Comments Off on Gov. Justice Announces UNDBIO Secures Lease in Monongalia County
A lower-cost insulin manufacturer has taken the next step toward establishing a location in West Virginia.
UNDBIO, a South Korean company, has secured a lease with West Virginia University to build an insulin manufacturing facility in Morgantown.
The company anticipates creating 200 jobs within the first three years while investing $100,000,000 in phase one of the project.
Gov. Jim Justice celebrated the lease agreement and praised the development during a briefing at the state Capitol.
“The Morgantown area has a strong manufacturing history and I am proud that UNDBIO will join our growing list of successful, world-leading manufacturing companies who’ve chosen the Mountain State,” Justice said.
The company has plans to build the manufacturing facility in the West Virginia University Research Park. Company leaders have said the project is valued at about $100 million and is expected to employ as many as 1,200 when up and running.
The company plans to partner with West Virginia University on other research projects as well.
“It’s really a firming up of the commitment. West Virginia’s made some financial commitments, and UNDBIO has made substantial commitments to the Morgantown area,” state Development Secretary Mitch Carmichael said on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”
He added, “It’s really a revitalization of the pharmaceutical industry in the Morgantown area, and it’s great for West Virginia — and it’s great for Morgantown in particular.”
UNDBIO has been developing a proprietary manufacturing method aimed at lowering the cost of insulin.
In phase one, the facility will work to secure Food and Drug Administration approval for the product. After securing FDA approval, UNDBIO plans to expand, resulting in additional jobs.
Carmichael acknowledged the FDA approval could still take time, but he drew confidence from the insulin’s acceptance and production in other countries.
“Ground will be broken on the building this fall, and FDA approval will not be forthcoming for probably a year and a half or two — and you can’t control the speed at which the FDA approves.
But, Carmichael added, “the nice thing that gives everyone confidence about it is that it’s already being utilized and manufactured in other countries throughout the world. So the fact that it needs American FDA approval is significant and we’ll undergo that process, but the project is moving forward.”
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reports more than 34 million people in the country have diabetes and one in 10 West Virginians are affected by the disease. The data also shows nearly 20-percent of people with diabetes skipped, delayed or rationed insulin due to cost.
“The mission of UNDBIO is to develop and produce state-of-the-art insulin in West Virginia,” UNDBIO Chairman Caleb Jun said.
“Our products will save human lives and improve the quality of life for those afflicted with diabetes. We are excited to see West Virginia become a mecca for manufacturing highly advanced insulin to treat diabetic patients around the world.”
Comments Off on Clorox opens cat litter plant in Martinsburg
The first bag of cat litter to come off the production line at the new Clorox production plant in Martinsburg was cut open during a Friday morning ceremony.
The 97,000 square foot plant, which will produce the company’s Fresh Step and Scoop Away products, starts out with more than 100 workers, more than 80 of them from West Virginia.
“We’ve found there’s really a great number of skills and readily available to come work at the plant,” Clorox Vice President of Product Supply Services Michael Holly said during a Friday appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.”
The company has a partnership with nearby Blue Ridge Community and Technical College to help train the workers. Clorox presented Blue Ridge with a $10,000 check Friday to express the company’s thanks for the ongoing partnership.
Holly said the Martinsburg site at Tabler Station meets the company’s needs to get its products closer to the east coast.
“We already have a great operation in Kansas but we have found we need to expand and with a lot of consumers over here on the east coast and towards the northeast it has been a great project for us to expand to be able to meet business needs,” Holly said.
He also noted that having the plant along the north-south I-81 corridor and being close to railroad operations in Winchester, Va., as keys in the site selection.
Holly said West Virginia has been a good business partner.
“It’s really been an amazing reception here where we’ve really been met with an attitude of finding solutions for those challenges and working together on those and that’s been an amazing part of bringing this project to light,” Holly said.
Clorox plans to be in full production by early next year. The company has also built a 450,000-square-foot warehouse down the road from the plant.
U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito along with Gov. Jim Justice all put out statements welcoming Clorox to West Virginia.
Clorox also has charcoal operations in West Virginia through its Kingsford brand located in Beryl (Mineral County) and Parsons (Tucker County).
Clorox also announced Friday that it’s giving a year supply of cat litter to the Berkeley County Humane Society along with a $5,000 donation.
Original Article by Jeff Jenkins on WVMetroNews.com
Comments Off on Officials Celebrate Completion of Site Development for West Virginia AeroTech Park
Stakeholders of North Central West Virginia Airport recently celebrated the culmination of nearly 20 years of hoping and planning.
Gov. Jim Justice — along with a host of local leaders and officials — participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the completion of site development for the West Virginia AeroTech Park.
“Without any question, always, the airports are the heart; they’re the lifeblood of the engine that makes everything go,” Justice said. “You think of what you’ve got going on here. It is off the chart; it is un-flat-believable what’s going on.”
The AeroTech Park will house the airport’s new terminal building, an expanded taxiway, an enlarged parking lot and will provide ample build-ready land for the continued growth and development of the region’s aerospace industry.
The park’s future site is now flat and level, but just a year ago, the stretch of land adjacent to W.Va. 279 was buried under approximately 3 million square feet of earth that officials called “the mountain.”
Ron Watson, former Harrison County commissioner and former president of the Benedum Airport Authority, which governs the airport, said officials had long hoped to “move the mountain” to clear space for a new terminal building.
“The mountain has always been something that we wanted to get rid of, but we never had the means, and we really didn’t have a good plan,” he said.
“Before we could do the terminal, we had to get rid of the mountain. That was a long time in the making, and I am delighted to see the progress.”
Airport Director Rick Rock, looking out over the crowd assembled for the ribbon cutting ceremony, thanked the public for always supporting the airport.
“One of the finest lessons I learned when I started this job was to get the community to take ownership of it,” he said. “Right here is an example of a community taking ownership of it. I appreciate it — without you none of this is possible.”
The site development project, handled by Wolfe’s Excavating, was seeded by a state-backed investment announced by Justice in August 2019 — a $10 million grant from the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council and a $10 million loan from the state Economic Development Authority.
On July 8, the Federal Aviation Administration announced the airport would receive a $15 million grant, the final element needed to greenlight the terminal’s construction.
Bridgeport Mayor Andy Lang, who sits on the Airport’s Special Projects Committee, said numerous individuals and agencies deserve credit for helping make the project a reality.
“It was a matter of just getting everybody to the table one-by-one — whether that was the (Federal Aviation Administration), the (West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection), the state, the governor’s office, the Development office, just on and on — to realize what this project could do for North Central West Virginia,” he said.
Construction of the terminal building is expected to begin next year, Lang said.
“We should be started on the terminal, digging footers, in the spring,” he said.
The expansion project is estimated to lead to direct contributions of more than $587 million to the state’s economy each year, according to economists at West Virginia University.
The total economic impact of construction expenditures for the airport’s terminal expansion project is estimated to be $88 million, of which more than $55 million will be spent directly, and another $33 will be generated in secondary industries, according to analysis from the WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research.
The terminal expansion project is estimated to employ about 356 construction workers directly, and another 199 in supplier industries, for a total employment impact of 555 jobs.
Growth at the airport is estimated to add an additional $16.7 million in expenditures in the local economy over 10 years. Counting secondary impacts, it’s estimated this spending will result in more than $28.5 million in total economic impact over the same 10-year period.
Expansion on the airport’s campus is expected to allow for the addition of seven to 11 small-to-medium-sized businesses that will either expand or locate in the area, for a total of more than 1,300 new jobs.
The airport is one of the main reasons North Central West Virginia is one of the state’s two primary centers for economic activity, according to WVU’s John Deskins.
“This airport and this aerospace sector in Harrison County is one of the key, foundational pieces that is enabling North Central to be a standout region,” he said. “I think that’s pretty important.”
Original Article by Charles Young on August 22, 2022 on wvnews.com
Comments Off on US Natural Gas Prices Spike To 14-Year High. Here’s Why:
New York(CNN Business)US natural gas prices have skyrocketed to levels unseen since 2008, a spike that threatens to offset the benefits of falling prices at the gas pump.
Natural gas futures surged 7% on Tuesday to close at $9.33 per million British thermal unit (BTU), the highest closing price since August 1, 2008.
Although natural gas futures cooled off a touch on Wednesday, they remain up about 70% just since the end of June. And natural gas is up a staggering 525% since closing at $1.48 in June 2020 when Covid-19 had shut much of the US economy down.
The summer spike is being driven in part by high demand as scorching temperatures through much of the country force Americans to crank up the air conditioning. That in turn has chipped away at relatively low inventory levels.
“We’ve had this perma-heat wave cooking the United States,” said Robert Yawger, vice president of energy futures at Mizuho Securities.
As temperatures drop this fall and winter, the natural gas spike signals sticker shock for families. Not only is natural gas a leading fuel source for the electric grid, it’s the most popular way to heat homes in America.
“Depending on the weather, it could be a challenging winter,” said Rob Thummel, senior portfolio manager at Tortoise Capital Advisors. “But not as challenging as in Europe. They are at risk of running out of natural gas. We aren’t.”
Europe’s natural gas prices are seven times higher
Europe’s natural gas crisis is being driven by its reliance on energy from Russia, which has slashed natural gas flows to Europe in response to Western sanctions.
The European Union has been forced to lay plans to ration natural gas, a drastic step that will hurt families and businesses. Natural gas prices have skyrocketed so high in Europe that it threatens to send the continent’s economy into recession.
For context, Europe’s natural gas prices are trading at levels equivalent to about $70 per million BTUs, according to Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates. That is roughly seven times higher than prices in the United States.
But that is little consolation to Americans grappling with high prices at the grocery store, clothing stores and at restaurants.
Even as natural gas prices surge, oil prices have tumbled, helping to drive gasoline prices sharply lower. The national average for regular gasoline has dropped 64 days in a row, according to AAA.
Exports pick-up to Europe
Analysts say Europe’s natural gas crisis is contributing to the higher natural gas prices in America, although it’s not the main driver.
“Higher global prices are trickling down to the US. Natural gas has become a global commodity with the emergency of LNG,” said Thummel.
The United States has stepped up its exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe in an effort to mitigate the impact of the loss of Russian gas.
“Every spare molecule we can find, we are shipping to the eurozone,” said Yawger.
US natural gas production is lagging behind
But the bigger issue for US natural gas is the fact that inventory levels are below historical averages, leaving the market with less of a buffer and driving up prices.
“We entered this year at beaten-down levels and we never caught up,” Yawger said.
Supply has failed to keep up with strong demand for gas. Thummel pointed to how US oil and gas producers are under pressure from Wall Street to spend less on expensive drilling projects and more on dividends and buybacks to shareholders.
“We need more US natural gas production. The production levels are too low,” Thummel said.
The good news is that higher prices should, eventually, incentivize more production. And investors are not betting today’s high prices will continue. The futures market indicates natural gas prices should be almost 50% lower at this point next year.
Then again, very few people thought a year ago natural gas prices would be at 2008 levels. And yet here we are.
Original Article by Matt Egan, CNN Business on August 17, 2022.
Comments Off on West Virginia Aerospace Industry Set to Take Off With Launch of WVU Small Satellite Center
West Virginia is now on its way toward launching the state’s second small satellite. A team from West Virginia University and the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium is poised to turn that achievement into a massive boost for the aerospace industry statewide by taking the first steps toward opening the West Virginia Small Satellite Center of Excellence.
The SmallSat Center will work with businesses and other organizations to develop West Virginia’s second small satellite and to help those partners offer services and products to clients who want to fly experiments out to low orbit. As Melanie Page, director of the Space Grant Consortium, put it, “It’s like a ‘Field of Dreams’ for small satellites.”
With the announcement of $911,708 in U.S. Economic Development Administration funding, that mission is a go.
West Virginia’s first small satellite, STF-1, launched from New Zealand in 2018 and vastly exceeded the usual three-month lifespan for a SmallSat – it’s still up there, transmitting from outer space, more than 1,300 days later. When it came time to capitalize on STF-1’s success, Candy Cordwell, assistant director of the Space Grant Consortium, and Majid Jaridi, former director, envisioned the next SmallSat kickstarting and sustaining an entire industry for aerospace research, products and services in West Virginia.
The EDA’s Assistance to Coal Communities grant goes to projects that advance economic diversification, aerospace manufacturing and STEM training opportunities in areas severely affected by the declining use of coal. In the case of WVU’s initiative, Page said the money will not only support the Innovative Orbital Test Array mission, or IOTA, in which a second SmallSat will be produced and launched as STF-1’s proof of concept, but it will also enable the opening of the SmallSat Center of Excellence.
The Center will be a hub for small satellite research, development, testing, production and commercialization, and “truly an innovation incubator that meets the needs of an industry that meets the needs of customers,” according to David Martinelli, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, who has joined forces with Cordwell and Page to launch the SmallSat Center.
“We’re going to be building satellites in West Virginia,” he said. “As soon as STF-1 was up there for 300 days, people started saying seriously that this is something we should be very proud of and try to capitalize on, and Candy Cordwell and Majid Jaridi came up with the concept of positioning space as an industry for West Virginia. STF-1 was built with West Virginia talent and West Virginia capability. I think that speaks to the likelihood of our success for step two.”
Cordwell said she was thrilled about the project’s potential to kickstart an industry that will have Mountain State residents designing and building satellites destined for the stars.
“This could enable West Virginia to participate in the rapidly growing commercial sector associated with the launch and operation of small satellites,” she said. “The very unique and exciting aspect of this project is that it brings academic, industrial and government partners together to initiate and foster a research center that will bring jobs and economic activities to North Central West Virginia.”
Demand for small satellites is very much on the rise, Page added, with the global market expected to hit more than $3 billion a year and with a robust client base that include governments, companies and research institutions. The SmallSat Center will support West Virginia businesses in serving customers that could range from a telecommunications company to a national cybersecurity program or a research institute monitoring climate change. It will be those clients’ needs that help drive the design of the second-generation IOTA satellite.
Like STF-1, the second SmallSat will be fitted with a flight computer, radio, solar panels and cells, a camera and other instruments for data detection and collection, as well as slots for the satellite’s payload — computer cards that carry the clients’ instructions to the satellite, whether they’re looking to use it to monitor space weather or enable in-car navigation systems.
The IOTA SmallSat may be a three-unit cube satellite, like STF-1, with a form based around three 10-centimeter cubes, or it could be scaled up to a six-unit CubeSat. Or it might take a different form altogether, according to the feedback the SmallSat Center will hear from potential clients and partners.
“Let’s say that a client came to the Center and said, ‘We’re really interested in a satellite that serves a certain need,’” Martinelli said. “What we may do first and foremost is put them in touch with one of our private partners in the state and say, ‘OK, here’s the company that’s ultimately going to build this satellite for you.’ Then we would work with that company to find out what needs to be done, to help them deliver whatever that commercial need is. Our role is to use our talents and facilities and opportunities to fill the innovation gaps to help a West Virginia company serve a client for a small satellite.”
Martinelli relishes the fact that this project is equal parts science and industry, theory and practice.
“What makes this special is that, although West Virginia currently has significant space-related activities, I believe this is the first one that’s truly commercial. West Virginia has research contracts with NASA and related agencies, but the idea of space commercialization and industry in West Virginia is new,” he said.
“We’ve demonstrated we can produce space products in West Virginia. We now have to demonstrate that we can produce space products that have market value, so I want to make sure that from day one the innovation is very intentional in terms of bringing value to as many different industries as possible.”
Cordwell said the SmallSat Center will create 15 new jobs immediately: five at WVU and 10 through the consultant company that will initially be contracted to offer small satellite simulation, design, manufacturing, deployment and management services to the team. Within three to five years, as the center becomes financially self-sustaining, she predicted that the high-wage staff positions will increase to more than 30 jobs in administration, business development, education and advanced aerospace manufacturing.
Martinelli said he believes it won’t be long before West Virginia has a significant need for “computer scientists and engineers of all types – electrical and computer engineers, chemical and aerospace engineers, even structural engineers – as well as analysts, people who know how to work with data. That’s going to be a big part of it because ultimately the value of the satellite is usually data driven. Data is the ultimate product and many emergent companies here will need somebody who knows how to work with data, statisticians and analysts and modelers and mathematicians.”
Page pointed out that, considering West Virginia lost 1,800 technology and science jobs between February and May 2020, making sure those aerospace positions are filled by skilled, trained West Virginians is part of the vision, too.
“If you talk to anyone that’s in engineering or a STEM field, they say two things matter in terms of someone’s decision to follow that career path,” Martinelli said. “No. 1 is that you get to them early. No. 2 is that there’s somebody, maybe a family member or maybe someone else in their life, who works in STEM.”
Martinelli acknowledged that too many youth in West Virginia lack one or both of those opportunities but said he’s passionate about engineering education and growth in STEM.
“We’re going to use the SmallSat Center as an opportunity to hit that aggressively. I certainly will look at all possibilities to showcase what we’re doing to K-12 students,” he said.
“This is the advantage of working with the University, the fact that it gives us not just our research capabilities, but the educational mission as well. We have our clean room and labs where the satellite will be assembled and components tested and so forth. I want to see a parade of students in there on elementary school field trips. I want to see young students going through the facility where they talk to engineers and foster interest in STEM careers.”
Original Article by WVU Today on wvutoday.wvu.edu, July 20, 2022.
Comments Off on Inflation hits another 40-year high. What does that mean for shoppers and the next Fed rate hike?
Inflation jumped again in June on a persistent climb in gas, food and rent costs, notching another 40-year high and likely solidifying the Federal Reserve’s plans for another big rate hike this month.
Prices increased 9.1% from a year earlier, up from anannual rate of 8.6% the prior month and the largest gain since November 1981, the Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index showed Wednesday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had estimated inflation would rise to 8.8%.
On a monthly basis, consumer prices increased 1.3%, the largest such leap since 2005, compared with a 1% rise in May.
“Ouch,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist of Pantheon Macroeconomics, wrote in a research note of the latest surge in prices.
Amid signs that inflation is poised to gradually ease, he, along with other economists, noted June likely marked its peak, though a similar pronouncement in the spring proved premature.
Stock market reaction
The report bolsters the Federal Reserve’s plans to raise its key interest rate by a hefty three-quarters of a percentage point for a second straight month as part of an aggressive campaign to curtail inflation.
The development disappointed already dour investors. After the latest figures were released, the Dow Jones Industrial Average sank by more than 300 points. The S&P 500 fell by 37 points, roughly 1%. And yields on 10-year notes popped. In midmorning trading, they hovered at 3.03%.
What is causing inflation?
June’s surge again was led by gasoline prices, which increased 11.2% from the prior month and 59.9% annually. The good news is unleaded regular averaged $4.65 Tuesday, down from $5 a month ago.
Grocery prices rose by 1% from May and 12.2% over the past 12 months. Both gas and food costs have been elevated largely because Russia’s war in Ukraine has disrupted global supplies of oil, wheat, corn and other commodities.
In June, cereal prices rose 2.5% from the prior month and 14.2% from a year ago. Bread was up 1.6% monthly and 10.8% annually. Chicken costs increased by 1.5% from May and 17.3% yearly.
There were some encouraging signs. Bacon prices fell 1.9%, its second straight large monthly decline. And beef and veal prices decreased 2.3%.
Will food prices go down?
Commodity prices have tumbled recently amid recession fearsand ebbing consumer demand. That already has pushed down gas prices and set the stage for more moderate food price increases within months, says Wells Fargo economist Sam Bullard.
Barclays economist Pooja Sriram, however, believes higher fertilizer costs for farmers could keep grocery prices fairly high throughout the year. Russia is the leading exporter of fertilizer and the Ukraine war has driven up the cost of that commodity as well as its chief ingredient, natural gas.
Core prices, which exclude volatile food and energy items, increased 0.7% in June following a 0.6% rise the prior month, That nudged down the annual rise to 5.9% from 6% in May, teh third straight monthly decline.
What is rent inflation?
Rent climbed 0.8% monthly and 5.8% over the past year as people who hunkered down with family members during the pandemic moved into their own apartments.
There were some positive developments for summer travelers. Despite surging demand, airline fares fell 1.8% while hotel rates declined 2.8% but they’re still up 34.1% and 10% from a year earlier, respectively.
There are hints that inflation will likely soften in the months ahead. Besides falling commodity prices, supply chain troubles are abating, wage increases may be moderating and retailers’ bloated inventories are triggering big discounts for shoppers.
Also, consumer purchases have started shifting from goods to services, such as dining out and traveling, now that the pandemic is broadly easing.
“This will be the last big increase,” Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics says.
Does the report raise recession risks?
Yes, at least to some extent. Higher inflation leads consumers to rein in spending, which makes up about 70% of economic activity, and could mean bigger Fed rate hikes, which would hurt borrowing. Bank of America says the report is consistent with its call for a recession in the second half of the year.
Is this close to the worst inflation since World War II?
Not really. In March 1947, inflation hit a dizzying 19.7%. The spike was rooted in effects from the end of the war — the elimination of price controls, supply shortages and pent-up demand, according to a White House blog.
Original Article by Paul Davidson on usatoday.com, June 13, 2022
Comments Off on Morgantown Seen As Economic Leader In North Central West Virginia Region
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
Comments Off on West Virginia economy to benefit from energy prices in spring, hiring and supply chain improvements to continue
CLARKSBURG — As spring approaches, business officials have called for a promising outlook for West Virginia’s economy in the next few months.
Growth is expected across the board, but Steve Roberts, president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, notes energy sector growth in particular.
“We are expecting broad-based growth in West Virginia. Energy prices are up and probably going to continue going up, and West Virginia is our nation’s fifth largest energy producing state, so when the price of energy goes up, that has an impact on our economy in WestVirginia,” Roberts said.
“So we sell more energy and sell it at higher prices. We’re expecting to see improvements in the energy markets, of course,” he said.
Data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that energy costs relating to electric have gone up 8% in January compared to a year ago and were at the highest rates in the last decade.
Prices for utility gas, or piped gas, have gone up by nearly 30% from last year, also the high estrate in at least 10 years.
More growth is expected as the weather improves, leading to more jobs being added to the workforce.
Some of these jobs will be in construction as infrastructure improvements begin.
“As we enter the fairer weather, construction will be brisk. We have all of the infrastructure issues that will be underway,” Roberts said. “We have nearly a half a billion dollars worth of infrastructure projects to get underway in West Virginia. This is going to create a huge number of jobs.”
The West Virginia Division of Transportation (WVDOT) has major projects planned for this spring including work on Interstate 70 bridges predicted to be finished this summer, according to the WVDOT’s website.
Other industries are looking to hire as well, such as service, retail and hospitality, officials said.
“We’re going to have a lot of additional hospitality industry jobs,” Roberts said. “Everything from restaurants to hotel and motel workers to gas station workers — those are all hospitality workers, and they’re going to be picking up. My guess is that we will see jobs numbers the likes of which we haven’t seen in 13-14 years.”
“I think there’s going to be a renewed push by retailers to try to staff up much earlier than they did,” said Joe Bell, director of corporate communications for the Cafaro Co., which operates Meadowbrook Mall. “Quite honestly, it may be a situation where they’re starting to offer full-time positions, not just seasonal ones, just so they can make sure they’re able to keep their doors open at reasonable times.”
Increased hiring is likely as experts expect much more retail spending this spring.
“The manufacturers are excited, and the customers are excited, so I think you’re going to see a different twist to retail this year. We’ll keep our fingers crossed,” said Cathy Goings, owner of Wicked Sisters Boutique in downtown Clarksburg.
“With the extra money people will have, the retail industry is going to pick up. So we’re going to have the potential for a very strong period of economic gains in West Virginia,” Roberts said.
While gathering materials for the spring/summer line at her boutique, Goings has noticed marked improvements in shipping speeds, which suggests that the supply chain has improved since the holiday season.
“I just returned from an apparel show in Las Vegas, and I’m already receiving some of my merchandise. So I think the manufacturers are eager to get things back on course again,”Goings said.
“So to me, they’re speeding up and expediting the shipping process. We’ve already started receiving a lot of our spring merchandise, and I’m currently in the process of revamping thestore to accommodate all the new merchandise,” Goings said.
Others also note improvement in the supply chain and are hopeful the situation will continue to get better.
“It’s been gradually improving for the past couple months, and I think that will continue to improve,” Bell said.
“We are hearing that there are marked improvements,” Roberts said. “The challenges to the supply chain are less difficult than they were in the November and December period, so we’re hopeful. But we’re not prepared to say the supply chain problems have been solved and are over. We’re hopeful; we’re optimistic.”
There is a strain of caution embedded within the optimism due to the possibility of unforeseen circumstances affecting matters, including recent and future global events.
“It’s anyone’s guess how unrest that’s related to this Russian invasion and any actions that maybe China takes in response (could unfold) — it’s all speculative right now. But should that happen, it might throw a monkey wrench into the works in terms of supply chains,” Bell said.
“I wouldn’t want to say that’s definitely going to happen, but it’s something that people might want to consider,” he said.
Regardless, officials are confident that economic gains will be made this spring as the pandemic wanes.
“With COVID coming to a much lower degree of infection, we’re going to have the tourism picking up,” Roberts said. “The sum total of the construction jobs, the additional activity in the energy sectors and retail spending — all of those things — add to that what should be a very good year for hospitality.”
Original Article by Josiah Cork, March 7, 2022 on WV News.com
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Location remains the golden rule when making real estate investment and development decisions. Buying and developing in a growing, diversified market heightens the likelihood an investor/developer will make a profitable decision that meets discount rate thresholds. Your 401K and SEP IRA advisors have drilled diversification into your brain. While location, including the importance of a diversified market, is a critical driver of real estate success, there is more to making a profitable real estate investment. Determining whether an investment decision will meet an investor’s discount rate (preferred rate of return) can be a tedious, dynamic, and complicated process. Understanding market dynamics is critical to any successful real estate investment or development. This article will provide a crystal ball on how to decipher market stability while having a tool to help project market growth.
What is the single biggest impact on a local economic area? Jobs. But – and that is a big BUT – not all jobs are created equal. “Basic employment” is the queen to driving an economy. Basic employment is made up of industries that rely on external factors (beyond the local economic area) to fuel demand. Basic employment produces and/or supplies more goods and services than can be consumed by the local economic area (Ex: Morgantown MSA) which results in consumption outside of the local community. Examples of basic employers close to BDR’s home base include NIOSH, WVU Medicine and Mitsbuishi. On the other hand, non-basic employment depends almost entirely on local demand. Non-basic employment is defined as goods and services that are solely (or almost solely) consumed by the local economic area. Examples of non-basic employers include dental practices, pediatricians, hair stylists, and restaurants.
The two types work together. Non-basic employment supports the demand created by basic employment. This inflow of dollar (increased purchasing power) comes from outside the local economic area. The Economic Base Multiplier (EBM) is a measure that provides an estimate of how changes in basic employment will affect total employment, number of households and purchasing power within a local economic area.
Site To Do Business is an excellent tool for this type of analysis. The bullet points below provide Economic Base Multiplier data for several Multiple Statistical Areas (MSA) within three hours of Morgantown, WV.
Morgantown MSA: 4.06
Martinsburg, WV/Hagerstown, MD MSA: 6.56
Wheeling, WV MSA: 3.26
Pittsburgh, PA MSA: 9.69
Parkersburg/Vienna, WV MSA: 2.65
Charleston, WV MSA: 1.73
Huntington, WV/Ashland, KY MSA: 1.80
Over the past 12 months, West Virginia has enjoyed significant economic momentum.
Mitsibishi is in the process of bringing an additional 240 jobs to Harrison County. Another deal is in the works for Morgantown Industrial Park which could bring ~150 jobs with scalability for much greater employment. Beyond north central WV, Green Energy recently announced their intent to build electric buses in a new South Charleston manufacturing facility. Green Energy plans to hire 200 jobs initially with potential to scale to 900 WV workers within 24 months. Nucor is constructing a $2.7B, state-of-the-art steel making mill in Mason County, WV. Once fully operational, anticipated employment is 800.
Economic base multiplier theory tells us total job creation is well beyond the job announcements highlighted above. Utilizing the closest MSA’s EBM results in the following jobs created:
Mitsubishi: Utilizing Morgantown MSA’s EBM, 240 basic jobs results in 974 total new employees.
Confidential User: Utilizing Morgantown MSA’s EMB, 150 basic jobs results in 609 total new employees.
Green Energy: Utilizing Charleston MSA’s EBM, 200 initial basic jobs results in 346 total new employees. Assuming the operation scales to projected capacity, 900 basic jobs results in 1,557 total new employees.
Nucor: Utilizing Parkersburg MSA’s EBM, 800 basic jobs results in 2,120 total new employees.
Jobs drive an economy. Basic jobs lead to other support jobs, called non-basic, which is calculated via the economic base multiplier.
There are two final steps to fully understand the total impact of these announcements. Our goal is to understand the total dollars flowing into a community as a result of new basic jobs. The next step in the calculation process is to multiply the total jobs by the average household size to get an estimate on total population. The final step is to multiply total households by the average median household income. West Virginia’s state average household contains 2.4 individuals. As of 2019, West Virginia has the following statistics: Average household income is $63,680. Median household income is $46,711. Per capita income is $26,480.
The four announcements highlighted in this article result in guaranteed basic employment (could be more as the business scales) of 1,290. The economic base multiplier calculation provided a total new employment calculation of 4,049 new basic and non-basic jobs. The average household size is 2.4 individuals resulting in 9,718 individuals moving to and or being retained in West Virginia. The purchasing power of these individuals is determined by multiplying per capita income by the number of individuals. These four announcements result in a total increase in purchasing power of $257,332,640. For perspective, West Virginia’s 2020 annual budget was $4.495 billion. The four announcements represent purchasing power equal to 5.7% of West Virginia’s annual budget. These are big announcements for Almost Heaven!
Black Diamond Realty is hopeful this information provides a greater understanding of the dynamic analysis and projections that should be considered when making real estate investment decisions. Economists use many tools, including economic base multiplier, to determine the overall effect on a local economic area. Our team of experts looks forward to working with you on your next project.
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We’ve all noticed the change — at the supermarket, gas pumps, and nearly everywhere else. Whether it was the cost of your Christmas tree or your New Year’s Eve champagne, prices are significantly higher today than they were just one year ago. In fact, the Consumer Price Index has climbed 6.8% in just the last year, the largest inflationary jump the U.S. has seen since 1982.
Initially, the Federal Reserve had categorized our current economic situation as “transitory inflation.” In other words, a temporary and predicted result of the pandemic and its impact on our economy. In the last month, however, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has admitted that our current inflation will likely last longer than initially anticipated.
With the knowledge that we may need to endure inflation for longer than expected, it’s time to examine how inflation could impact commercial real estate.
Real Estate as a Hedge Against Inflation
Many investors purchase real estate and other tangible assets to hedge against inflation. While most investments, including stocks, tend to react negatively in inflationary conditions, the value of property reacts proportionally to the inflation rate and appreciates as inflation climbs. In other words, if you have a loan on a commercial property, and have locked in a low interest rate on that loan, the value of your property will continue to rise with inflation, even as your cost remains the same.
Knowing the relationship between inflation, costs and interest rates allows us to make other predictions about the impact of inflation on commercial real estate.
The impact of Supply and Demand on Leasing
Our economy is influenced by countless factors, including supply and demand. Some of our current inflation has been caused by the supply chain issues that have plagued the globe for well over a year. When materials and products are scarce, prices of those items increase. And when prices increase, typically the cost of labor also escalates.
Increasing labor and material costs could force some developers to put the brakes on building new properties. As a result, demand for existing properties would then climb, and property owners would be able to raise rental rates.
At the same time, we could also expect to see owners offering shorter-term leases. While a shorter term doesn’t offer owners the same stability in occupancy over time, it does provide owners with the opportunity to adjust rental rates more frequently and take advantage of the increased demand for their space.
The Impact of Inflation and Interest Rates on Market Share
Just as increased costs make it more difficult for developers to build, increasing interest rates will make it more difficult — or at least less advantageous —to borrow money. The Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates as many as three times this year and anticipates raising rates at least three more times by the end of 2024. The combination of higher inflation and higher interest rates will not only cause developers to build less, but existing property owners will likely choose to hold on to their assets.
In a rapidly developing real estate market, property owners lose market share every time a new building opens its doors. However, when development slows, owners maintain their market share. Again, this will give owners the upper hand when setting rental rates and terms.
How Long will These Conditions Last?
Just as it has been difficult to predict how long the coronavirus pandemic will last, it is also a challenge to forecast how long our pandemic-influenced economic conditions will prevail. It has become apparent that inflation is not just a transitory blip on our economic radar, and we’ll be dealing with the repercussions of rising prices for at least another year.
While some of us who recall the economy in the 1970s are anxious about our current conditions, history is unlikely to repeat itself in another “Great Inflation.” The economic drivers behind our current conditions are different from those in the 1970s, and economists are better prepared to manage inflation than they were 40 to 50 years ago.
The Fed will attempt to temper inflation through adjustments in interest rates and reduced bond purchases. However, Fed Chairman Powell has acknowledged that our high consumer prices will continue well into summer 2022, and investment group Goldman Sachs is projecting that inflation will get worse before conditions begin to improve. But for those who currently hold commercial real estate and those who are considering adding property to their investment portfolios, our current economy could provide opportunity.
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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