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.
You can point to the I-79 Technology Park as an example of success.
COLUMN: Freedom of Information — if you can pay
Several years ago, I made a Freedom of Information request to a local government agency. Within the five business days, as required by law, a packet of information was delivered to the office. I expected a bill, as most government offices have a charge that ranges from 25 cents to $1.25 per page for copies of the documents we request.
The reassuring spirit of Easter: One of new hope and beginnings
During the sub-zero and snow-filled months of winter, we maintained a spirit of hope that spring was on the way. It has now become a reality as all nature stretches and yawns and awakens once more to a new beginning. The fragrance of spring awakens our waiting nostrils, the budding beauty of new life brightens our eyes, and the reassuring idea of renewal stimulates our minds.
Unsung heroes handling calls in emergencies are appreciated
Thankfully, we live in a community where help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, just by dialing three numbers — 9-1-1.
During this week, which is recognized as National Public Safety Tele-Communicator’s Week nationwide, we need to remember that on the other end of that line are the men and women here in this county who are always there in case of accident, crimes, medical emergencies and any other catastrophic event.
Message to ‘buckle up and park the phone’ is saving lives
A figure that we haven’t seen that much in recent years is the highway death toll for a given period.
Is the death toll up, down or just about the same as it was?
The West Virginia Southern Regional Highway Safety Program has announced there were 325 highway fatalities in 2013, the second-lowest number on record.
State native Burwell can ‘deliver results’ as Health and Human Services secretary
Sylvia Mathews Burwell might not be a name with which most people are immediately familiar.
For the past year, she has run the budget office under President Barack Obama.
Prior to that, she served as president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program and later the Wal-Mart Foundation.
Marion scores well in recent health report but could do better
When it comes to area-wide studies, especially on health, there’s usually good news and bad news.
So was the recent report on the health of America’s counties released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently. The nationwide county study evaluated health outcomes and health factors, and ranked counties accordingly.
COLUMN: ‘Instant’ news not always reliable
That little word has a pretty big meaning. With origins that date back to the 15th century, it means urgent, current, immediate.
But think about how that word has developed over the past few decades.
Instant pudding. Instead of slaving over a hot stove for a few minutes, you can now pour cold milk and with a bit of stirring, instant pudding!
Decision to be an organ donor can save lives
Chelsea Clair watched as her father died waiting for a bone marrow transplant.
So when she met Kyle Froelich at a car show in 2009 and heard about his struggles to find a kidney that would match his unique needs, she never hesitated to offer hers to the man she just met.
Volunteers continue to have priceless impact on community
Chances are, you know someone who volunteers. Perhaps you’re a volunteer yourself.
Marion County is full of volunteers.
They read to our youth.
They assist nonprofit agencies.
They serve on boards and committees.
And in 2013, they spent a day picking up nearly 10 tons of garbage that had been tossed out on public property around Marion County.
Proposed school calendar lives up to letter and spirit of law
West Virginia state law requires that students be in a classroom for 180 days.
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