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  1. Fairmont City Council Hears Plan to Develop Autonomous Vehicle Testing Facility

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    FAIRMONT− Fairmont City Council got a look Tuesday night at a plan to develop the old Fairmont Coke Works site at Sharon Steel Corporation property in East Side.

    West Virginia University’s BrickStreet Development Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Marion Regional Development Corporation have developed the Fairmont Transportation Research Campus. The cite would consist of an academic research center, automobile testing, performance and training facilities, the construction of an almost two mile long road course, acceleration and deceleration course and a skid pad. The FTRC would have a focus on autonomous vehicle research, as well.

    The goal would be to boost the local economy, create jobs and attract motorsports enthusiasts, MRDC President Nick Fantasia said.

    From the start, 100 full-time jobs will be created, not including construction jobs. At project completion, an estimated 750 full-time permanent jobs will be created. The jobs would work with the Marion County Technical Center, West Virginia University, Fairmont State University and Pierpont Community and Technical College and include varying education and income levels.

    “This project is a way for North Central West Virginia to begin to be a leader in a new technology,” Fantasia said.

    After given the title “Master Contractors,” the MDRC will be able to begin construction. The initial phase of construction will include “dirt and infrastructure work” and should take approximately 18 months to complete. The total construction cost is an estimated $32.7 million. As of right now, funding for the project has not been established.

    The FTRC is backed by Marion County Commissioners Linda Longstreth and Randy Elliott.

    “I think this is the best step we’ve ever taken. In the 30 or 40 years I’ve lived in Fairmont, we’ve done nothing. Really, we’ve done nothing. We’ve let Morgantown and Clarksburg move in on us… We’re more than that,” Linda Longstreth said.

    After hearing the presentation, Council member David Kennedy said he was ready to vote on the project Tuesday night.

    “In the words of past councilman Phil Mason, ‘The stars are aligned,’ and I see that there isn’t any reason to delay this. I’m making a motion tonight that council grant the authority for this resolution that you’re asking for − that this project of economic development might go forward and I hope that there’s a second to that motion,” Kennedy said.

    As Council member Josh Rice seconded the motion, however, Mayor Tom Maniella, said the motion could not move forward until every council member is in agreement. To ensure that  the project is approved legally and fairly, Manilla told council members to email City Manager Valerie Means with their opinions on the decision.

    Fairmont City Attorney Kevin Sansalone agreed with Maniella’s decision and asked for a contract to be established between city officials and the MRDC before moving forward.

    Sansalone said the written agreement should be established stating something along the lines of: after two years of starting the project, if the checkpoints have not been met and not enough progress has not been made, the city will be able to dissolve the agreement and endorsement.

    The next city council meeting is scheduled for April 12 at the Public Safety Building on Quincy Street.

     

    Original article by Savanna Shriver, March 24 2022, on Times West Virginia.com 

    Original Article Here

  2. Reflecting & Projecting

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    REFLECTING ON 2016

    There were some economic positives in 2016. Interest rates remained low while capital slowly became more attainable, resulting in a demand for investment/income-producing assets. Education and health care remained strong in Morgantown and other parts of north central WV. Respectively, the West Virginia University Board of Governors unanimously approved a $1.04 billion budget for the fiscal year which began on July 1, 2016. (WVUToday) Ruby Memorial Hospital built a 10-story tower, totaling $220 million, that will be home to 750 new jobs, and Mon General Hospital opened a three building, 150,000 square foot, office campus.

    These recession-resistant sectors make Morgantown, and other communities in north central WV, such as Bridgeport, attractive investment options that garner attention from out-of-state money. This is evidenced in several large deals in 2016. We would be remiss without mentioning the new I-79 interchange in Morgantown. Metro News states, “A study of the entire development on both sides of the interstate predicted a $1 billion economic impact on the region annually. The impact study indicated the TIF district and incoming developers could support 9,900 jobs by 2025.”

    Jobs lead to disposal income which ultimately drives an economy. Although there were economic spotlights to be proud of, 2016 was a challenging year for many commercial real estate sectors. Much of the sluggish business climate in WV and southwestern PA can be attributed to the energy sector slowdown. The rapid decline of coal, coupled with the oversupply of natural gas/oil, negatively affected this region’s economy. Decreased energy-sector demand for office and industrial space led to increased vacancy. As a direct result of this climate, restaurant receipts, retail sales and hotel occupancy all followed suit. Energy sector downturn hurt. In our home base of Morgantown and much of north central WV, there was enough positive economic activity to downplay these challenges.

    2017 OUTLOOK

    What is on the horizon for 2017? Well, for many, the presidential election was seen as a pro-energy and pro-business election. Time will tell on both. However, in the last two months, BDR saw an uptick in office and industrial demand via phone call leads. We feel this trend will continue as we move into what we believe will be a healthier economic year with less regulation and greater consumer confidence. OPEC’s announcement to reduce oil supply is a major win for our region. Rising oil and gas prices result in greater drilling activity which leads to more jobs. Average consumers dislike paying more at the pump, but for WV and the Marcellus/Utica Shale territory, paying a little more in gas results in hundreds of high-paying jobs that support regional economic growth.

    Looking to the new year, BDR is poised to capitalize on north central WV’s growth potential, including the energy, education, medical, and government sectors.

    As you sit down to set your 2017 personal and company goals, remember this important quote: “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.” From our team to yours, we wish you a healthy, prosperous and joyful 2017.