The Times West Virginian

Opinion

September 15, 2013

State leaders should respect North Central high-tech sector

You can point to the I-79 Technology Park as an example of success.

In fact, what was once rolling farmlands was transformed into a booming high-technology park, which includes a supercomputer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to the headquarters of a massive power transmission project and everything in between.

The I-79 park has created thousands of high-tech jobs employing high-tech, highly educated people with an average salary of $60,000. It is an anchor in the high-tech sector of West Virginia.

From the top of Monongalia County to the bottom of Lewis, I-79’s High-Tech Corridor is home to NASA, FBI, NOAA, NIOSH, NETL, Lockheed Martin and a veritable “who’s who” in technology.

And there is no doubt that the vision of former congressional leaders did much to prepare this area for growth and foster it once it began to bloom. Former Congressman Alan B. Mollohan and the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd had a vision for North Central West Virginia, and it included economic diversification by stretching into the high-tech sector.

And this area is all the better for it.

But things have dramatically changed in the last five years. Mollohan no longer serves in Congress, and though his replacement U.S. Rep. David Mckinley has always been a strong advocate for the high-tech companies, the river of funding that once flowed through contracts and construction funding can be more described as a trickle these days.

The economy changed, and Congress is trying to deal with being trillions in the red. Sequestration took effect, slashing federal budgets. The I-79 park has survived, but with more funding, leaders say the group would implement a program to invest in start-up companies that are technology-driven with innovative ideas, create a high-tech campus for new businesses and create an Internet career page for all West Virginia technology-related jobs.

And they’ve looked to the state, asking that an annual grant be increased. The I-79 Technology Park is being left out of much-needed state dollars in favor of a technology park in Charleston, say members of the Affiliate Leadership Council, which represents more than 140 members of the high-tech community in North Central West Virginia.

The group recently sent a letter to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. They say the state-run Regional Technology Park in Charleston receives millions as a line item, while the Marion County park receives a quarter of a million from a grant.

There’s no specific amount the group is asking for; they’re just asking for more state support to grow, to reinvest into the state’s economy and to continue to build upon a strong foundation.

We see the position the state is in. During the Joe Manchin administration, West Virginia took over the nearly bankrupt facility in South Charleston and created a park for nonprofit organizations and higher education. It is a different creature, and must be fed differently. The state’s involvement in the I-79 park has been historically limited primarily because of its federal support.

But that doesn’t mean the mindset shouldn’t change, or at least state leaders should consider supporting the Fairmont park a a higher level because of its potential to give back even more to the state in revenue, payroll and taxes.

We know how important the high-tech sector is to North Central West Virginia. We hope that in the coming months that state leaders realize it, too.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Time is now for Tomblin to support King Coal Highway

    U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., is asking Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to add the King Coal Highway project to West Virginia’s six-year highway improvement plan. It is a logical request, and one that Tomblin should act promptly on.

    July 29, 2014

  • United effort to keep NASA in Fairmont is essential project

    The high-technology sector is obviously vital to the economy of North Central West Virginia.
    That’s why a strong, united effort to keep the NASA Independent Verification and Validation Program in Fairmont is absolutely essential.

    July 27, 2014

  • COLUMN: Calling all readers: Be heard

    I love to talk to readers.
    I love to hear concerns they have about stories we’ve written, things they think should be included in the newspaper and things they think shouldn’t be.

    July 27, 2014

  • Korean War veterans are deserving of a memorial

    NEEDED: A total of $10,000 for the Korean War Memorial this year.
    And a good man has been placed in charge of the funding. Charlie Reese, former president of the Marion County Chamber of Commerce, is now director of the Marion County Development Office. His task was to make a recommendation as to what steps are necessary to keep the project moving.

    July 25, 2014

  • Roll up your sleeves, give blood and you can save lives

    It takes up to 100 units of blood to save the life of someone who sustains life-threatening injuries in a vehicle accident.
    We’re hoping that the number of people who come to Fairmont Senior High School on Friday for and American Red Cross blood drive will exceed that amount.

    July 24, 2014

  • Vehicles and motorcycles must share the road safely

    The days are long. The weather is superb. There’s plenty of leisure time in these lazy days of summer.
    It’s the perfect time to take a long motorcycle ride.
    It’s also the perfect opportunity for us to take the time to remind not only riders but drivers of the need to share the road. And we feel compelled to mention it because just within the month of July, there have been two motorcycle-versus-car accidents within the City of Fairmont alone — one with severe injuries sustained by the motorcyclist and the other with less serious injury.

    July 23, 2014

  • Too many taking too few steps to protect selves from skin cancer

    July 22, 2014

  • Distracted driving: It isn’t worth fine or a life

    Today marks the day that police agencies from six states are joining forces to crack down on one thing — distracted driving.
    And they will focus on that traffic violation for a solid week, with the stepped-up effort to curb distracted driving wrapping up on Saturday, July 26.

    July 20, 2014

  • COLUMN: Are we people watchers or people judgers?

    Let me tell you about my little friend Robby. Well, actually, it’s more about his family and especially his mom. I didn’t get her name. I heard Robby’s name quite a bit, though, during a trip home from Birmingham, Alabama.
    I noticed the family in the Birmingham airport immediately. They were just the kind of family you’d notice.

    July 20, 2014

  • Relish the rich bounty of state’s diverse, unique food traditions

    This week, a group of federal officials on a three-day culinary tour of the state visited the Greenbrier Valley to find out what most of us here already know — we have a rich food tradition in West Virginia.
    The group was made up of officials from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    July 18, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Politics
House Ads