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  1. Virgin Hyperloop to build Hyperloop Certification Center in West Virginia

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    (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.

    WVU’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research predicts the total economic impact of the Center’s ongoing operation on the West Virginia economy to be $48 million annually.

    “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.

     

    Read article from source HERE

    Posted on October 8, 2020

    CONTACT: April Kaull, Executive Director of Communications/University Relations
    304-293-3990; akaull@mail.wvu.edu

  2. County Hopes to Fund I-79 Project

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    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.”

    Article by Ben Conley, The Dominion Post   |  August 30, 2020
  3. Mon Health Seeks Equal Treatment When State Reviews Fairmont Hospital Projects

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    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.

     

    Article by David Beard, The Dominion Post

  4. Happy 2018! Another Year Is In The Record Books

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    We hope you and your family had an enjoyable holiday season. The new year is a time to reflect and project. This monthly Black Diamond Realty newsletter reflects on 2017 while providing our projections pertaining to north central West Virginia’s economic activity in 2018.

    It was a record breaking year for Black Diamond and many other companies in north central WV. While north central WV remains consistently vibrant, the tides are slowly turning for the state as a whole, and WV’s entire economic fleet appears to be heading toward brighter days. Several critical sectors led the charge with positive economic announcements in 2017.

    Energy was the cream that rose to the top. Several large pipeline projects are at various stages of construction with the finish line inching closer. Pipelines open up regional, metropolitan markets to WV’s gas production. A cracker plant is under construction in Beaver County, PA with rumors of potentially two additional crackers being built in OH and WV (Parkersburg area). Crackers dissect elements of natural gas into various chemicals which should result in a manufacturing expansion for companies who want to be near critical elements of their production process. Pipelines and crackers are creating a newfound buzz for the energy sector. Black Diamond can testify to the energy sector’s expansion in 2017: Industrial sector leads paced other sectors with a total of 133 unique leads. Black Diamond closed 13 deals with energy related entities.

    The buzz does not stop at our state or even national borders. China Energy Investment Corp signed a memorandum of understanding with WV leadership to invest $83.7 billion over 20 years in various energy related ventures.  Power plants are one potential investment angle. Two gas fired power plants are at varying phases of approval to be constructed in the region. One is in Harrison County. Click here to learn more: http://harrisoncountypower.com/  Oil and gas activity is energizing our regional economy by bringing high paying jobs to our market. The money from these jobs is spent on housing (hotels, apartments), food (grocery stores, restaurants) and entertainment.

    Infrastructure has been a hot topic in West Virginia for many decades. Band-aids have been our state’s application of choice. However, 2017 brought a different style of leadership aimed at changing WV’s story. Governor Justice and his team formulated a plan to use future promised tax dollars to secure ~$3 billion worth of funds to complete road infrastructure improvement projects. Our roads have already benefitted from the Roads to Prosperity Amendment and should improve further over the next decade. Infrastructure is a critical variable for many sectors considering economic expansion.

    Since accepting his role as WVU’s 24th President, Dr. E. Gordon Gee has been focused on expanding the university’s outreach while maintaining its mission of supporting prosperity for the mountain state. WVU Medicine has been aggressively expanding with 2017 announcements that include a $150 million, 10-story children’s and women’s tower on WVU Medicine’s main campus, a $12 million inpatient residential drug treatment facility near Mylan Park (Morgantown), plus it opened a $13.9 million, 25,000 square foot new outpatient facility in Fairmont, WV. Mon General Hospital is also in expansion mode. North central WV should welcome this “medical arms race” as it directly results in a higher quality of life via greater healthcare access, plus economic benefits, including high paying jobs.

    So, what do we have to look forward to in 2018? The energy sector will carry 2017’s momentum into the new year and we will begin to see the fruits of the road bond’s labor as construction projects start. with the additional expansion by WVU Medicine and two prominent interstate developments (White Oaks Business Park in Bridgeport and West Ridge in Morgantown), north central WV will see significant growth with many positive announcements. As the aforementioned economic drivers come to fruition, other areas in the state are also poised for growth. Also, since businesses will have greater discretionary capital to put to work under Trump’s new tax plan, look for businesses to be more aggressive with expansion efforts and hiring practices.

    Best wishes for a joyous and prosperous 2018!

  5. WVU-led research team lays foundation for natural gas storage ‘hub’; opportunity for economic growth in the region

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    It is no secret that the region around West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio has abundant natural gas resources, but can the three states uncover the keys to turning those resources into economic growth? West Virginia University-led research may have some of the answers.

    On August 29, WVU is releasing to the public a study that shows how the region can support storage facilities that are critical for attracting petrochemical and related industries to the area. Researchers will present the data at a technical workshop in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, hosted by the Eastern Petroleum Technology Transfer Council, PTTC, at WVU.

    Led by Doug Patchen, director of the WVU Appalachian Oil and Natural Gas Consortium and the Eastern PTTC, researchers from the geological surveys in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio studied geologic formations that could offer suitable locations for developers to build underground facilities to store natural gas liquids from Marcellus and Utica wells.

    The team identified and mapped all potential options for subsurface storage of natural gas liquids along the Ohio River from southwestern Pennsylvania to eastern Kentucky, and the Kanawha River in West Virginia. The researchers focused on three options for subsurface storage.

    One option includes areas where the Salina F Salt is at least 100 feet thick and suitable for solution mining, a type of mining that uses a liquid such as water injected through a borehole to dissolve and extract salts and minerals.

    Another option includes areas where the Greenbrier Limestone is present 1,800 to 2,000 feet below the surface and is at least 40 feet thick. Converting existing sandstone reservoirs in depleted gas fields and inactive gas storage fields to natural gas liquids storage is the third option.

    Previously, the consortium had conducted studies of the Marcellus and Utica shale gas plays. Results from those studies have been used by both small producers such as Northeast Natural Energy and large multinationals such as Exxon and have helped fuel the region’s shale gas boom. This latest work was conducted as part of the Tri-State Shale Coalition, an innovative cross-border collaboration among Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia and a critical key for unlocking the region’s economic opportunity, according to its members.

    The Coalition was created following a collaborative agreement signed in October 2015 by Governors’ offices in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Charter members include the Benedum Foundation, a charitable organization, and Team NEO, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and Vision Shared, all non-profit economic development organizations in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

    A public-private partnership, the coalition brings together workforce development organizations, academic institutions such as WVU, and economic development groups to strategically advance the area as a “super-region” for petrochemical, plastics fabrication and advanced manufacturing jobs and investments.

    “Recognition of the enormous opportunity for economic development based upon shale gas, including downstream modern manufacturing, was the motivation for the Governors of West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania to agree to collaborate to maximize the opportunity,” said William Getty, Benedum Foundation president.

    The WVU Energy Institute secured $100,000 from the Benedum Foundation to support the study. That amount was matched by a total of $100,000 more from AEP, Antero, Blue Racer, Charleston Area Alliance, Chevron, Dominion, EQT, First Energy/Team NEO, Mountaineer NGL Storage LLC, Noble Energy, Southwestern Energy, XTO Energy and the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association.

    Click here to view the article at WVUToday.