unravels quickly when you look at overall retail sales in the US. They’ve grown each year for the past decade, going from $4.2 trillion to $6.2 trillion, with an annual growth rate of 3.8%.
The softer side points to the same conclusion. Consumer sentiment is incredibly positive, ending 2019 in the 92nd percentile of the University of Michigan: Consumer Sentiment Index’s more than 40 year history. We believe this clearly shows that commerce and the American consumer are very much alive and well.
The Vast Majority of Retail Sales Still Happen Offline
This is a counterintuitive fact to a lot of people in the venture capital and technology industries. Ecommerce has dominated the discussion around retail because in the past decade online has grown from 4% to 11% of total retail sales in the United States.
What’s often overlooked is the inverse fact: brick-and-mortar commerce still represents 89% of total sales. Let me repeat that: 89% of all retail sales still happen offline. And the shift from offline to online is actually expected to slow in the coming years. Ultimately, consumers vote with their wallets and the results indicate that stores still serve as the center of commerce.
Amazon Isn’t the Only Success Story in Retail
Within the US, Amazon has come to represent 38% of all ecommerce sales in 2019 and grew 25% year over year, according to industry estimates. These are astounding accomplishments, but also well covered by the media.
It turns out, there’s a group of retailers growing even faster than Amazon: digitally native brands. These companies start online, with a direct-to-consumer ecommerce model, as well as a digitally driven dialogue with customers through social media, email, and more. While the success of pioneers like Bonobos and Warby Parker has been documented, the overall momentum and magnitude of this movement is not as well understood or quantified. One reason is that there are just so many of them…literally thousands and thousands of such brands, and in aggregate they are growing faster than Amazon. Through a combination of internal research and alternative data sources, Fifth Wall estimates that 200 leading digital retailers alone generated approximately $36 billion of sales and grew at 46% year over year in 2018 — again faster than Amazon. Basically, Amazon is growing really fast, but we believe these new brands are potentially growing faster.
Ecommerce has Made it Easier than Ever to Launch a Brand
In the last decade, on-demand tools have made it easier than ever to set up and operate an ecommerce business. Digital platforms like Shopify (storefront), Mailchimp (email marketing), Zendesk (CRM), and many more have taken enterprise-grade capabilities and packaged them into on-demand SaaS offerings requiring virtually no setup, let alone technical expertise. Even warehousing, fulfillment, and shipping can be outsourced to modern third-party logistics companies, such as Quiet Logistics.
These platforms lower the barriers to entry in ecommerce, so it’s not surprising that the number of emerging retailers operating online has skyrocketed. Shopify alone has gone from hosting 41,000 merchants in 2012 to one million in 2019. Today Fifth Wall actively tracks over 1,000 digital retailers, and we believe that number will grow dramatically in the coming years.
But Brands Struggle to Scale with Ecommerce Alone
While it’s never been easier to launch a brand online, it’s counterintuitively becoming harder to sustainably scale a brand through ecommerce alone. First, shipping and returns are incredibly expensive and yet something the vast majority of consumers have come to expect for free. Today, it’s not uncommon to see ecommerce return rates as high as 30% of total sales (compared to brick-and-mortar at 8%). For a new brand to grow, it has to acquire new customers. Online, that generally means digital advertising on networks like Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Google. The average advertising cost of these channels has increased five times faster than inflation as more and more brands compete for the same audience.
The compounding effect of these costs can be crippling, which is why even some of the largest ecommerce companies in the world, like Wayfair with $8.6 billion in annual sales, have been unprofitable for years. The pressure on emerging brands is even more severe given their lack of scale and resources.
Digitally Native Brands Are Now Turning to Brick-and-Mortar
Digitally native brands see the challenges of an ecommerce-only strategy and we believe many recognize that expanding into offline, with brick-and-mortar stores, is a more viable, sustainable path to mainstream scale and overall profitability. Research shows that in-store customers are far more profitable than ones that shop only online: they spend 83% more and return 64% less. And as mentioned above, 89% of commerce still happens offline, so the pool of potential new customers that stores unlock for digitally native brands is multiples larger.
Digital Brands Often Lack Real Estate of Retail Experience
This last point is almost true by definition: because they are born online, digitally native brands often lack offline expertise in real estate and retail operations. Similarly we’ve observed that many traditional VCs lack the experience to meaningfully engage on issues like site selection, store design, merchandising, and staffing.
As the largest venture capital firm focused on technologies for the global real estate industry, Fifth Wall has assembled a strategic consortium that includes many of the largest retail real estate owners and service providers in the US and globally, including Acadia Realty Trust, Cushman & Wakefield, Macerich, Nuveen Real Estate, and many more. We believe this investor network of retail landlords can help support new brands and retail concepts in their expansion into brick-and-mortar stores.
Retail Landlords Have Struggled to Build Corporate Venture Programs
Although some large retail landlords actively attempt to attract emerging new brands to their assets, we’ve observed that many corporate retail landlords lack venture investment experience and credibility within the venture capital community. In our experience, entrepreneurs and venture capital firms have long been leery of corporates attempting to invest in their business — the ‘CVCstigma’ that plagues all corporate venture capital. As a result, we believe such retail landlords often only maintain a less value-add landlord-tenant relationship with these emerging new brands. But, we believe emerging new brands need more than just a landlord-tenant relationship…they need a partner who can not only open their network of retail landlords, but also credibly invest capital into their business. We believe the Fifth Wall Retail Fund can fill this role as a venture fund and long-term, trusted partner to support the growth of these emerging new brands.
So, that’s why we built the Fifth Wall Retail Fund. In our view, emerging brands want access to large retail landlords to fuel their offline expansion, but they generally do not want these corporate partners to invest directly into their business. The Fifth Wall Retail Fund represents a strategic consortium that includes many of the largest retail landlords who we believe WANT these brands to succeed in their offline expansion.
We’ve already seen early strategic partnerships successfully come together under this model. To date, Fifth Wall has made over 100 introductions between our real estate partners and emerging retailers (both inside and outside of the Retail Fund’s portfolio), which has driven collaboration on nearly 50 stores. We believe this digitally native movement is a once-in-a-generation shift that is just getting started and we look forward to supporting this “Retail Renaissance”.
Comments Off on 100-Bed Hospital In Fairmont Awaits Approval
WVU Medicine said Friday it will file a certificate of need with the state to construct a 100-bed hospital in Fairmont on property it owns next to its Urgent Care facility on Stoney Road. The news of the WVU Medicine project, which is carrying an estimated price tag of “$30 million to $50 million” comes just days after Mon Health System said it was filing similar paperwork with the state to build a small format hospital on land it already owns in Pleasant Valley along Interstate 79, near Fresenius Kidney Care.
Both hospital projects also follow the news last month that Fairmont Regional Medical Center was closing because of financial difficulties and the inability of current owner, Alecto Healthcare Systems, to find a buyer. CEOs of both Morgantown health systems have said their projects were in the works before Alecto’s announcement.
Albert Wright, president and CEO of WVU Health System, said it is applying for a second certificate of need with the state to open a portion of FRMC to provide services to local residents as the new hospital is being constructed, a project that should take 18 to 24 months to complete. The new facility could employ as many as 500. “We’ve had a number of job fairs,” Wright said. FRMC could close anywhere from the end of March to mid-May, officials have said.
It will take WVU Medicine about 30 days to get FRMC up and running. It will function as an arm of J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital, Wright said. “We’ll be leasing the space at Fairmont Regional,” Wright said.
Wright announced plans for the new hospital — located 2.2 miles from FRMC — at its Urgent Care facility at the Gateway Connector. He was joined on the platform by Gov. Jim Justice and Gordon Gee, president of West Virginia University. Justice said Alecto’s plans to close FRMC created a “real” problem, especially since the hospital averaged 20,000 emergency room visits a year. “That left everyone upside down,” Justice said.
While the governor said he was thrilled and “tickled to death” about Mon Health’s plans for Fairmont, he said it wasn’t enough to amply serve the area. “Albert and Gordon will tell you that I pushed them hard,” Justice said. “It (the new hospital) could have ended up as a 10-bed holding area where they ship people off.” “This problem was a big problem to have the seventh largest city in West Virginia without a full-service hospital.”
Gee said WVU was on board with the new hospital. “It is something we wanted to do,” Gee said. “There are 1.8 million people in West Virginia and you need to have great health care here.” Fairmont Mayor Brad Merrifield said it was paramount that the city have a full-service hospital. “It will help with the misperception that Morgantown and Clarksburg have certain types of health care,” Merrifield said; “Now, we’re all on the same team.”
OPPORTUNITY | Black Diamond is thrilled to offer prime land opportunities adjacent to this newly planned project. Click HERE to view the detailed marketing flyer for 101 Stony Road in Fairmont, WV, a 22 acre property along the Fairmont Gateway Connector.
Comments Off on Pending Announcement of Ohio Cracker Plant
PPTDLM Cracker’s FID Mid-Year. PTT Global Chemical is on track to make a final investment decision for a long-discussed ethane cracker plant in southeastern Ohio by mid-2020, Kallanish Energy reports. That news came earlier this week in an article in the Nikkei Asian Review, quoting chief executive Kongkrapan Intarajang. The article was posted on the project website by PTT Global Chemical.
“The petrochemical complex in the U.S. will be our second home base,” Kongkapan said. “We chose to invest in the U.S. because we can gain cheap raw material from shale gas near our location while we have a big consumer base there. This is our biggest investment due to happen this year for sustainable business development,” he said.
The company has earmarked $5 billion in capital spending for the Ohio petrochemical complex and acquisitions – with 80% going to the Ohio cracker in Belmont County. Cracker construction is expected to begin immediately after a final investment decision is announced, he told the media outlet. The complex would be completed by late 2025 with commercial operations beginning in early 2026.
The Asian Review said the company has shareholder approval to issue $500 million of debt and will seek approval in April for an offering of $4.5 billion. It also has $945 million in cash on hand. The company has a very low debt-to-equity ratio, allowing it to borrow a significant amount of money for the Ohio project, the media outlet reported.
The $6 billion project has languished for months with no final investment decision by PTT and its partner, South Korea-based Daelim Chemical USA. The cracker would be located on the 500-acre site of an old coal-fired power plant that has been razed. PTT had first proposed the project in 2015.
The plant, if built, annually produce of 1.5 million tons ethylene and other materials from ethane produced by shale drilling. The plant would use six ethane cracking furnaces and manufacture ethylene, high-quality polyethylene and linear low-density polyethylene.
PTT Global Chemical America is a subsidiary of PTT Global Chemical, Thailand’s largest integrated petrochemical company. Royal Dutch Shell is building a similar ethane cracker in Beaver County, northwest of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Comments Off on Dominion Post: Black Diamond Realty LLC opens new residential arm, White Diamond Realty
Melissa Berube, formerly of Howard Hanna, tapped to head company.
For David Lorenze and Mark Nesselroad, principals of commercial real estate company Black Diamond Realty LLC, starting a residential brokerage was a no-brainer for the pair. “We grew to be the commercial bridge with national [commercial real estate] firms and had formed a great team,” Nesselroad said. “We saw an opportunity to serve the residential market.” “Our outreach makes us different.” Lorenze agreed. “We are excited to utilize Black Diamond Realty’s presentation, process and people to develop a new organization focused on residential brokerage services,” Lorenze said. “Securing a well-respected, strong leader was a critical first step.”
The result of that opportunity is the recent formation of White Diamond Realty LLC, Black Diamond’s new real estate arm. And to lead their new residential venture as its broker, the principals tapped Melissa Berube, a veteran Morgantown area realtor who was the 2019 president of the Morgantown Board of Realtors.
“Melissa brings to the table a strong reputation, a charming demeanor and an unwavering work ethic, which we are confident will lead to tremendous results. … We are excited to see what the future holds and appreciate the community’s support,” Lorenze said.
At White Diamond, Berube, who has been selling homes for nearly two decades, is being tasked with recruiting and building a team of seasoned agents who know the local real estate market and are tech savvy. The White Diamond agents will be based at Black Diamond’s Stewartstown Road headquarters.
“I am excited to be building something new,” said Berube, who was previously with Howard Hanna Real Estate Services Cheat Lake office. “I am working on the foundations now,” she said. “Our goal is to become a boutique agency that emphasizes quality over quantity.”
Berube said she is looking at recruiting more than a dozen agents at White Diamond, a goal she hopes to accomplish by spring. She sees White Diamond’s niche mostly as second-time home buyers, or transition buyers who are new to the area. “Experience is always good, but I would consider a newbie,” said Berube, when asked about the kind of residential agent she hopes to recruit. The agents who join White Diamond will be incentivized and encouraged to work together as a team — a concept important to Black Diamond, she added.
“For us, it’s all about team building,” said Nesselroad, who also serves as the chief operating and legal officer of developer Glenmark Holding LLC. “Starting a residential company has been in the backs of our minds for a while.” It also helps to have Berube as its residential broker, he said. “We have full faith and confidence in Melissa Berube to lead our team.”
Comments Off on Rebuilding Artworks at 601 S. Virginia Avenue
The BDR team continues to be inspired and encouraged by its clients and the ways in which they grow, support, and thrive in our communities. Recently, one of BDR’s client’s, Lotus Averil MacDowell, persevered through a traumatic event and she has shown us just how powerful positivity can be.
Early in October, The Shoppes of Averil Place in Bridgeport, WV, experienced a total loss as a result of a devastating fire. Lotus MacDowell is the owner of The Shoppes of Averil Place and also operates Artworks, a business formerly located at The Shoppes on S. Virginia Avenue in Bridgeport. Artworks was established in 1986 as an art gallery, selling Lotus MacDowell’s artwork, and custom framing business. Since it’s opening, Artworks has expanded to include retail of prints and works by national, regional and local artists as well as a variety of other gifts for all ages.
Black Diamond Realty had been working with Lotus to secure a purchaser for the property and the property was under contract at the time of the fire. Although Lotus planned on continuing to operate Artworks for quite some time, she was ready to sell the building. She has maintained an incredibly positive attitude as she navigates this turn of events and is currently working on her short- and long-term plans for the business and property.
In the meantime, Lotus is dedicated to Artworks, its staff, and its clients. By early November, customers will be able to visit Lotus and the Artworks team at their new, temporary location, 410 East Main Street in Bridgeport, WV. Please CLICK HERE to view the Connect-Bridgeport article to learn more about Lotus and her journey as a West Virginia business owner and artist. Thank you, Lotus, for showing us such resilient leadership.
Comments Off on Longview Plans to Expand – Officials Seek to Build $1.1B Facility
Right now there are just wild flowers on the empty land next to the Longview Power Plant in Maidsville, just north of Morgantown. But that will change in just a few years. Longview officials are in the process of obtaining permits to construct a $1.1 billion Longview Power Clean Energy Center that will be one of the largest fully integrated power generation facilities in the region. The company said the plant is sorely needed in the state.
Coal-fired electric power plants accounted for 92% of the state’s electric generation in 2018, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Renewable energy — like wind or hydroelectric-generated 5.3%, while natural gas provided 2.1%. “The average age of a coal plant in West Virginia is 45 years,” said Jeff Keffler, chief executive officer of Longview Power LLC, which opened eight years ago. “The writing is on the wall.” Indeed. Seven of the eight coal-fired plants are expected to be obsolete and could be retired in the next few years, hence Longview’s push to be up and running by 2023.
The facility will be a combination gas and solar facility and be located next to Longview’s coal-fired plant, which the company said is one of the cleanest coal plants in the country. Adding gas and solar components is part of its overall business strategy, Longview officials said. “The choice was to invest in West Virginia,” Keffler said. “This will be a state-of-the-art facility.” “This is a win-win. We are a West Virginia company, and we’re able to grow.” Longview officials recently took local Monongalia County representatives, union officials and news media on a tour of the current coal facility and updated the status of the project, announced last year.
Company officials said the expansion will be constructed with union labor. The gas portion of the project will be built first. When complete, it will be a 1,200-megawatt, natural gas-fired, combined-cycle gas turbine that will be adjacent to the coal plant. Marcellus shale gas will be used. Construction of the natural gas phase of the project is slated to begin sometime next year, with completion targeted for 2022. This phase of the project is expected to cost $925 million and could mean lower fuel costs for consumers in the coming years. The plant will employ up to 35 full and part-time workers at an annual payroll of nearly $2 million, according to Longview.
The plan makes sense, energy experts said. “The fuel is plentiful,” James Wood, interim director of the Energy Institute at West Virginia University, said in an email. “The permitting process is less complicated and the capital and operating costs of the power plant are lower kW than coal, plus natural gas prices will be favorable for several years.”
The third phase of the project is the solar and carries a price tag of $76 million. Plans here call for the construction of 70-megawatt solar facility, 20 megawatts will be in West Virginia, while 50 megawatts will be just over the Pennsylvania border in Greene County. It will be the first large-grade solar facility in West Virginia, the company said. Also, companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook are looking to buy its electricity from renewable energy sources, Keffler said.
The power produced by the gas and solar facilities when they come online — possibly by 2023 — will be sold the PJM Interconnection LLC, which coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity through 13 states and the District of Columbia. Longview provides power to 500,000 homes in the PJM. “The reconfigured plant should dispatch ahead of the plant as it exists today,” Wood said.
Over the life of the plant, Longview agreed to pay Monongalia County $105 million in payments in lieu of taxes — PILOT. The expansion will add $58 million to the total. During the construction phase of the gas portion, nearly 5,000 jobs will be created, while the solar portion will generate 75 construction-related jobs. Longview said employee compensation should exceed $360 million. The economic impacts on the West Virginia economy associated with the first full year of operation of the gas plant are estimated at 618 full and part-time jobs, with $43 million in employee compensation.
The solar plant, meanwhile, in its first year of operation is estimated to create 10 full and part-time jobs and $640,000 in employee compensation. The plant will be constructed on reclaimed mine land. Kessler said Longview — owned by New York-based equity firm KKR & Co. Inc. — should have its permitting process finished in the next 12 months. Construction should begin right after that. Barbara Evans Fleischauer, a Democratic state delegate, from Monongalia County, toured the Longview plant and was updated on the plant expansion. “It’s important to me that union workers will be used,” she said. “I think this is exciting.”
Comments Off on Investing Your Way to Financial Freedom
Quarter 4 marks a fun and exciting time for many. We are experiencing changing seasons, ratcheting up anticipation for forthcoming holidays and enjoying the excitement of football season. It is a time to be thankful, push hard to the finish and plan for the future.
In the coming months, many will begin setting new yearly goals which may include traveling with family and friends, pursuing new business ventures, giving to charity or sculpting your body. Many things in life, goals included, require time and/or money. In our professional careers, each of us is consistently trading time for money. What if the opposite could be true?
Money is an empowering tool that, if utilized properly, can enact positive change and help facilitate positive outcomes. Money is necessary to live your life and allow you to enjoy adventures, conquer goals and achieve dreams. Is there a way to trade money for time? How do you get out of the rat race while making enough money to live your life on your terms? There is no easy answer but diversifying your investments to include real estate could offer passive income. Passive income can help you achieve financial freedom (more money coming in each month than your expenses) and “buy” more time.
According to The College Investor, “Over the last two centuries, about 90 percent of the world’s millionaires have been created by investing in real estate.” This is a staggering statistic: 9 out of every 10 millionaires created their wealth through real estate investing. Real estate investing is not a “get rich quick” scheme. Real estate investing utilizes leverage, compounded over time, to an investors’ advantage resulting in long-term wealth. If purchased and managed correctly, an income producing asset should be working for you every second of every day.
With the above in mind, it is imperative to fully understand there is risk associated with real estate investing. Commercial real estate investing is a complex process with many potential pitfalls. We recommend consulting with trusted advisors before solidifying your next investment. Black Diamond Realty’s tips are meant to guide your real estate investments toward positive cash flow, wealth creation and passive income. The tips below provide some general guidelines to consider as you expand your portfolio or kick things off in a successful real estate investment venture.
Know the market. Macro-economic factors, such as interest rates, environmental policy and federal investment programs (1031, Opportunity Zones), and micro-economic factors, such as local employment trends, infrastructure and school districts, can positively or negatively impact your real estate investment. Unless you are actively involved in a real estate market, it is impossible for you to fully understand the intangibles and intricacies of any given market.
Create a rainy-day fund. It is preferable to have it in place from the start but, at a minimum, build up via cash flow before taking a dime of distribution. A minimum of six months is recommended with a preferred 12 months of cash reserves in place. Cash reserves should cover “what if” scenarios and anticipated future capital improvements. Everyone loves to dream about and plan for the “rosy days.” That’s easy. Within your proforma and underwriting, it is also important to look at challenging circumstances that could negatively affect your investment position and overall return. Plan for the negative “what ifs” even if the chance of happening is relatively small. The good news: If you pursue bank financing, the credit department at ABC Bank will, at least in part, serve as a backstop to filter out some of the negative what ifs.
Plan for capital improvements. They will happen: A hot water tank goes down. A roof goes bad. Flooring needs replaced. The parking lot needs paved. These examples only touch the surface. Capital improvements are not a matter of if, but when; so, plan on them. On your proforma, plan for 2-5% (of gross income) in capital improvement money. Very few individuals want to endear the title of “slumlord.” “Milking” a property is risky business and reflects negatively on the community you are serving.
Maximize your strengths. Develop a strong team. All of us are gifted in certain areas and bring value to any given deal. For some, they are gifted communicators and can help a tenant feel comfortable moving forward. Others are gifted in real estate law, accounting, marketing, or construction. Many specializations are required to help ensure a successful real estate venture. You cannot climb to the top of the real estate mountain by yourself. Finding strategic, trusted relationships and vendors is critical. Build relationships. Focus on building people up within your team.
Do not marry your property. You are only married to your husband/wife and your family. Do not hold your real estate investments on the same pedestal. Real estate investments are meant to make money while providing a service to the tenants it serves. Treat it that way. Run it like a business while maintaining a high level of integrity, honesty and diligence.
Following the guidelines outlined in this article should help avoid investment pitfalls during ownership. Knowing when to buy, hold and divest is another critical element of real estate investing. We highly recommend consulting with a real estate professional, with strong expertise in the investment field of your choosing, before pulling the trigger. At Black Diamond Realty, we have sold tens of millions of dollars in real estate investments. Our firm is building a market niche in this space. Our Black Diamond Realty team invites the opportunity to meet with you and your partners to discuss your goals with the purpose of helping you achieve financial freedom.
To view all of our available investment opportunities, Click Here.
Comments Off on It’s a wash: Don Stenger selling longtime car wash businesses
Two longtime Morgantown car washes are for sale after their owner decided it was time to retire and enjoy the next chapter of his life. “I don’t fish, hunt or play golf,” said Don Stenger, owner of the shuttered Stenger’s on Chestnut Ridge Road and South High Turbo-Matic on High Street. “It’s going to be a hard transition.”
Stenger, 69, said he decided to close Stenger’s in April after it became too hard for him to find help to staff the business he has owned since 1982. “That was the deciding factor,” he said. “The help I did have was always short-handed.” Stenger has owned South High Turbo-Matic since 1952. It was the site of his family’s store — Stenger’s Inc. — and was converted to an automated car wash after Stenger said his father showed him one in Huntington, where the line was three blocks long.
“He said to me ‘Donnie if I open one, will you give me a hand?’ ” said Stenger, who was 16 at the time. “I said sure.” The South High Street location will remain open until bad weather hits the area later this year, he said. “For the past seven years, business has dwindled,” Stenger said. “Students today don’t wash their cars. A clean car is a happy car, but I don’t think that is the case today.”
Both the Chestnut Ridge and South High properties have been listed for sale with Black Diamond Realty LLC. The asking price for the 767 Chestnut Ridge property is $1.95 million. According to the marketing brochure, the total available space is 7,805 square feet and 32,493 vehicles pass the site daily. The ground level of the main building is 6,623 square feet that was used mostly as cashier space and a waiting area. The second floor is 1,049 square feet of storage space. The building also includes five 14-foot-by-nine-foot overhead doors and a large tunnel with an automatic car wash bay. A detached, 133-square-foot building is also on the property. It was previously used as a pet grooming station.
The asking price for the automatic car wash located at 132 S. High St. is $1.225 million, Black Diamond said. Even though the business dates back to 1952, the current 5,883-square-foot building was constructed in 1980. The car wash, which sits on .67-acre parcel, has nine car wash stalls and 10 vacuum stalls. The additional parking space is available for interior cleaning and detailing. The interior of the building has office and laundry space.
“I don’t think I could have held on without my wife, Jackie,” Stenger said. “I also want to thank Morgantown for its business over the years.”
Comments Off on First Look: West Virginia University’s Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute
Walking through the new WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute’s Innovation Center, you get the feeling you’re trodding into the future of the treatment of brain disorders and the scientific methods to improve human performance.
One device, with only a handful in the world like it, delivers focused ultrasound from 1,000 different ultrasound emitters in a single helmet that is placed on the head. It has already been used by WVU Medicine doctors to successfully open the blood-brain barrier to allow for better treatment of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Another system has the patient puts on a multicolored cap with emitters and a handheld wand delivers transcranial magnetic stimulation to treat addiction and Alzheimer’s. And around the innovation center, there’s technology from souped-up gaming systems and virtual reality to a cryogenic chamber to speed workout recovery and a system that maps the nervous system, from head to toe.
And that’s just scratching RNI’s surface.
When the Rockefeller family and WVU Medicine envisioned the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, they sought a center that would draw leading experts in the fields of brain science and human performance as well as a place where cutting-edge treatments could be developed and deployed. That’s coming to fruition in the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, which opened officially earlier this year and has been breaking ground in the field. The finishing touches are being put on the Innovation Center, on the WVU Health System campus in Morgantown, West Virginia, where researchers are working and where patients will be welcomed for the latest advances.
It’s a partnership between former U.S. Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV and his family along with WVU Medicine and West Virginia University to bring together care, research and teaching centered in Morgantown but spreading all the way through WVU Medicine’s footprint. It’s led by Dr. Ali R. Rezai, a world-renowned neurosurgeon who has developed innovations to treat paralysis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other afflictions.
And it’s that innovative spirit – and approach from many different specialities, as well as government and industry collaborations – that Rezai is bringing to bear at RNI.
“We’re always looking at rapid applications of new technology, and being one of the first in the world to do it,” Rezai said. “That’s one of our missions: Quickly deploy technology for patients.“
RNI and WVU Medicine have been in growth mode, part of a lot of building projects on the Morgantown campus. There are now 145 faculty, 73 residents and postdoctoral fellows and more than 700 clinic, research and administrative staff in four departments: neuroscience, neurology, neurosurgery and behavioral medicine and psychiatry. And there are several current and future RNI facilities. Beyond the Innovation Center, there’s also a neuro ambulatory and education center that is being built atop the nearby physician’s office center, the Erma Byrd Biomedical Research Center and a behavioral center at Chestnut Ridge. Then there’s also a brain and spine hospital that will be built in the parking lot behind the hospital.
Comments Off on Job Creation, Clean Power Generator, Natural Gas Consumer
Longview Power has taken the next step to make it planned combined cycle gas-fired power plant a reality. The company announced late Thursday it has filed its application for a siting certificate to build the plant with the West Virginia Public Service Commission. Longview has dubbed the plant the Longview Power Clean Energy Center. It will be sited adjacent to the current coal-fired plant near Maidsville and will produce more energy: 1,200 megawatts compared to 710 MW for the coal plant. It will also include a 70 MW utility grade solar installation.
Combined cycle means the gas powers a turbine, and waste heat is routed to a steam turbine to generate additional power. Longview Power President and CEO Jeff Keffer told gas industry representatives in July that coal-fired plant in Morgantown is the cleanest in the world and the most efficient in North America. But it’s probably the last of its kind. That’s why Longview is developing the gas-fired combined cycle plant. He said in Thursday’s announcement, “The Longview Power Clean Energy Center will be a global model for clean fossil and renewable energy development. This first-of-its-kind project will use regionally produced Marcellus gas and the solar facility will be one of the largest in Appalachia.”
Keffer said the project will cost $1.1 billion to construct and create 5,000 direct and indirect jobs during construction. Employee compensation will exceed $360 million. The facility will pay an additional $2 million annually in PILOT (payment in lieu of county property taxes) and tax payments, over and above the $3 million currently generated by the coal plant, the announcement said. Longview expects to add more than 30 additional skilled, high-paying power generation jobs to operate the expansion facilities.
The coal plant generates enough electricity to power almost 700,000 homes, Longview said. Once the Clean Energy Center is fully operational, the combined facilities are expected to produce over 2,000 MW of electricity, serving nearly 2 million homes in northern West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania. The solar facility will use over 185,000 solar panels on 300 acres and be one of the largest solar generation facilities in Appalachia, Longview said. It will be constructed in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Keffer told the gas industry eps in May, “We’re really not in the coal business.” Longview’s business is energy conversion: using fuel to produce power; the fuel could be coal or gas or the sun. While the coal plant is the least expensive fossil fuel plant in the PJM regional network, the opportunity to build more coal-fired plants like it has passed, he said. The Trump administration undid the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, but took too long to rewrite the rules.
So gas is the next wave, he said. It’s now the predominant fuel in the PJM network, making up about 38 percent of its total. And as expensive coal and nuclear plants close, a new generation of gas plants will be needed to supply the baseload. Several government officials included comments in Thursday’s announcement. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said, “In addition to all of the jobs and economic growth this project creates, it also positions West Virginia as a world leader when it comes to producing electricity in an environmentally friendly and cost-effective manner while proving that coal and gas will continue to power America for decades to come. It’s the perfect example of how our state continues to contribute to our national all-of-the-above energy strategy.”
Sen. Joe Manchin, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said, “In 2017, I brought U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to tour Longview Power because I wanted to show him the innovative work being done in West Virginia. I have always supported an all-of-the-above energy policy and am confident West Virginia workers will achieve this at Longview.” And Gov. Jim Justice said, “I’ve said many times that we need to be an ‘all-in’ energy state here in West Virginia. The more ways we are able to use our abundant resources, the more we will be able to build on the momentum we’re already seeing in our economy and this kind of complete commitment is exactly what we need to truly put West Virginia on the map.”
The announcement arrived after hours and The Dominion Post was unable to reach the appropriate Longview officials or the PSC to learn about the site certificate process.
Comments Off on City, Agency Moving Forward with Acquisition of 430 Spruce Street
Looking to accommodate the relocation of personnel during ongoing renovations of the Morgantown Public Safety Building, address substantial space constraints in city hall and create a revenue stream for the new Morgantown Land Reuse and Preservation Agency, the city of Morgantown is moving forward with the acquisition of 430 Spruce St. as a “city hall annex.”
Morgantown City Council approved a first reading of the purchase, to be carried out through the city’s LRPA, earlier this week. The agency will take out a 20-year loan through a local bank for $1,661,507, which will cover the cost of the 12,000-square-foot building and surrounding property ($1,250,000); needed renovations ($176,000) and a pocket park ($115,000). The financing will also cover $13,500 in rent for the Morgantown Police Department, which has used the building since April due to work at the public safety building.
In turn, the city will lease 8,000 square feet — comprised of the basement and first floor — from the LRPA for $150,000 annually, which will be used to pay down the loan. The LRPA will bank an estimated $72,000 annually by leasing office space on the second floor as well as surrounding parking spaces.
City Attorney Ryan Simonton said the city has the option to acquire the property outright at any point by paying off the outstanding debt on the property. Morgantown City Councilor Ron Dulaney said while he ultimately believes acquiring the building is the right move, he’s not without reservations — including the fact the city and LRPA are taking a productive property off the tax roles. He went on to say he would have liked to see the agency’s first acquisition be focused on turning unproductive property into future housing or green space, which were the top priorities spelled out during the agency’s creation.
That said, he conceded council basically handed the board an “unfunded mandate” and said the building will not only help fund future acquisitions by the LRPA, but address a critical need of the city — space. “There is a correlation between work environment and employee productivity, and I think our city deserves employees that are productive and our employees deserve a productive workplace,” Dulaney said. “There is no doubt, if you walk through the bowels of city hall, that we are not providing that for all our employees.”
According to information provided by the city, other options included leasing space from the Monongalia County Development Authority on the third floor of the former magistrate building, or participating in adding a second floor to 374 High St. — immediately behind city hall — which would be connected to the city building via an enclosed walking bridge.
“I don’t think that the options that we had, either to engage in a long-term lease or building out to another building … would have worked as well as this one,” Deputy Mayor Rachel Fetty said. “I’m not sure we had an ideal solution available to us.” City Manager Paul Brake said the LRPA’s estimated closing date is Sept. 5. The building has been appraised at $1,335,000. The building lease payment is accounted for in the city’s 2019-20 budget, as is the final $275,000 lease payment on the public safety building.
The formation of the city’s LRPA was finalized in January, making it the first in the state, according to Brake. The LRPA was made possible by the West Virginia Land Reuse Agency Authorization Act of 2017. The seven-member agency is tasked with identifying, acquiring and managing land for development or preservation. The agency does not have access to funds without an allocation from City Council and cannot acquire property outside city limits or through eminent domain.
Comments Off on City Agency Looking to Acquire 430 Spruce Street
Working through its newly formed Land Reuse and Preservation Agency, the city of Morgantown plans to acquire the 8,000 square-foot building at 430 Spruce St. for $1.25 million.
City Manager Paul Brake said the property, which is next to the Morgantown Market Place pavilion, will serve dual purposes. The first floor will be used as additional office space for city personnel, while the second floor will be leased to private commercial tenants, providing a revenue source of about $60,000 annually for the LRPA.
Additionally, the LRPA and the Morgantown Parking Authority will split an estimated $24,000 annually in long-term parking rentals for the spaces around the building.
The cost of the building is $1.25 million, about $85,000 below its appraised value, according to Brake. The LRPA will seek a total of $1.5 million in financing from private lenders. The additional funds will be used for renovations ($176,000) and a pocket park public space in front of the building ($115,000).
The Morgantown Police Department actually moved into the building in April due to construction at the Morgantown Public Safety Building. Brake said the existing lease of $13,500 for the MPD’s use of the space will be rolled into the financing.
The city will lease the first floor off the LRPA for $150,000 annually. That money will be used by the agency to repay the loan on the property, which has been on the market for about a year.
As the placement agency on the project, Cruise and Associates will line up potential lenders. Brake said the initial timeline would have the LRPA closing on the property in early September.
He said it’s too early to say what city offices would make the move across the street, but noted the city may eventually occupy the entire building.
“This will allow us to provide adequate space. We’re in growth mode. We’re adding positions to the work force and we need an area to house these folks,” Brake said, explaining the city facilities are already tight on space. “We did look at alternative arrangements — leasing out other spaces or building new. This is the most practical from a financial perspective.”
The creation of the LRPA was finalized in January, making it the first of its kind in West Virginia.
The agency has autonomy to make purchases or acquire property through gifts or other means. Council appoints members to three-year terms and has the final say over acquisitions.
Council moved the acquisition forward for consideration, with the only challenge coming from Councilor Ron Dulaney, who said he would like to see all the details as well as the city’s rationale for the move spelled out and made available publicly.
Council also moved the following forward for future consideration:
A change that would make Second Street one-way, from University Avenue to Grant Avenue. Additionally, a number of metered parking spaces will be placed along the one-way street.
The changes are to accommodate Appalachian Cannabis Co., which lost its on-site parking spaces as they are located in front of the building and non-conforming under the “retail sales establishment” use.
A change that will alter the traffic signal at the intersection of Earl L. Core Road (W.Va. 7) and Hartman Run Road to accommodate vehicles entering and exiting to former Freedom Ford site, which will be the home of a new Aldi grocery store. Council asked that the DOH also consider pedestrian crossings when finalizing its plans. Tweet @DominionPostWV
Comments Off on Cautious optimism in Monongalia County over Mylan Merger
Over the course of the next year, executives with the new company that will be formed from the merger between Mylan and Upjohn, a division of Pfizer, will be tasked with trying to reposition the company in a dynamic market that is facing a number of pressures.
Meanwhile, at least one elected official in Monongalia County does not want to just sit and wait for a decision on the future of Mylan’s current manufacturing plant near Morgantown.
“We are going to go on the assertive, be aggressive, promote West Virginia and promote how Mylan is so important to our community,” Monongalia County Commission President Tom Bloom said on WAJR’s Talk of the Town with Dave & Sarah on Tuesday.
The newly formed company — now being referred to as Newco — that results from the merger is expected to generate about $19 billion to $20 billion in revenue, with $1 billion in cost savings by pooling resources and trimming redundancies by 2023. Those synergies have some in the area anxious about the future of the Mylan plant and the jobs of about 900 union and 200 non-union employees.
United Steelworkers Local 8-957 represents about 900 employees at Mylan’s Morgantown plant. The Dominion Post aked what effects the Mylan-Upjohn merger might have in Morgantown, and President Joe Gouzd reiterated Tuesday morning what the union said on Monday: They don’t have enough information to comment at this point and they’re waiting to learn more.
But, Bloom is optimistic about the future. “They want to stay in the county and the CEO will be housed out of Pittsburgh, so that is a great sign for us,” Bloom said.
The new company will be led by current Mylan Chairman Robert Coury, who will serve as the executive chairman, and Michael Goettler, current group president of Upjohn, will serve as the CEO. The board of directors will include eight members designated by Mylan and three members by Pfizer, plus an executive chairman and CEO for a total of 13.
With the majority of the board having Mylan ties and the possibility of a growing generic drug market in Asia, Jared Hopkins, with the Wall Street Journal, believes Bloom’s optimism about the future of the Morgantown plant is not misplaced.
“What it [Mylan] gains with Pfizer is a commercial foothold in Asia as well as with their research and development,” Hopkins said on Metronews Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval. “That’s significant because China and Asia represent a huge opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry.”
According to Hopkins, business analysts have mixed feelings about the merger and the success of the future company.
“It’s been a little bit of a mixed bag. There have been analysts that have come out and said it makes strategic sense for Pfizer but potentially the math and numbers might not make it a successful deal,” he said.
“With Mylan, in talking with some analysts who have covered Mylan for a number of years, they’re saying this might make strategic sense but they’re a little skeptical given the history of Mylan over the last decade or so.” The generic drug industry is facing a number of pressures from manufacturers in India, which have entered the U.S. market, as well as companies aimed at connecting patients to medications causing new pricing pressures, according to Hopkins.
This has left companies such as Mylan and Pfizer trying to reposition themselves in the market and news of the merger put Monongalia County in a spot to reposition itself as well.
“We’re going to organize the delegates, the state senators, the city council members, let’s get everyone on board immediately to write a letter to Pfizer to welcome them to our community and explain how synonymous Mylan was to this community and how we’re looking forward to Pfizer being part of our community,” Bloom said.
Completion of the merger is expected sometime in mid-2020.
Comments Off on Opportunity Zones – What You Need to Know…
New federal government tax program benefits investors who place their money into Qualified Opportunity Zones. But what is a Qualified Opportunity Zone (aka QOZs, O-Zones or OZs)?
Qualified Opportunity Zones (QOZs) were created by Congress in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in order to spur investment into distressed communities around the country. Investors are allowed to place capital gains from the sale of stocks, real estate or businesses into OZ funds without having to pay taxes on those capital gains. This investment strategy is similar to 1031 exchanges except OZs allow the elimination of tax obligation whereas 1031s only defer tax obligations.
If the investment is held for five years, a 10% exclusion of the deferred gain is realized; after 7 years that exclusion increases to 15%. After holding the investment in the fund for 10 or more years, the investor can realize a benefit of paying no taxes on the investment.
To invest in an OZ, the investor must either:
Create a Qualified Opportunity Zone Fund or
Invest directly into a QOZ fund where at least 90% of the holdings are invested into businesses located within a QOZ.
OZ funds can invest in either real estate development or start-up/spin-off businesses whose primary office/place of business is located inside the boundaries of the OZ. In this article, we will focus on the real estate side of OZ investing. But imagine the tax savings if you invested into the next Amazon or Microsoft (located in an OZ) then cashed out after 10 years with no taxes due to the federal government.
In West Virginia, 55 areas have been designated as Opportunity Zones over 30 counties. Regionally, parts of Morgantown, Fairmont, Clarksburg, Buckhannon, Elkins and a large portion of Taylor County have been designated as OZs. Click here for a map of OZs.
In commercial real estate, there are a couple ways to invest into a QOZ. The goal of the program is to spur development into distressed communities; therefore one cannot purchase land under the QOZ program and just sit and hold the property. A developer can purchase raw land and make improvements to the land by developing a site where a working business entity is to be located. A developer can also purchase property with existing structures but must make investment into the property to ‘significantly’ increase the value of the property; significant is defined as at least doubling the value of the property.
The details of the OZ fund program are fairly extensive. Please contact us at Black Diamond Realty or call your accountant or financial planner/advisor to further discuss the benefits of the OZ program.
The properties below are Black Diamond Realty offerings that are available and located with an Opportunity Zone. Click on VIEW to learn more about each offering.
Comments Off on Demolition of Towne House Motel Ahead of Schedule as Long-Standing Building Soon to be Part of Past
It stood in Bridgeport for decades. As of Thursday, there wasn’t much left standing of the once thriving Towne House East Motel off of Main Street. Workers with Lyons Excavating have been leveling the structure for some time now. The company is doing $196,000 worth of demolition work that includes items done before the building started coming down and items to be addressed once it’s completely down.
“We are actually ahead of schedule, which is great news,” said Bridgeport Community Development Director Andrea Kerr. “All the asbestos has been abated and properly disposed of and as of (Wednesday) the building is just about down.” That doesn’t mean the work is finished. The contract signed with Lyons has a completion date of Oct. 31, said Kerr. While that doesn’t mean they have to be on site until that date, it does mean there are other items that will be addressed.
“Once everything is done, the area will need to be seeded and mulched,” said Kerr. “There’s other things that will also be taken care of, but it’s important the property looks nice until a decision is made for what will be put in place there.” The building on Main Street (U.S. Route 50) is near Twin Oaks. The lot provides two things that are a commodity hard to find along the corridor – road frontage and deep property in the rear.
The entire parcel covers 2.734 acres and was purchased for $975,000. There has been discussion of putting a new city fire station, a police station or a combined version – or perhaps one and not the other – on the parcel. Nothing, however, is close to definitive. “I’m kind of excited to see the decision Council makes for the property,” Kerr said. “It’s a great piece to have ownership of and provides the city with a lot of options and opportunities.”
Now, the area still has debris as a result of the construction. Remnants of the motel were visible as a scoop of material being pulled away had an old mattress cover hanging from it – a visible sign of the long-standing business that had faded into the past.
Comments Off on WVU Board of Governors OKs Three Major Construction Projects and Financing
Citing the need to “improve the quality of student life, enrich academic experience, enhance student services, and respond to students’ needs,” the West Virginia University Board of Governors unanimously approved construction plans Wednesday for three major projects totaling $176 million.
The projects will be funded by a combination of private donations, auxiliary revenue, private financing (bonds) and reserves.
The projects are:
· $100 million for construction of Reynolds Hall, the new home of the John Chambers College of Business and Economics on the site of the former Stansbury Hall on the banks of the Monongahela River.
· $35 million for renovation of Hodges Hall classroom building, which has seen no major renovation since its opening in 1954.
· $41 million for the next two phases of upgrades to Milan Puskar Center.
At nearly 180,000-square-feet, Reynolds Hall, named for alumni and financier Robert Reynolds, “will not only be transformational in what it provides West Virginia University from an academic perspective, but it will also recast a portion of Morgantown’s waterfront into a hub of business activity. The true differentiator for the John Chambers College will be that of experiential learning and the overall role it plays in the student experience,” the University said in documents outlining the plan. “Reynolds Hall will encourage and stimulate a model of education that reflects a blend of classroom learning with experiences outside the classroom, ranging from learning labs to events, and from group participation-based projects to training designed to ready students for their careers.”
The demolition of Stansbury Hall has already begun. Reynolds Hall is expected to be ready for occupancy by June of 2022. The proposed Hodges Hall renovation is proposed to include contemporary classrooms; computer classrooms; seminar and meeting rooms; updated office spaces; improved technology for teaching; and a 210-seat testing center. The Board was told the testing center is critical as there is currently no centralized center on campus. This center will help improve the testing process and continue progress toward making academic integrity a hallmark of our academic delivery. Eberly College of Arts and Sciences’ Women and Gender Studies, Native American Studies and World Languages, Literature, and Linguistics will occupy the upper floors. Occupancy is planned for June of 2021.
The work at Milan Puskar Center includes expansion and renovation of spaces that are more than 10 years old, including the home team locker room, player lounge, equipment room, recovery suite, infrastructure, Hall of Traditions, offices, team meeting rooms and other support spaces. The locker room layout is inefficient for team meetings and is not large enough to support the full team roster. Included in the renovations are upgrades to the building infrastructure, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems, along with AV and technology upgrades to support current and future phases of the renovation. The project should be complete by July of 2021.
The Board also unanimously approved the issuing of up to $110 million in revenue bonds to finance a portion of the projects. A second financing may occur toward the end of 2020. The Board also authorized the reissuing of up to $55 million in previously issued debt that is callable in October of this year. Board members Charles Capito and Taunja Willis Miller both recused themselves from consideration of the financing because their employers are involved in the bond process. The next regularly scheduled meeting of the board is set for Sept. 13 in Morgantown.
Article by WVU. Click HERE to read original article.
Comments Off on Harrison County Chamber of Commerce – 100th Anniversary Dinner
On May 21st, a couple of the Black Diamond team members attended Harrison County Chamber of Commerce’s 100th anniversary dinner which was held at the Village Square in Clarksburg. Harrison County Chamber of Commerce presented its annual awards and recognized the Leadership Harrison 2019 graduates. Native to Harrison County, Clarksburg’s own Jimbo Fisher was the keynote speaker. David Lorenze and Jeff Stenger were delighted to attend the event and, as an added bonus, got to meet Jimbo Fisher personally.
As evidenced in the autograph they secured, Jimbo Fisher’s key to success is “grit”. Jimbo Fisher and all of the accomplished men and women throughout this region embody the hard working, never quit spirit of West Virginia’s Appalachian culture.
Comments Off on Congratulations, Mark J. Nesselroad – Generation Next 40 Under 40
The State Journal has been recognizing and honoring young professionals throughout West Virginia as part of Generation Next: 40 under 40 for the past 14 years. Each year, the award reminds us that success and happiness can be found and made within the Mountain State’s borders. Whether native to sons and daughters or those who choose to live here, all our recipients are Mountaineer Proud!
Generation Next: 40 Under 40 was created to celebrate the state’s outstanding professional people who are making a difference at work and in their communities. We’re proud of this year’s very special class of 40 under 40. They come from all corners of the Mountain State; from the southern fields to the Northern Panhandle and across the high-tech roads of North Central to the Eastern Panhandle and down along the Mid-Ohio Valley to Huntington and through the Metro Valley.
They come from an array of careers, while finding high levels of success in their chosen endeavor, they haven’t allowed their jobs to define who they are or what they’ll accomplish. Some hold prominent positions, but find the time to operate one or even two additional business on the side. Others have achieved great career success but have made even greater impact through their community service. Some left for a while but were beckoned home by the call of the mountains. Others have long made West Virginia home.
Generation Next: 40 Under 40 is a shining light each year that clears out the darkness that shrouds the state with negative rankings and stereotypes. It is a reminder that there is a greatness among the hills and valleys of the Mountain State. As West Virginia emerges from past hard times, it will be the energy and leadership from Generation Next that carries the state to a heightened level of prosperity and paves a pathway to greatness to come. We Salute this year’s class of Generation Next!
Congratulations, Mark J. on this outstanding accomplishment!
Article by The State Journal. Click HERE to see the full Generation Next 40 Under 40 list.
Comments Off on Economic Experts Tout Potential of Natural Gas Development
Growth in the state’s energy industries, along with the construction projects that come with it, offers many economic opportunities, but there is a balance to be had, as was demonstrated by speakers at the eighth annual Marcellus to Manufacturing Development Conference in Monongalia County.
John Deskins, chief economist for West Virginia University and director of the Bureau of Business & Economic Research, said the state’s economy is heading in the right direction overall, but added there are issues worthy of attention. “The 9,000 jobs we’ve added over the last two years are really concentrated,” he said. “This is part of the problem. The jobs we’ve added have been concentrated almost entirely in eight counties of West Virginia. Those eight counties are doing well. And we have 40 counties that are stable … some small growth, some small decline, but mostly stable.”
Despite improvements, Deskins said long-term problems remain. One is the state’s workforce participation rate, which is the lowest in the nation at only 54 percent of the state’s adults either working or actively looking for work, compared to a national average of 63 percent. He also pointed out that of the 9,000 new jobs, as much as 85 percent of them are in coal, natural gas or temporary construction work that is mostly related to natural gas. He said economic diversification is still a long way off. “We want energy to be strong,” Deskins said. “We want coal, gas and construction to be strong — obviously — but we have to have growth in other sectors like manufacturing, like tourism. This is the environment we find ourselves.”
Deskins said economic diversification is not only necessary for different types of businesses to flourish, but also to prevent a brain drain. For instance, he said when economic shocks occur, such as the decline of coal a few years ago, residents leave to find work elsewhere, and most of those who leave tend to be young people. This also leads to the vicious cycle of unemployment, despair and drug abuse. Deskins said the abundance of natural gas in Appalachia does present an opportunity to achieve economic diversification in view of the number of chemical and manufacturing industries that are drawn to cheap, plentiful and accessible feedstocks. “We have the opportunity to create tens of thousands of jobs over the next decade or couple decades,” he said.
Joe Bozada, chief operating officer of the Appalachia Development Group, said work on an Appalachian Storage Hub for natural gas to feed that economic diversification is underway. While the past year of development has been highlighted by the selection of Parsons Corporation as an engineering partner and securing loans from the U.S. Department of Energy, Bozada said the work on selecting underground sites to build the hub has also proceeded. He said that after negotiations with landowners, the list of sites has been narrowed down to five. Now the task, he said, is to further narrow that down to two sites — a primary site and a backup site.
He said the biggest risk to large-scale investment in West Virginia is a lack of suitable infrastructure. The Appalachian Storage Hub, when completed, will serve as a critical piece of that infrastructure, along with various pipeline construction projects, he said. “Our biggest risk is, essentially, why we exist,” he said, adding that the ultimate prize at the finish line is the 100,000 family-sustaining jobs the storage hub is projected to create via downstream development. Despite the promises of the storage hub, Bozada said other energy interests around the world aren’t just sitting back. They too are looking to expand.
He said U.K.-based INEOS has invested 3 billion euros into the construction of plastics manufacturing facilities in the Belgian port city of Antwerp — plants designed to use ethane derived from North American shale gas brought in by ships. Bozada said that while this is happening, American Ethane Co., which has Russian financing, is preparing to embark on a venture to supply Chinese markets with as much as $75 billion of ethane that would travel forth by sea through Beaumont, Texas, on the Gulf Coast, another hub of America’s petrochemical industries. He said volumes of that quantity represent an equivalent to the 100,000 jobs the creation of the Appalachian Storage Hub could provide.
Looking back to Appalachia, Long Ridge Energy President Robert Wholey said there are opportunities for business development in the remains of older industries that have since shutdown. He said one only needs to look across the Ohio River in Wetzel County to see an example. Located in Hannibal, Ohio, sits the leftovers of Ormet Primary Aluminum Corporation which is being redeveloped into a gas-fired power plant. The smelter, once the third largest aluminum smelter in the U.S., shut down in 2014, but development into a power plant started almost immediately after Long Ridge’s parent company, Fortress, purchased the property in 2017.
“It used as much power as the city of Pittsburgh,” Wholey said. “It went bankrupt because the power prices were too high. The terrible irony of it was that power was right beneath their feet.” Wholey said a particular advantage of developing such a site is the fact that much of the infrastructure is already in place, which can speed up the process and reduce some costs.
Between potential for growth in the energy and manufacturing sectors, coupled with technology and federal government operations, there are plenty of sound investment opportunities in the Appalachian region despite its challenges.
Such was the subject of industry and business development conferences held recently in Monongalia County. At the eighth annual Marcellus to Manufacturing Development Conference, Solvay Senior Vice President Wally Kandel said West Virginia has advantages in downstream industrial potential for its natural gas unique to other high-production areas around the globe.
He said that while the U.S. Gulf Coast remains a production and shipping powerhouse for natural gas, that region remains vulnerable to hurricanes and is far from the majority of its customers. Kandel said the decision to invest more heavily in the Gulf Coast was a sound one based on the technology and knowledge available in 2010. However, much has changed with the advent of horizontal drilling, and the advantages of the shale deposits in Appalachia are becoming more and more obvious. “In our case, we don’t have to decide where the customers are and where the feedstock is,” he said, noting that a majority of the U.S. population is within a day’s drive of West Virginia. “We need a shining bright new image that shows that.”
Many of the conference attendees also spoke in support of the Appalachian Storage and Trading Hub and the supporting pipelines needed to move the product to markets. Mike Graney, head of the West Virginia Development Office, pointed to the new polyethylene cracker plant under construction in Butler County, Pennsylvania, which is the biggest project in Pennsylvania since World War II and has one of the world’s longest supply trains on site supporting the construction effort. He said there’s enough gas in the region to support five of these facilities, which convert natural gas into pellets that can be used for manufacturing a wide variety of products. Another cracker plant worth $10 billion is in the works in Ohio as well. “We’ve got attractive states for industrial development,” he said.
Citing sources such as The Cato Institute think tank, financial services company Moody’s Corporation, the state development office’s own findings and others, Graney said West Virginia has seen $5 billion in investments since 2017, has a better business tax climate than any of its surrounding states, has the nation’s lowest turnover rate in manufacturing, has the 11th lowest cost of doing business, has no business franchise tax and has a strong rainy-day fund. Some of that investment is already taking place. Frank Bakker, CEO of US Methanol, said his company is in the process of dismantling two of its facilities in Brazil and Slovenia and relocating them to West Virginia. “What is methanol? It’s alcohol in its purest form,” Bakker explained. “You can drink it … you’ll go blind and die … but there are lots of uses for it.” The largest use of methanol is in manufacture of other chemicals, which is why US Methanol is establishing itself in Kanawha County to be close to both the local petrochemical industry and accessible, abundant natural gas that can be converted to methanol.
Other applications include laboratory solvents, antifreeze and vehicle fuel. A small amount of methanol can be added to wastewater to provide a food source of carbon for the denitrifying bacteria, which convert nitrates to nitrogen to reduce the denitrification of sensitive aquifers in some wastewater treatment plants. Challenges to further developing the storage hub and the economic goodies that come with it include a lack of flat land for construction, as well as a lack of cohesive strategic planning. However, Graney said these are issues that can be overcome. “I say we can overcome all of that if we have the right attitude,” he said. “West Virginia is not only wild and wonderful and beautiful. It is a powerhouse.” Kandel said it’s also a matter of properly informing those at the top of large companies around the world what the Appalachian region is capable of.
During the second annual Take Me Home Country Roads Conference, organized by the Morgantown Area Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Society of Professional Services, West Virginia High Technology Foundation President James Estep said the state’s knowledge economy is being enhanced by the transition of federal government operations out of the crowded Washington, D.C., metro area. “The cost of operations there has become astronomical. It just doesn’t make business sense to stay there,” Estep said, referring to Northern Virginia and Western Maryland. “It can be transformative not only economically but cement in place a knowledge sector that could be an example for the whole country.”
An example of this in action is tech company Leidos’ work with NASA and the National Energy Technology Laboratory. In fact, this prompted the firm to start building a whole new campus at Monongalia County’s West Ridge development off Interstate 79. Estep said that as federal functions move to a new area, companies to support those functions also move into the area to go where the work is. He said this often leads to a ripple effect where companies branch out and expand their operations to keep up with demand, creating more jobs in the process.
Comments Off on WVU Medicine set to add 5th hospital in 2 years
Twenty-three years later, the major mission to increase West Virginians’ access to healthcare remains largely unchanged. While the mission continues, some of what WVU Health System is doing to fulfill it has evolved.
WVU Health System (WVU Medicine), on the verge of partnering with Jackson General Hospital in Ripley, West Virginia, is in the process of adding its fifth hospital to the extended family in just two years — a significant increase over the system’s first two decades in existence. Last week, the West Virginia Healthcare Authority granted a Certificate of Need, clearing one of the final significant hurdles to the 55-year-old hospital joining the state’s largest private employer. Joining Summersville Regional Medical Center and Braxton County Memorial Hospital, Jackson General is the third hospital in 2019 to join, at least in part, with WVU Medicine.
Summersville Regional Medical Center along with Garrett (Maryland) Medical Center and Wetzel County Hospital are currently in a management agreement partnership with WVU Medicine. Braxton County Hospital, Berkeley Medical Center, Camden Clark Medical Center, Jefferson Medical Center, Potomac Valley Hospital, Reynolds Memorial Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital, and United Hospital Center are all fully integrated members of WVU Health System. Converted to a critical access hospital in 2012, Jackson General is a 25-bed non-profit facility that employs 300 people. Jackson General Hospital has received a certificate of need, removing another obstacle in their quest to partner with WVU Medicine. The hospital is trying to get ahead of the curve, according to Jackson General President Dr. Stephanie McCoy.
“You’re just always trying to think ahead,” McCoy told MetroNews affiliate WAJR in Morgantown. McCoy said healthcare — due to a sometimes arduous relationship with government — is often a “moving target.” “You have to plan and you have to strategize, but then you always have to have your back-up plan in the back of the mind for “what if this happens,” she said. Dr. Albert Wright Jr., President and CEO of WVU Health System, said Jackson General is following that “forward thinking” model — a hospital doing reasonably well financially, but recognizing that the nature of the healthcare industry is ever-changing no matter who is in the Oval Office or in Congress.
“Every scenario, any regulation, any proposed regulation is always going to pay us less than we get today,” he said. “So if we prepare that way, I don’t really have to worry about any regulations or legislative changes that change healthcare, because we’ll be ready to adapt to it, and we’ll be the low-cost provider.” Typically, WVU Health System added sparingly following the initial 1997 agreement with United Hospital Center in Bridgeport. It was a eight years before any other hospitals joined — eventually bringing Berkeley Medical Center and Jefferson Medical Center into the fold in 2005. It was then another six years until Camden Clark Medical Center in Parkersburg joined. And, in terms of healthcare, a lot can change in a decade. Since the Camden Clark acquisition, the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamcare — was passed, survived a major Supreme Court decision, and went into effect. That, in and of itself, significantly changed the healthcare landscape. “Sometimes it does seem like we’re just a stroke of the pen from either making huge advancements or improvements or, alternatively, from devastation,” McCoy said. “It can be really hard to budget when the government can reduce payments or eliminate support with minimal notice and sometimes even retroactively.”
Following the ACA, more changes — or at least the threat of more changes — came in a very short period. Three more hospitals became full members of the WVU Health System family and, then, in the wake of a failed repeal of the ACA in 2017, five more hospitals (including Jackson General) have become partial or full members of WVU Medicine, bringing us up to date on the aggressive expansion. This is a hub-and-spoke model, Wright said. WVU Medicine is centralizing its major Morgantown hub while simultaneously branching out its spokes across the state in order to bring the resources — talented specialists, equipment, and support — to rural clinics and hospitals.
Ruby Memorial Hospital is the central “hub” in WVU Medicine’s hub and spoke model for treatment. “We’re building up our academic medical center significantly in Morgantown,” Wright said. “We’ve added lots of beds, lots of clinic space, lots of new physicians and programs around the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, the WVU Cancer Institute, the Heart & Vascular Institute, and then building the new children’s hospital.” “The spoke part of that is going out and acquiring clinics and physician practices and hospitals around the state in what we consider to be key, crucial areas in order to maintain good healthcare in those parts of the state,” Wright added. Though Wright wouldn’t specify, he did mention that there are usually “more phone calls that don’t work out” than ones that do when it comes to partnering with hospitals around the state. Wright said expansion, in this case, is about finding places to cut costs without sacrificing healthcare quality or access — which means finding ways to avoid duplication of efforts. “If you get most of your care — greater than 90 percent of your care — inside of one integrated health system where you don’t have duplication of efforts or re-ordering of tests or things like that and information available to all of your providers, you can actually cut your costs of care in half for a sick or complex patient over a three year period,” he said.
Naturally, that brings both Wright and McCoy to what many consider to be the sort of crown jewel of the WVU Health System network. Yes — the partnership agreement means resources that rural hospitals might not have had access to or new patients that WVU Medicine may never have treated. Where the centralization becomes key is the digitized internal system that allows a patient to go to any hospital in the WVU Medicine family and have their full treatment records brought up instantly.
St. Joseph’s Hospital in Buckhannon, WV joined the WVU Medicine family in 2015. For patients, Wright said it incentivizes them to choose hospitals in the network that have their history and can better treat them — often without having to stray too far from home. For the hospitals themselves, it limits duplication of treatment while also simultaneously convincing those patients that they don’t have to leave their home county for healthcare. “Wherever you go in any WVU Medicine clinic, physician office, urgent care, and any one of our hospitals should you get transferred, all of your information — all of your prescriptions, your labs, your X-rays, your imaging follows you everywhere you go,” Wright said.
The next step, Wright said, is crucial: broadband access across the entire state. That’s because, when appropriate, Wright said telemedicine — the use of Skype or Face time, for example, to communicate with patients — will save significant dollars. “That is the best, quickest, cheapest access we can give,” he said. “Telemedicine, virtual visits of our specialists, that’s how we are going to reach parts of a rural state that we would never be able to do otherwise.” Broadband expansion — 100 percent connectivity — has been an ongoing discussion for years now among some of the state’s leaders. Hopefully, Wright said, 100 percent connectivity in West Virginia can happen sooner than later — considering the “creative” plans he hinted at that will be part of WVU Medicine’s future. “I think you’ll see us announce at least one and maybe a couple of very creative relationships with healthcare insurers with the goal of exactly what I talked about before — the highest quality, lowest cost provider with the best access to patients,” Wright said.
Comments Off on Newsweek names WVU Medicine among World’s Best Hospitals
WVU Medicine has been recognized by Newsweek as part of its inaugural list of the World’s Best Hospitals. According to Newsweek, the World’s Best Hospitals 2019 ranking lists the best hospitals in 11 countries: USA, Canada, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Switzerland, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Australia, and Israel. The countries were mainly selected based on standard of living/life expectancy, population size, number of hospitals, and data availability. The list is based on three data sources: recommendations from medical experts, results from patient surveys, and medical key performance indicators on hospitals.
This ranking comes on the heels of last year’s U.S. News ranking of four WVU Medicine hospitals as part of its 2018-19 Best Hospitals in the United States. “Our goal strategy is to provide the best quality and most comprehensive care to the people of West Virginia so they never have to leave the state to receive the care they need,” Albert Wright, Jr., president and CEO of the WVU Medicine West Virginia University Health System and West Virginia University Hospitals, said. “We have been making great progress in this over the past few years, and to have our health system recognized by Newsweek as one of the best in the world validates our strategy means that we are doing something right.”
The rankings will be published online and in the March 29 issue of Newsweek magazine.
Black Diamond Realty has created a family-like, teamwork-oriented culture in which our team is vested in each other’s success. Our process is detailed and diligent but it surrounds core values and beliefs that are summarized by the acronym, HIT. “H” stands for honesty, hard work and humility. “I” stands for integrity, intelligence and innovation. “T” stands for teamwork, tenacity and technology. Maintaining a consistent focus on honoring our HIT value system, BDR’s team works tirelessly to achieve our clients’ goals. Recharging the battery is paramount to providing a high level of service.
Each year, Black Diamond Realty provides an incentive trip intended to reward team members who meet individual and company goals. 2019’s destination was Montego Bay, Jamaica. The team soaked up paradise at Secrets St. James. The five days included plenty of sun, food, beverages, entertainment and pool/beach time. Jeff Stenger wins the networking award as he was dubbed “Mayor of Montego” by the end of the trip. Our team returned to Morgantown recharged and excited for another successful year.
Thank you to all our clients, customers and reliable referral sources for trusting us with your projects. Check out some of our favorite moments below.
“Addiction in West Virginia continues to plague the state as one of its most serious problems. West Virginia has the highest rate of overdose deaths in the nation, and in many ways is the epicenter of the addiction/opioid epidemic,” Albert L. Wright, Jr., president and CEO of the West Virginia University Health System, said. “The WVU Medicine Center for Hope and Healing meets a major community need that has, to date, only been addressed on a small scale compared to the large scale of affected population.”
The Center works to support adults struggling with substance use disorders through medically managed withdrawal stabilization and residential treatment. WVU Medicine and the WVU Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry already offer a comprehensive menu of outpatient services for people with substance use disorders, and the addition of withdrawal management and 28-day rehabilitation completes the in-house continuum of care for these disorders.
The comprehensive person-centered treatment program offered at the Center includes:
Family support services
Individualized treatment plans
Specialized programming for recent overdose survivors and pregnant women
“These services allow us to treat the entire patient not just his or her substance use disorder,” James Berry, D.O., director of addiction services, WVU Medicine Chestnut Ridge Center, and interim chair, WVU Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry, said. “We work with our patients to understand their immediate and long-term needs. By integrating treatment and recovery, our patients are able to incorporate change into their lives outside of the treatment setting.”
The facility will serve as a single regional referral point for assessment of patients following discharge from local emergency rooms, inpatient detox units, and other referral sources. It will also accept self-referrals and referrals from community providers.
In addition to celebrating the opening of the Center, officials also celebrated the receipt of a generous gift that has been made to support patient care at the Center for Hope and Healing.
Douglas M. Leech, founder and CEO of Ascension Recovery Services, has established the Center for Hope and Healing Patient Care Fund with a gift of $60,000.
The fund, which will offset the cost of treatment, will benefit patients seeking care at the Center for Hope and Healing.
“The WVU Center for Hope and Healing will provide the highest quality clinical care for those in our state struggling with addiction, regardless of the payer type. An option like this has only been offered in the past out of state to those who have commercial insurance and the ability to cash pay a hefty fee,” Leech said.
“WVU Medicine’s Chestnut Ridge Center helped me find residential treatment when I desperately needed it. When I returned to Morgantown, I received outpatient services at the Chestnut Ridge Center, where they strengthened and supported my early recovery. As I started West Virginia Sober Living and Ascension Recovery Services in Morgantown, WVU Medicine was there to support me, provide guidance and mentorship, as well as partnership on a variety of initiatives. WVU Medicine has always been there for me, and I’m grateful to be able to give back to an organization that helped me and so many others in our state.”
Ascension Recovery Services, located in Morgantown, specializes in addiction recovery and treatment.
To make a gift to the Center for Hope and Healing Patient Care Fund, please visit give.wvu.edu/wvumedicine-rni and refer to fund 2W1371 in the comments box.
For more information about the center or making a gift, please contact Laura McCall, senior director of development for the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, at 304-293-5757 or email@example.com.
This gift was made through the WVU Foundation, the non-profit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.
Comments Off on Old Morgantown Ramada Inn Property to House Non-Profits that Address Homelessness
Wednesday, Monongalia County commissioners discussed the future of the old Ramada Inn property located on Scott Avenue in Morgantown. The property was recently purchased by the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust. This was given to WVU Medicine, which is now creating an independent non-profit to manage the facility.
The trust is hoping to partner, and offer rent free building space, to local non-profits that directly, or indirectly address homelessness. “This is a win, win, for the city, for the county, for the taxpayer, but more importantly, for those individuals who can use that help and services that we’ll be able to provide in a controlled environment,” said Tom Bloom, Monongalia County Commissioner.
The facility is a 30,000-square foot, multi-purpose building that can be completely remodeled to accommodate the needs of any agencies that would like to move to the location. It includes a large commercial kitchen. “Think about this. You have a facility that can serve 1,400 people. Now we have rooms where the people could live in the room, and then have three meals a day,” said Bloom.
The project is in the preliminary stages and meetings will be held with several local non-profits in the area that work with the homeless population as well as those that provide wrap around services.
Comments Off on Black Diamond Attends The 16th Annual WVU Medicine Children’s Gala
This past weekend, The Black Diamond Realty team dressed in their finest attire and followed the yellow brick road to the Land of Oz at the 16th Annual WVU Medicine Children’s Gala. Black Diamond Realty was proud to celebrate the incredible healthcare that is provided by the WVU Medicine staff throughout the year and to support fundraising for the new women and children’s tower.
Comments Off on Natural Gas Power Plant to Provide Economic Catalyst to Harrison County & WV
A new natural-gas-fired power plant in Harrison County is expected to be operational by fall of 2021, according to a company official.
Groundbreaking on the approximately 550-megawatt Harrison County Power Plant, a joint project of Energy Solutions Consortium and Caithness Energy, is expected to occur late this spring on county-owned property in Clarksburg’s Montpelier Addition, according to John Black, vice president of development for Energy Solutions Consortium. Black was in town Thursday to address members of the Harrison County Development Authority at their regular meeting. The meeting had to be canceled for lack of a quorum, but Black did provide an update on the project to those who were there.
Engineering work already has started at the Glen Falls substation, he said. “There will be an expansion of the Glen Falls substation, and that’s where we’ll sell our power. That’s our point of interconnect” via a 1.8-mile transmission line, Black said. According to Black, the plant will support 400 jobs during construction, which will be filled using union laborers. The plant will have between 15 and 25 permanent employees, but will support other maintenance and supply businesses in the area. There may be additional opportunity for the construction laborers who come on board in Harrison County.
Energy Solutions Consortium is also moving forward on a larger, 830-megawatt natural gas power plant in Brooke County. That project is approximately two months behind the Harrison County project, according to Black. “Our hope is to stagger them just enough that some of the labor can be switching from one to the other,” he said. The company estimates the annual overall economic impact of the Harrison County project will be about $880 million. “The financial commitment not only to our area, but the state of West Virginia, is substantial,” said Harrison County Administrator Willie Parker.
Once construction is complete, the energy generated at the plant will flow into the PJM power grid, Black said. The PJM grid covers all or part of 13 states, including West Virginia and Washington, D.C., according to the transmission organization’s website. Some owners of property adjoining the power plant site have addressed the company with concerns regarding the facility’s aesthetics, noise levels and impact on traffic, but Black said the company has been able to allay those fears.
The facility will be “very compact” at 12 acres, with a 180-foot stack that “won’t even go above the ridge line.” There will not be a visible plume, and emissions will be “well below permit limits,” Black said. The plant will run at about 55-65 decibels. According to information from Purdue University, 60 decibels is about the noise level of restaurant conversation, background music or an air-conditioning unit at a distance of 100 feet. Traffic will enter the property via a new access road rather than on Pinnickinnick Street, he said.
According to Black, Harrison County was the ideal location for the plant because of its interconnection, fuel supply, labor development opportunities and water and sewer availability. “The real key is fuel. We’re in the heart of the fuel. To be able to get this kind of supply with only a six-mile pipeline to a major interstate is just huge for us,” Black said. Both the fuel and the transportation of that fuel to the plant will be handled by West Virginia companies, he said. EQT will construct a 6-mile pipeline to transport the gas into the plant, Black said. “Our gas bill every year is $110 million, and that’s West Virginia gas,” Black said. That will benefit the natural gas industry in West Virginia as a whole, said Harrison County Development Authority President Michael Jenkins.
“That’s long-term severance tax revenue back to the taxpayers,” Jenkins said. “The biggest holdup to more drilling in the state and producing more wells and more royalty is having somewhere to utilize natural gas. These plants become instantly one of the largest consumers of natural gas in the region and start to build more demand for the natural gas.”
Developers will turn over their access road to the state, and water and sewer utilities will be oversized to help accommodate additional development, Black said. “Once we are finished with it, we’re going to have 16 acres of property right next door perfect for people to come in and be a supplier to us. We’re going to have a brand new road, water and sewer access … and we’re updating the internet into the property,” he said. Harrison County Commission President Ron Watson said he hopes the infrastructure infusion in the area can spur additional growth surrounding the site.
“It’s a beautiful day to be in Harrison County. The sun is shining brightly when you talk about half a billion dollars to build this that’s going to be back into our economy. We’ve been waiting, going through the hoops, and it will be a reality when the shovel digs,” he said.Watson said he expects the commission to reinvest funds from the eventual sale of the county property to plant developers into development in the plant area.
Comments Off on Bridgeport, WV Economic Development 2019 – VIDEO
Bridgeport has become a leader in economic development in West Virginia. Bridgeport is featured in this video by the West Virginia Municipal League as they tell the story of economic development around the state. Click on the image below to watch the full video.
Comments Off on Morgantown, WV – 2018 Top 100 Best Places to Live
On the Best Places to Live list for 2018, Morgantown appears on Livability.com’s Top 10 Cities for Affordable Health Care. Known primarily as home to West Virginia University and its 30,000 students, Morgantown has a wide variety of housingoptions and neighborhoods as well as downtown shops, restaurants and entertainment nightspots for students and residents. The median age here is 22.6 years old, which contributes to a youthful and fun local culture.
Morgantown Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) provides university students with free travel between the spread-out WVU campuses. With amenities like Hazel Ruby McQuain Riverfront Park and the Monongalia Arts Center at their fingertips, Morgantown residents never run out of things to do.
Comments Off on DOE Report shows potential for petrochemical Hub in Appalachia
A recent study conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy further validated the benefits of and need for the Appalachian Storage and Trade Hub.
The subsequent DOE report from this study sent to members of Congress, titled “Ethane Storage and Distribution Hub in the United States,” shed light on the advancing natural gas industries in the Marcellus and Utica Shale regions covering West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania during the past decade due to innovations like hydraulic fracturing. The report stated that the region, in view of it also being home to the undeveloped Rogersville, effectively make it an energy super power.
“Continued technological advancements and improvements in industry practices are expected to lower costs and to increase the volume of oil and natural gas recovery per well,” the report read. “The Appalachian Basin’s shale resource endowment is so bountiful that, were it an independent country, the region would be the world’s third largest producer of natural gas today.”
While the U.S. Gulf Coast has been the nation’s historic hub of natural gas storage and activity, data from the report projects that Appalachian and East Coast states will produce more than 30 trillion cubic feet of natural gas by the year 2050, which is more than the combined total tons of the Gulf Coast and the rest of the country.
“I’m not surprised at all, to be honest,” Appalachian Development Group President and CEO Steve Hedrick said regarding the DOE’s study. “I think it certainly validates the strategic importance of the Appalachian trading hub and what we have talked about as to the positive impacts it can have to our nation and certainly our allies around the world.”
In addition to providing as many as 100,000 jobs and tax revenue in downstream development projects, Hedrick added that such a storage hub would better enable the United States to supply the world with reliable energy, natural gas liquids and other products.
The hub itself took a crucial step toward reality in September when the Appalachian Development Group selected California-based Parsons Corp. as its engineering, procurement and construction partner. Since then, Hedrick said, potential sites have been narrowed down and negotiations with landowners are underway. The task now is to secure capital funding and conduct geological testing to ensure the sites in question are the right fit.
James Wood, interim director of the West Virginia University Energy Institute, said the visit to Appalachia by U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry in 2017 was what helped kickstart efforts to make the storage hub a reality
“What was new to him, I think, was that this hub is likely to be built in rock and not in salt domes,” Wood explained. “He’s also pretty knowledgeable of the vulnerability of the (Mont Belvieu) hub down in Texas to periodic storm events and he knows that a hub up here is closer to markets.”
Wood also noted that a storage hub in Appalachia would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions because fewer pipelines and compression stations would be needed to move product to market. Under the status quo, gas collected in West Virginia must be transported to the Gulf Coast before it’s refined and shipped north again where most of the market is.
He said that while the Appalachian Development Group and Parsons Corporation are moving forward with developing the hub itself, WVU hosts several initiatives aimed at improving the natural gas industry. Research by the Center for Innovation in Gas Research and Utilization to produce baking soda out of carbon dioxide, a byproduct of coal power plants and natural gas well operations, is one such example. Various technologies and software systems are also being tested at the Marcellus Shale Energy and Environmental Lab at the Morgantown Industrial Park by university researchers in partnership with private companies.
“This report affirms what we have been talking about for years,” Congressman David McKinley, R-W.Va., said. “Natural gas production in the region has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade. West Virginia and surrounding states are poised to become a leader in petrochemicals and manufacturing, but we need to build the necessary infrastructure to make it work.”
The DOE study also concluded that building an Appalachian shale storage hub is not necessarily in conflict with Gulf Coast expansion. This is because Appalachian capacity may serve regional demand for natural gas liquid derivatives, freeing up Gulf Coast production for other markets including exports overseas.
The report also favored the Appalachian region itself since nearly one-third of U.S. activity in the petrochemical ecosystem occurs within 300 miles of Pittsburgh, with over $300 billion of net revenue, 900,000 workers, and 7,500 establishments.
“As we watch hurricanes threaten Gulf Coast production, the Shale Crescent region offers a more insulated, affordable alternative to supplement production,” said Shale Crescent USA Co-founder Jerry James. “We continue to work closely with industry leaders to capitalize on the advantages the Shale Crescent region has to offer, and we are thrilled that the DOE is dedicating efforts to underscore these advantages and support our endeavor to bring more petrochemical investment to the region.”
Comments Off on The Real Way McDonald’s Makes Their Money—It’s Not Their Food
McDonald’s sells a lot of food. Like, a lot of food. We’re talking enough food to serve more than 70 million people every day, with more than 75 burgers sold every second.
That shouldn’t be too surprising, considering McDonald’s is one of the largest fast-food chains in the world. But their menu actually isn’t what generates the company’s multi-billion dollar profits. The real best-seller? Real estate.
There are more than 36,000 McDonald’s locations worldwide, but only about 5 percent of them are company-owned. The rest are franchised out, meaning they’re run by individuals who McDonald’s has contracted to operate them. In those situations, the company only spends money on the real estate of that location. The franchisee is responsible for all the costs of running the restaurant while also paying McDonald’s for rent (which adds up to an average of 10.7 percent of their sales), a $45,000 franchisee fee, and a monthly service fee equal to 4 percent of gross sales, Business Insider reports. With multiple means of collecting revenue at relatively minimal costs, it’s no wonder McDonald’s relies so heavily on franchises.
“We are not basically in the food business,” former McDonald’s CFO Harry J. Sonneborn reportedly told investors. “We are in the real estate business. The only reason we sell 15 cent hamburgers is because they are the greatest producer of revenue from which our tenants can pay us rent.”
Being able to hand off the costs of running the restaurants is a primary key to McDonald’s success. According to Wall Street Survivor, in 2014, the company made $27.4 billion in revenue, with $9.2 billion coming from franchised locations and $18.2 from company-owned locations. But after you factor in the total costs of running those locations, McDonald’s kept only 16 percent of the revenue from locations it owned directly compared to the 82 percent of the franchise-generated revenue. Here are 17 more things McDonald’s employees won’t tell you.
Comments Off on 8,000 Jobs Added Within Past Decade in North Central WV
North Central West Virginia continues to lead the state in economic progress, according to local experts.
Although many other areas of the Mountain State lag behind national averages in most major economic indicators, the North Central region has continued to thrive and grow, according to John Deskins, director of the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economic Research.
“North Central West Virginia is more stable than the nation, it seems. Or, at least, the patterns of the last couple of decades have indicated we have greater stability,” Deskins said. “The region’s economy is very resilient. Part of that depends on the fact that we have some really important federal employment in the region; we have the university in the region; and we have a lot of health care in the region. Those sectors of the economy tend to be really stable,” he said.
The Bureau of Business and Economic Research recently released a study analyzing the NCWV region’s economy over the past few years and looking ahead to expected economic performance through 2023, Deskins said. Businesses in Monongalia, Marion, Harrison and Preston counties added more than 8,000 jobs between early-2010 and mid-2018, resulting in cumulative growth of more than 7 percent, according to the study.
In Harrison County, many of the new jobs can be attributed to rebounding natural gas production and natural gas pipeline infrastructure under construction, Deskins said. “That’s actually something that’s creating benefits in other counties in the state as well, not just the North Central region,” he said. “But definitely the construction projects that have been going on have definitely helped employment and a whole host of economic measures here in North Central.,” he said. “There is lots of stuff going on with the pipeline construction. That’s in Harrison County, and it’s affecting other parts of our region, as well.”
Sherry Rogers, executive director of the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce, said Lewis County has also experienced positive economic gains over the last year, mainly due to increased natural gas pipeline construction in the area. “There are some businesses that have seen an increase in their revenues due to the pipeline and the influx of pipeliners coming to the area and staying in the area,” she said. “Our retail and our restaurants have seen an increase due to that.” Several new businesses have recently opened their doors in and around Weston, Rogers said. “Here in Lewis County we have thriving entrepreneurship,” she said. “We’re comprised mostly of small businesses and we have some exciting new businesses that have opened that have opened this year or are opening.”
These include a retail shop in downtown Weston, a newly opened restaurant and a distillery, MannCave Distillery, Rodgers said. Patricia Henderson, director of the Taylor County Development Authority, said her county’s economy remains stable, partially do to continued coal mining activity. “Right now we are similar with the other areas in the state,” she said. “We do have a coal mine here, and that’s certainly helping us. Leer Mine still producing and moving a lot of coal through the railroad.” The county hopes to attract more oil and gas related companies to settle in the Taylor County area, Henderson said.
“We are trying to attract new businesses, and like all the other counties throughout the state, we are trying to recruit some of the oil and gas into our county,” she said. “In 2018, we had some property that the development authority marketed, and we did have an oil and gas company purchase that property to build some of their field offices. So we’re excited about that. That is a three-year plan.”
Taylor County recently became the recipient of a grant that will be used to perform a broadband internet study, Henderson said. “One of the problems that we hear a lot is the fact that we don’t have high speed internet in a lot of the areas of our county,” she said. “So we’ve got a grant to do a study that will help us to asses our needs and see where our underserved and unserved areas are so we can identify them. Then we can potentially go after some federal funds to help with that.”
Comments Off on White Oaks Development Continues Expansion
The White Oaks development in Bridgeport, located just off the Jerry Drove Exit on Interstate 79, continues to grow and expand as more offices, retail locations and other businesses open their doors. The 472-acre business park has seen a flurry of construction activity over the past year, and developers plan to soon announce details of new projects planned there, said Austin Thrasher, White Oaks project manager. “Here pretty soon I think we’re going to have an announcement for some more earthworks construction going on for White Oaks that will develop some more pad space,” he said. “I would expect that we’ll probably be pulling the trigger within the next month and making that announcement.”
The most recent additions to White Oaks include a 3,300-square-foot Clear Mountain Bank location and an 8,749-square-foot commercial building that houses a Starbucks and several other businesses, Thrasher said. “We’ve got the bank, and then the retail (building), with Starbucks, Elegant Nails and Bridgeport Physical Therapy that have all moved into there,” he said. “Then down the hill below TGI Friday’s we have Regional Eye Associates that just opened up there. We’ve also got Tenmile Land, a land company that opened up right across from Steptoe and Johnson.”
David Thomas, Clear Mountain Bank’s CEO and president, said White Oaks was chosen to house the branch due to is central location. “The White Oaks community is just so vibrant right now,” Thomas said. “There is a lot of activity going on and a lot of businesses around. From that perspective, it was a big draw to provide easy access to our customers.” A multi million-dollar facility that will provide living space for senior citizens, which will be called The Crossings at Bridgeport, is also under construction and is expected to be completed next year, Thrasher said. Aubury Holmes, development manager for Smith/Packett, a senior housing and care development company based in Virginia that will operate the facility, said it will provide a variety of accommodations and services. “This will be a 94,629-square-foot senior living community with assisted living and memory care,” she said. “There will be several amenities, including physical therapy, exercise room, theater, bistro, activity space, outdoor courtyards and walking paths, van transportation to transport residents to activities within the community and a central kitchen with three meals day.” The project has a total budget of approximately $23.15 million, Holmes said.
White Oaks, which was founded in 2008, has kept pace with its developers’ expectations for growth, Thrasher said. “It’s been very exciting for us. It’s definitely picked up pace since the development started,” he said. “It has done what I think everybody hoped it would do from the beginning. Over the last year and half or two years it seems like it has really picked up some speed.” The addition of direct flights to Washington, D.C., and Chicago out of the nearby North Central West Virginia Airport has contributed to White Oaks’ continued growth, Thrasher said. “I certainly don’t think it has hurt,” he said. “I know a lot of people with some existing businesses there have been using that a lot. I think it has serviced our area really well.” “That whole area out there has really been great for the city of Bridgeport and for the county and for North Central West Virginia,” Bridgeport Mayor Andy Lang said. “I think that it’s great they are going to continue to expand.”
The development is divided into three sections, or “phases,” Thrasher said. “In Phase 1, which is where you see most of the buildings, we are closing in toward kind of the end remaining parcels,” he said. “Phase 2 starts with the Thrasher building and goes down to where the assisted living facility will be. They are really kicking off Phase 2 as the first people jumping in there.” In Phase 3, which is still largely vacant, developers estimate White Oaks will continue along its current growth trajectory for the next couple of decades, Thrasher said. “There is probably 20 more years worth of development to happen,” he said. “That’s the plan going forward: To build it out and hope they keep coming.”
This monthly newsletter serves to reflect on the past year’s successes and challenges. Two thousand eighteen was a record-breaking year for Black Diamond and many other companies in north central WV. We exceeded our annual goals and added two strong team members, Chris Waters and Jeff Wise. North central West Virginia continues to be the shining star for the state and other areas are seeing growth as well.
A recent article in the Dominion Post announced the improvement of West Virginia’s quality of life rating from 46th to 44th nationally (Source: United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings 2018). We feel encouraged by this growth and remember that West Virginia’s story will continue to evolve over time. Consistent growth, while maintaining a focus on the big picture, is imperative to keep West Virginia moving forward. What does the big picture look like? What should we focus on? Many believe economic growth should focus on recession-resistant industries such as healthcare, education and government. Concurrently, we need to increase the number of technology jobs and promote the continued growth of the energy sector.
Momentum is building. Click on the button below to visit some of the key takeaways from 2018.
Top 10 Economic Observations from 2018:
1. WVU Medicine is leading by example and has aggressively been expanding its footprint. “WVU Medicine is the largest healthcare system in the State of West Virginia, anchored by J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown. The system consists of an academic medical center, four community hospitals and three critical access hospitals with 1,625 licensed beds. WVU Medicine also manages a community hospital in Maryland and has a formal affiliation with another community hospital in WV,” according to www.moodys.com/credit-ratings/West-Virginia-United-Health-System-credit-rating-806684509.
Furthermore, WVU Medicine has a clinical presence in 39 out of 55 WV counties. The number expanded in 2018 and will continue on a growth trend in the coming years. For a state that has consistently ranked poorly in measures of health, WVU Medicine’s commitment to changing West Virginia citizens’ quality of life is refreshing.
2. The internet has drastically changed the world we live in over the past 20 years. Online retail’s increased popularity and user-friendly options has hurt big box retailers, as we predicted in 2017 – https://blackdiamondrealty.net/2017/11/30/retail-apocalypse-not-among-us/. Several large retailers closed their doors during 2018 in popular north central WV shopping destinations that include Meadowbrook Mall (Harrison County), Middletown Mall (Marion County) and Morgantown Mall (Monongalia County). Some of the brand casualties included Sears, Kmart, Belk and Toys “R” Us.
3. Interest rates ticked up but remain relatively low. The Feds adjusted the rate four times in 2018. This has a negative effect on values. Regional banks are still being aggressive in pursuing commercial real estate deals.
4. As our baby boomer population continues to age, securing high quality, reasonably priced senior housing is becoming more pressing. Represented by Black Diamond Realty, Smith Packett is investing $40 million+ to address this regional issue. The first project is a 175 unit, three-story senior housing project on Point Marion Road in Morgantown. The development will have three senior living options that include independent living, assisted living and memory care. The second project is a 100+ unit development, located on 5 acres, within White Oaks Business Park. Click to learn more about The Crossings Morgantown and The Crossings Bridgeport.
5. Investment sales remained strong. Real estate investing is a great tool to accomplish asset growth and wealth accumulation. Most are familiar with the adage of “buying low, selling high” while collecting a dividend along the way. Similar to stock investments, real estate investing offers the opportunity for appreciation and cash flow (real estate’s version of collecting dividends). In addition to providing the opportunity to recognize these two characteristics, real estate investments offer tax advantages and equity build opportunities.
6. The office market is a mixed bag depending upon locale. Bridgeport’s office market was strong with a 95%+ occupancy rate. Morgantown’s office market was weaker, primarily due to increased supply over the past 2-3 years, but is stabilizing with new users entering the market partially sparked by the resurgence of O&G activity.
7. Housing stock is an important component necessary to encourage growth. This region, with specific focus on Morgantown, has a significant need for affordable single-family housing in the $200,000 to $300,000 range. Black Diamond Realty sold 62 (+/-) acres this year to a southern WV housing developer. Other successful developments are in various stages of development throughout the region.
8. Infrastructure is paramount to secure economic growth. Governor Justice leveraged future revenues, which effectively avoided a significant tax increase, to tackle a “never-ending” problem. Governor Justice’s “Roads to Prosperity” program gave West Virginians hope that the future infrastructure is bright. To read in greater detail, CLICK HERE.
9. The Appalachian region has very challenging terrain. It is expensive to move mountains. To encourage large-scale redevelopment and economic progress, creative solutions are often required to make a project economically feasible. Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is an excellent tool that has many success stories including White Oaks Business Park, Gateway Development and Morgantown Industrial Park.
10. The unemployment rate is very low in this region. On the face of things, this is positive but if you look at labor force participation in the state of WV, it is the lowest in the nation. This stunts potential future growth as employers see a diminished labor pool as a significant challenge. If an employer is unable to get comfortable with their ability to secure a reliable workforce, they will target other markets for their expansion project.