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News from West Virginia

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About half of $225 million development projects incomplete

By Sarah K. Winn, Sunday Gazette-Mail [Charleston], June 22, 2007

In 2004, the West Virginia Economic Development Grant Committee awarded $225 million to 47 statewide economic development projects. Jump forward to 2007, approximately $186 million of that has been spent, however, nearly half of the 47 awarded projects remain incomplete.

1. Twin Falls Resort State Park: The West Virginia Division of Natural Resource has received just 8% of its $3 million grant. The project has its funding in place, and is currently in the construction phase. The contracts should be awarded in late summer, with a completion date of 2008.

2. The Riverfront Park in Parkersburg could be completed in December 2008, but it is awaiting news to see how much federal funding it will receive.

3. The Moorefield Wastewater Treatment Plant could be complete by November 2010, but is held up for the same reason as (2).

4. The West Virginia University Fire Academy at Jackson's Mill is just over 27% funded and has a completion date of August 2007. WVEDA sent out $106,000 to the project.

5. A business park in Putnam County is 28% funded and should be complete by December 2007.

6. A public theater and marina in Morgantown received 40% of their total funding. The theater still lacks construction contracts, although it should be complete by May 2008. The marina should be done by the end of the year. The $13.9 million project was given nearly $244,000 in May 2007.

7. The Man Area Hospital project has received half of its funds, helping bring the closed facility out of bankruptcy. It is scheduled for completion by the end of the year.

8. An industrial park outside of Davis in Tucker County should be complete by August.

9. The Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute at West Virginia University is 58% funded and received $614,000 in May. It is scheduled for completion in July 2008.

10. The South Charleston

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ATVs boost town economies

Sunday Gazette-Mail, June 24, 2007

Gilbert, in the heart of a new tourism mecca, is being boosted by ATVs. The town of 400 in southwestern West Virginia is seeing unprecedented growth in the way of a new 30-suit hotel, restaurants, and other associated development. It is near the Hatfield-McCoy network of trails, which stretch for 550-miles that are open to four-wheelers, motorcycles, and bicyclists. It is named after the two infamous families who carried on a 12-year feud in the area. The trail system was built to attract tourists and increase business in nine economically depressed counties where coal and timber were once king. Eight of the counties have a poverty level below the state average of 16.2% and six have unemployment rates higher than the state average of 4.6%. Between 2000 and 2005, the trail generated $7.2 million in direct spending and created at least 146 jobs in a nine-county area, according to an economic impact study by Marshall University. Over 100,000 riders have so far used the trail -- which is envisioned as a 2,000 mile system when complete.

Out of a study of 391 trail riders in 2006, half were repeat visitors, and more than half had bought a three-day permit.

The growth can be seen everywhere. In Man (Logan County), more than 20 businesses have opened near a trailhead. Man has a population of only 600. In nearby Boone County, the trail has created ten businesses; the county has only 65 miles of trails, however, local officials are discussing expanding a water park near the trailhead to include hiking areas, a fishing pier, and sports field. The Hatfield-McCoy Retail Center will also be in the county -- a 2,000 sq. ft. facility that will ship orders for trail items across the country, and create 10 jobs when it opens in fall 2007.

Many believe tourism is the savior for the region. The trail was partially patterned after the 900-mile Paiute ATV Trail in Utah. Unlike the Hatfield-McCoy trail, which is all on private land, the Utah trail is on public property and runs through 16 rural communities.

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Williamstown Train Depot up for sale

By JOLENE CRAIG, The Parkersburg News and Sentinel, June 22, 2007

After nearly two decades of work and renovation, the Williamstown Train Depot is up for sale. The depot is closing because the Williamstown Area Development Corp. (WADC) cannot obtain enough money to pay the nearly $2,000/month fee to keep the building open and operating. WADC obtained ownership of the nearly 120-year old building in March 1990, and acquired ownership of the building in December 1992.

In March 1993, the WADC applied to the West Virginia Department of Transportation for federal funds under the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficency ACT of 1991 (ISTEA). WADC spent $254,000 in ISTEA funds, and a total of $362,000 to restore the depot. It included three rooms -- which most recently housed a hobby shop, and ice cream parlor, and a train museum. Since the restoration, the depot has been a gift shop and tourist information center. In December 2005, the WADC filed paperwork to have the depot listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, but has yet to hear anything regarding that.

In an effort to bring some revenue to sustain the building, WADC rented two of the building's three rooms to house Depot Hobbies -- a train and hobby shop and opened in December 2005 -- and the Whistle Stop Ice Cream Shop, which opened in June 2006. The ice cream shop has since closed due to the depot's total closure, and Depot Hobbies will remain open until the end of June.

Part of the reason for the sale the lawsuit between the WADC and Sutherlins Limited Liability Co., a division of JLSS, LLC., which owned the land the depot resides on. The litigation ended in May 2005, when the WADC agreed to purchase the land. The depot was nearly paid off, until a loan had to be taken out to purchase the land.

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Rahall helps city officials to think BIG: $2.21 million in federal funds secured for project

By Amelia A. Pridemore, Register-Herald Reporter, July 25, 2007

Overview map

A $2.21 million 'down payment' on a $24 million project will help revitalize downtown Beckley. On Tuesday (July 24), Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation is releasing $2,210,000 in federal funding secured for the Beckley Intermodal Gateway project, a project estimated to cost $24 million. The secured funding will help develop BIG, which is an economic and transportation improvement project. The project has been made possible through an earmarked $20 million from the Federal Transit Authority, and the city's financial support of 20% in matching funds.

BIG consists of a new parking garage, small cultural center, new city hall, new police department, walking trails, and gardens on a five-acre site between Neville Street, Leslie C. Gates Place, Prince Street, and Robert C. Byrd Drive. Ideas have been discussed of including a bus terminal under the parking facility, and a farmers market.

Officials from Beckley recently visited Roanoke, Virginia to see firsthand the work there to modernize its downtown and attract more people.

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Fenton to close in October, leaving Blenko as lone glassmaker in state

Herald-Dispatch [Huntington], August 10, 2007

Overseas competition, a rise in natural gas prices, and a dwindling consumer base have forced Fenton Glass in recent years to downsize. On Thursday, it announced that it was closing. The 102-year-old company will immediately lay off 25 of its remaining 150 employees, and cease taking orders at the end of the month. Glassmaking operations will end in September and the company will close by the end of October.

Fenton is known for handcrafted, handpainted art glass. It survived three waves of economic troubles that has closed all but one glass maker in the state -- including Fostoria and Pilgrim.

Fenton Art Glass President George Fenton's grandfather started the company in 1905. Nine family members still work for the company. They have been trying to restructure the business for a while and move forward, but all options were exhausted.

The company was once known for its hobnail milk glass, an opaque white, bubble-covered glass that helped the company survive the Depression, and was produced into the 1980s. In the 1970s, Fenton developed carnival glass, and in 2004, the company was selling "color" pieces.

The gift shop, owned by another company, will remain open. Future plans include creating a glassmaking exhibit.

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A $2.21 million 'down payment' on a $24 million project will help revitalize downtown Beckley. On Tuesday (July 24), Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation is releasing $2,210,000 in federal funding secured for the Beckley Intermodal Gateway project, a project estimated to cost $24 million. The secured funding will help develop BIG, which is an economic and transportation improvement project. The project has been made possible through an earmarked $20 million from the Federal Transit Authority, and the city's financial support of 20% in matching funds.

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The city of Huntington was bestowed an unwanted designation as the 'unhealthiest' city in the nation. Rates of obesity, diabetes, poor health, and tooth loss are the highest here than other metro areas in the country.

One interesting thing brought up is that there are more pizza places in Huntington (200+) than there are gyms in the whole state of WV (149.)

Until the economy improves in the area, this will not change..

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One interesting thing brought up is that there are more pizza places in Huntington (200+) than there are gyms in the whole state of WV (149.)

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