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U.S. EDA Invests in Rural America—West Virginia Receives Over $5 Million to Advance Innovation Economy

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Aerial view of Tech Park

Guest blog post by John Fernandez, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, U.S. Economic Development Administration

On August 1, 2011, the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) invested $5.25 million in the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission of Charleston, W. Va., to upgrade a key research lab building in South Charleston’s West Virginia Regional Technology Park to help attract rural small businesses. The effort is expected to create an initial 96 jobs and an additional 9,000 jobs over the long term.

The facility will provide leased incubator space to high-tech start-up companies in the chemical, energy, and advanced materials industries. The renovations will result in significant energy savings for the State and businesses working in the facility, reducing operating costs by nearly 50 percent annually. Start-up companies and entrepreneurs in the park will conduct innovative product and process research, testing and business development, and will also have manufacturing capacity. The building will also include research and teaching facilities for Marshall University, West Virginia University, and four community colleges. 

This rural investment enjoys wide Congressional and State support.

In announcing the grant, U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation said, “There is new life in the Tech Park, and new hope that it will be an ongoing source of pride and economic progress not only for the Kanawha Valley, but also for the entire state. With this grant, we will see one of the park’s landmark lab buildings turn into a modern facility ripe for additional research jobs, innovations and discoveries. And we’ll be one significant stride closer to greater technology-based economic development in West Virginia.”

Added U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, “In these challenging times, it is critical that we prioritize our spending on smart investments that will help create the jobs of tomorrow in West Virginia and the nation, and this is a smart investment that will do that. I am so proud of initiatives like the West Virginia Education, Research and Technology Park, which is a model of public-private partnership and fosters critically needed economic development for the Mountain State. This EDA grant will help transform the West Virginia Education, Research and Technology Park into a world-class lab facility and a small technology business incubator, creating an essential technology and research hub for Kanawha County and all of West Virginia.”

Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito said, “Entrepreneurs and innovation will lead us out of these tough economic times.  This generous Economic Development Administration grant will accelerate job creation by awarding local businesses and start-ups must needed resources to grow their business.  The advances made over the next few years at the South Charleston “Tech park” will have a positive ripple effect throughout the greater West Virginia and regional economies.”

In November 2010, the state acquired the West Virginia Regional Technology Park from the Dow Chemical Company, adding significant capacity to the state’s academic and economic development efforts.  EDA funded a study in 2009 that provided strategic, long-term planning assistance for the park’s development.

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WV Regional Tech Park

The EDA grant will help advance innovation-based economic development in West Virginia by upgrading the unique assets at the Tech Park for use by researchers, entrepreneurs, and new start-up firms, as well as existing companies. A great example of the type of public-private partnership that is needed to create jobs and economic growth!
Anne Barth, Executive Director, TechConnectWV

Creating High-Paying Jobs

One of several great announcements we've already seen from the Tech Park and one of many more to come over the years. This is a great example of how public-private investments can be used for economic growth. We have saved about 500 jobs at the Tech Park and will create many more high-paying jobs in the years to come. Many thanks to all who were involved in this EDA investment!

Kevin DiGregorio, Executive Director, Chemical Alliance Zone

High impact investment

Several commentators are recommending that now is an ideal time for the U.S. government to invest in infrastructure. The WV Regional Tech Park is a strong example, and one that will not only create jobs, but will enable critical research in advanced energy and materials innovations that will lead to improved energy security and help to position our nation for continued economic leadership.

Greg Henthorn, Managing Partner, Kinetic Clean Energy

EDA Grant WVRTP

The EDA Grant to be matched by State of WV investment will enable Building 770 to be the heart of the revitalization of the former Dow Research Park. By establishing an environment that will support innovation and collaboration among higher ed researchers, private corporations, small entrepreneurs,et al, the promise of new job and product creation will take a major step forward and will, in my opinion, stimulate significant additional private investment.
Rudy Henley
General Partner, Mountaineer Capital

Innovation Strategy

Innovation is the lifeblood of our economy. This strategic priority of EDA and the State of West Virginia in providing the right investment to create a 'breeder reactor' of crossdisciplinary collaboration will result in moving research concepts into reality and economic stimulus. This new platform will launch a multitude of opportunities yet unimagined.

Elizabeth N. Kraftician
President/CEO Touchstone Research Laboratory, Ltd.

New technology and commercialization

This facility has a strong history of not only creating new technologies through research and development but more specifically commercializing the technologies and taking them to market creating additional investment and jobs. The technology developed in the past and now at the Park by Dow, Bayer, Union Carbide, Univation, MATRIC and others continue to give the United States a global strategic advantage and this investment will help advance facilities for businesses that are forging the way in energy, chemical and material sciences.

For any person or organization seeking a location for pilot plants to scale up new technologies, the WV Regional Technology Park is the spot. It is very unique in our country and in the eastern US. The federal government has shown leadership with this investment and the communities that are near the Tech Park are committed to the chemical, energy and material industries and hold vast experience and the intellectual brain power to help advance new technologies.

I commend the President and his team of experts in the US Department of Commerce and EDA for recognizing the importance of these types of facilities in their strategy to revitalize our economy,

Matthew Ballard
President
Charleston Area Alliance