WV Dept. of Commerce
Leaders with high tech research park in Fairmont say they've been quietly putting billions into state economy.

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — Those with a high-tech research consortium in northern West Virginia say they are being slighted on state funding when it comes to dollars spent on high-tech research. Members of the Affiliate Leadership Group/Council which represents more than 140 members of the high technology community in northern West Virginia recently drafted a letter to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and the leadership of the state House and Senate.

“We’ve been attempting to reach out to the state for the past several years to try and encourage the state to give us additional funding to do more outreach and marketing,” said Board Member John Dahlia.

Dahlia said the High Tech Research Park in Fairmont has become very successful over the years, but very little is known about the facility. The anchors of the area include the FBI Fingerprint facility, NASA, NIOSH, and NIH.  All of those were brought to the state in past years by the work of the state’s Congressional delegation. But Dahlia said they have increased the park’s magnitude by attracting other private investment from around the world.

“The main focus of our frustration has been the state’s willingness in our mind to blindly put millions and millions of dollars into the South  Charleston Research and Technology Park essentially just to keep the lights on,” Dahlia said. “When you compare the two, it’s really like comparing a strawberry and a prune.”

Dahlia said while the Fairmont group is grateful for the past support, they are frustrated at a lack of any substantial increase to help with promotion and marketing. The group believes some of the money used at the South Charleston facility should be directed their way and would be a much more robust investment.

“We’re not looking at that same investment, we’re looking at something more than what we’ve gotten in the past,” Dahlia said. “What’s happening in South Charleston’s technology park is almost non-existent to what’s happening up here.”

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Comments

  • pc

    Didn't Gov. Manchin give Fairmont $100 million to build a 1 mile road off I-79 into Fairmont? Let's see, Fairmont only has 5 or 6 exits off I-79. The rest of the state could use such excessive spending on a one mile road. There are much needed economic development projects elsewhere in the state that deserve state funds. Fairmont can get in line and wait their turn.

    • mac

      This has nothing to do with infrastructure improvements. It has to do with funding variances between the two technology parks. WV needs to foster BOTH tech parks, but do so more equitably. MrWV has a good point about tech parks in surrounding states - namely PA. Why can't WV do something like that?

  • MrWV

    It sounds like you are very close to this issue and you may very well have a personal issue with Fairmont or perhaps Mollohan. If not, you clearly have no concept of investment in economic development. Your comment that “enough is enough” is meaningless. Your attitude toward state investment strategy is exactly the kind of mindset that has put the state so far behind other states. The I-79 Technology Park has been under development for almost two decades. $250 million [if that is correct] is a drop in the bucket compared to surrounding states. Certainly a $20 million loan from the state in that time isn’t even on the radar. For example, Pennsylvania just approved the Innovate in PA Tax Credit. The PA Department of Community and Economic Development will sale bonds to generate roughly $85 million in investment dollars for the tech based economic development. This is yet the latest investment by that state following on their highly successful Ben Franklin program. West Virginia will never be competitive if they stick to your biased way of thinking.

    • Hughesknight

      Good points. I like Fairmont and former Congressman Mollohan. Public money is seed money IMHO $250 million is adequate seed money. All I ask is that all the facts are on the table. Especially when people make representations that are not based on the complete truth.

  • Rob

    I believe both tech parks should be supported as the state can use all of the help attracting (and retaining) high tech, high paying jobs it can get. However, I have a hard time swallowing the argument that the I-79 tech park doesn't get enough taxpayer funding when all of the anchors at the site appear to be taxpayer funded organizations that were brought in by our politicians (FBI, NASA, etc.) and not by commercial interests.

  • Jim

    Maybe all are missing the real crux of the argument? Alan Monahan is not in a position to funnel millions to his buddies at the I-79 Hi-Tech Park as he did for years. As I recall, the scenarion went something like, funneling millions of taxpayer dollars to the park and in turn, huge campaign contributions were always relied on.

  • hughesknight

    I forgot the at least $18 million state grant that was put into the Advanced Technology Center that was put on the Fairimont Campus you refer to
    and the state helped recruit the Mon Power building that is on the campus as well. I think that the federal government and state government do not have to apologize one bit for the almost i would estimate $250 million that has been put into the fairmont location. Most every dollar has been grant dollars.

    • CommonSenseConservative

      HughesKnight.... You seem very knowledgeable about the northern tech park. I haven't seen you mention anything about the southern tech park. I traditionally like to have ALL the facts before i make a decision. Also, from what i read, looks like they (those that initiated the letter) want to know why there is a difference (apparently a big difference) in what the state provides funding to, and i for one now also want to know what is behind the funding and the amounts. I also would like to know what the current outcome has been between the two parks? So since you seem to know add much as you comment on....can you provide some stats from the southern park as well?

      • Hughesknight

        Good point I don't know. I could venture an educated guess. If you don't know and weren't one of those who wrote the letter ask those who wrote the letter how much the state has out into the Dow project and how that compares to $ 250 million into the fairmont park. I woukd bet the farm that it doesn 't come close to that.Also the Dow park has equity from the Dow donation and value from more than$40 million in Dow investment in facilities in south charleston after the deal. There is no comparable equity in fairmont.

  • Hughesknight

    Jtech I would estimate that $200million of federal taxpayers, that is us, has been put into the fairmont complex and another $ 15 to 20 million of state loans.. How much more taxpayers dollars do you want in the fairmont park? Enough is enough.

  • JTech

    By the way Jima --- this is not a Fairmont / Marion County complaint. There needs to be a fundamental question answered -- why is the state NOT supporting the I-79 Technology Park in North Central West Virginia.

  • JTech

    Just wanted to add the following link to the discussion ... this is from a national tech magazine about the success taking place at the I-79 Technology Park in Fairmont.

    http://www.fedtechmagazine.com/article/2013/07/positive-side-effects-data-center-consolidation

  • Jima.

    Fairmont is at it again! Always complaining about how they(Marion County) is treated unfairly.....hospitals....airports,etc!

  • equalDistribution

    The intent of the comments from the High Tech Park in Fairmont are not intended to disparage the southern technology park. Rather, they were intended to encourage a more equal distribution of state funding. Why does one technology park deserve substantially more money than the other? Moreover, the northern tech park has been a boon for the State of WV. The economy is hard hit right now with several Federal agencies cutting back their budgets. This, in turn, limits what the northern technology park can do to foster startups and provide value to the affiliate membership companies.

  • Skippy

    Let me be clear, that darn park or whatever you call it in Charleston is a joke. Plain and simple. At least the techies up in Fairmont know what they are doing. I agree ... give an equal share for crying out loud. This is Tomblin's Joke now.

  • MIKEYD

    manchin cant give his friends and family money like he did when he was the WORST gov we ever had

    • Big John

      Worst governor so far another is about to take his place soon.

  • ConservativeRealist

    That's the politically correct way to ask for funds - bash what they have funded in order to make your case look better. The funds given to South Charleston's Tech Park were intended to keep the high paying jobs there that would be lost if the businesses as Dow and other chemical companies downsized - there wasd already a workforce there that was trying to be retained. It is a little different than trying to build something and then recruit the workforce. Byrd was the source of the pork that fed that tech development and he is now relegated to the pages of history and he took his Senate Appropriations Committee checkbook with him to the herafter.

    • CommonSenseConservative

      So let me ask this, since you appear to be in the "know"... How many of those jobs were retained with the amount of money the south park received from the state vs how many jobs were created in the north park with the significantly reduced support from the state?
      No matter who created what and why....that cannot be changed. However, I am and would be more concerned about where my tax dollars are spent most effectively rather than wasted...especially since the money is being spent regardless!

  • THE MEB

    Welcome to the old buddy network, but, in essence, it probably is more due to the fact that Manchin isn't the governor anymore. Politics, state and federal, is uglier than I have ever seen it. This, IMO, is a microcosm of how 99% of the US citizen base feels that we no longer has a voice but a mere echo in the woods.

  • wirerowe

    I would put the amount of federal taxpayer grant dollars that went into that facility against any facility in the country. Pretty weak argument.