MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — Despite COVID-19 and other challenges both locally and statewide, the Morgantown Area Partnership has been successful in moving projects along and executing their program work.
“We’re excited about those results and as well as what 2022 can bring,” said Russ Rogerson, president and CEO of the partnership.
Rogerson sees the success in Morgantown as proof that the partnership works. It was set up as a multi-purpose group doing the work of a traditional Chamber organization, as well as a developmental authority, neighborhood revitalization corporation and area economic partnership.
“We saw where if someone wanted to come to the area, and if they had questions about their business and a type of property, they wouldn’t know where to go,” Sean Sikora, county commissioner, said. “We were successful in spite of ourselves. We were losing a lot of opportunities, so we sought to consolidate those organizations.”
Many groups had similar ideas for success, but were not working together.
“It was all centered around how do we create a greater cooperative working relationship across all the various entities, both political and private in the area, for the betterment of our communities,” he said. “We felt that we would be able to create better cooperation across those entities and therefore set a standard to help that cooperation throughout.” Rogerson noted a unique aspect of the partnership is that they have also added governmental and educational leaders.
“It really broadened the representation on the community board,” Rogerson said. “That was the goal, to get more people involved and participating.”
Rogerson said there are many things being done that have helped make the last year a bright one. In addition to new businesses coming to the area, the partnership restructured their organization, adding three new vice presidents, which Rogerson believes is a positive step in the right direction.
Eric Carlson was named VP of economic development services.
“Eric comes from former position of the equivalent of a city manager and in the college community of an Indiana Purdue, so he brings with a great deal of, you know, college town, university town, relationships and opportunities and challenges,” Rogerson said. “We’re very excited to have Eric on board.”
Anna Carrier is the new VP of Chamber services.
“Anna is local to Morgantown — born and raised, and a WVU grad,” Rogerson said. “She’s also a small business owner — The Cupcakerie — and previously worked at WVU Encova Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, so she brings a lot to the table for us.”
Longtime staffer Amy Loomis received a promotion.
“I was fortunate to have her when I arrived, and Amy has been elevated to vice president of revitalization services,” Rogerson said. “She’s going to be hailing a lot of the efforts of the campus neighborhood revitalization.”
Rogerson has seen increased attendance at Business After Hours events. Those were the first in-person events the partnership brought back, because they’re smaller and more manageable from a distancing perspective.
“We actually had our largest Business After Hours, reaching 120 people in December, down at the Marriott Waterfront,” Rogerson said. “This year, we’re hoping they open up even more.”
Rogerson is proud of the work from the many committees of the Morgantown Area Partnership.
“All of our committees do a great job: government affairs, transportation, and of course WINGS — Women’s Innovative Networking Group,” Rogerson said. “They continue to meet and continue to keep track of the many areas they encompass in the transportation, government affairs, and others.”
The new Workforce Development Committee was created to help many Morgantown residents who were put out of work in 2021.
“We did that to address the large layoff announcements from Viatris and the Blacksburg coal mine — we thought it was important that we stepped into that arena and tried to add some value to those existing services,” Rogerson said. “We held a job fair with some 60 companies, representing over 2,000 jobs.”
A portion of the Morgantown Area Partnership website has been turned into a networking site for recruiters, which Rogerson calls a tool that all Mon County companies can use to post their job openings for free.
“It’s important that local people know how to access local jobs,” Rogerson said. “We’re very pleased with that, and hope people visit our website to see that.”
“We have projects flowing through, and last year we had two new companies locate that will result in some $200 million in private investment and more than 200 jobs,” Rogerson said. “These two companies are located in the Morgantown industrial park.”
The Morgantown Area Partnership purchased 9 1/2 acres of college housing along the Ridgewood Avenue corridor, with the express intent of starting a major redevelopment effort along the corridor to provide more connectivity to downtown Morgantown and also the university from area residents.
The I-68 Commerce Park remains a project with positive future implications.
“We continue to work with the city of Morgantown on the airport runway extension that’s going to result in the creation of the I-68 Commerce Park in 2023,” Rogerson said.
The soils and rock needed for the runway extension are being taken from the nearby spot that will become the commerce park.
“That area will be available to us in 2023, so you’re going to hear a lot more about I-68 Commerce Park then,” Rogerson said.
The West Ridge area of Monongalia County saw two notable retail additions: Menards and Bass Pro Shop.
“Bass Pro Shop is is one of those anchor stores that I think says quite a bit about the robustness of our community financially,” Rogerson said. “We are happy to have them and happy to have additional retailers coming in throughout the community.”
People are getting more comfortable going out, and Rogerson knows Morgantown will be ready.
“I think when we can get this calmed down long enough, I think the stores will see people coming through here,” Rogerson said. “We’ve got a number of stores opening up in the West Ridge area, and I do think people will get out.”
Shopping online experienced a dramatic surge as the COVID-19 pandemic kept people home. Rogerson is curious to see the new future for retail, as the pandemic wanes.
“I think some of those conveniences, just like having meetings on Zoom, or other ways, I think they’re here to stay,” Rogerson said. “It will be very interesting to see how long-term, we adjust and adapt to that.”
Rogerson knows that some elements of shopping online cannot be beat, but hopes that a happy middle ground can be found.
“The good news is people were forced into adding it, and it’s there in place, and they can only get better with it,” Rogerson said. “But I’m also hoping that we still have a healthy number of storefronts opening back up and and that we can provide both options.”
Original Article by Chris Slater, March 26, 2022 on wvnews.com