Minutes From WVEDGC Public Hearing In Morgantown

Thursday, September 5, 2002


MR. CHAIRMAN: The next project is the City of Bridgeport. The first speaker is Mr. Jim Starman.

MR. STARMAN: Good evening, my name is Jim Starman. I'm the Managing Director for LJ Melody & Company, we're a national mortgage banking firm headquartered in Houston, Texas. I'm here to support the City of Bridgeport Project, The Charles Pointe Development. The grant money that we are asking for will provide significant equity to this project, which will then have a multiplier effect by the leverage that the banks are willing to finance this project with. We've been speaking to two of the largest banks in West Virginia about this project and they are very excited and they've issued a Letter of Intent to provide the financing, subject to this grant being provided.

For every dollar of grant money, it will leverage another four to five million dollars of privately provided funds by the banks. Every million dollars means four to five million. So in total, 11 million dollars leveraged will be 40 to 50 million dollars of additional financing going into the state of West Virginia and to the city of Bridgeport.

The community will enjoy a new well-conceived project that will consist of a mixed-use development. The first phase has in it a hotel/conference center, an office building project, and significant retail development. This is just the first phase of a total project that consists of approximately 2,000 acres.

We are excited to be a part of the project and we look for and hope for a successful grant to this project so that we will leverage these funds. Thank you very much.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you for your comment. The next speaker is Mr. David Humphrey.

MR. HUMPHREY: Thank you for the opportunity to speak. I'm Dave Humphrey, Vice President of Grafton Homes from Grafton, West Virginia. Our firm was founded in 1986 and manufacturers modular homes. Our homes are built to all stick-built code requirements, such as CABO and BOCA. They are delivered to our customers' home sites approximately 90 percent complete. In our existence, we have built over 1800 homes. Our homes are sold in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.

As such, we are dependant upon the vitality of our entire region for our business. We are currently experiencing a very tremendous business growth at our plant. As such, we believe the Charles Pointe, Bridgeport Project, will be another economic engine that will allow us to continue to grow our business significantly.

We strongly support this activity and believe, even though we're in Taylor County, that we will significantly benefit from the growth that we will have as a result of this project. Thank you very much.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you for your comment. The next speaker is Mr. Michael Griffith.

MR. GRIFFITH: Good evening. I'm Mike Griffith, a lifelong resident of Harrison County, a 1971 graduate of West Virginia University, and Vice President of J F Allen Company. J F Allen Company is North Central West Virginia's leading heavy highway contractor and materials producer. We operate quarries in Randolph County, a state of the art block manufacturing plant in Upshur County, and ready mix concrete and hot mix asphalt plants in Randolph, Upshur, and Harrison Counties. Tonight, I'm here in support of the Harrison County Project named Charles Pointe. This 2,000 acre master planned community is a model for long term development in North Central West Virginia and deserves strong consideration for its grant request. It will provide countless opportunities for contractors, material suppliers, and our citizens alike.

This project was conceived some eight years ago and initial construction for site preparation began in 1999. It is not a project dreamed up to take advantage of this great process. Its construction will require thousands of yards of ready mix concrete, hundreds and thousands of tons of crushed limestone and hot mix asphalt, and perhaps millions of concrete masonry units, all produced or manufactured right here in North Central West Virginia.

It will complement expansion of the Harrison - Marion Regional Airport in its related industries, including the West Virginia Air Center. Charles Pointe will be literally across the street from the new United Hospital Center, as well as adjacent the FBI Criminal Justice Identification Service. This project will provide not only employment opportunities, meeting and convention space, but also a place for people to live, play, and support other development opportunities in high tech fields.

Genesis Partners continues a 60 year history of job creation in West Virginia. Over that time, they've not only produced millions of tons of coal to fire american industry, but have given back millions of dollars in support of West Virginia causes in our local communities.

I hereby request you strongly review their Grant Application and award Charles Pointe the funds needed to accelerate its construction. It may take 20 years to complete, but it will impact our economy well through the 21st century. Its success will be our success. Thank you.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. The next speaker is Kristy McVaney. If I could remind speakers to limit your comments to the two minute time limit.

MS. McVANEY: Hi, my name is Kristy McVaney and I'm here this evening to urge the Committee for the funding of the City of Bridgeport Project. I will graduate in May from Fairmont State College, I'm a double major in Business Marketing and Management. I am a native of Bridgeport. I dream about a family, my family, and being able to live close to them and my grandparents. I dream about a nice job and a house and all the things that thousands of people my age dream about.

Since September 11th, I've really thought a lot about what I'm going to do with the rest of my life. Am I going to move to a big city or stay here near my family? In all probability, I'll have to move to Pittsburgh or Charleston, or worse yet, to D.C., to find a good job. When I saw the property where Charles Pointe is being developed, I saw my future. Charles Pointe is still in the earth-moving stages, but I can see where the pond will be and where the trees will be around the walking trail. How many of you from your offices can see trees and walking trails? How many of you can walk to work? How many of you can exercise right after work because when you walk out the door, you're there? Charles Pointe is (inaudible) from the beginning.

I'm a typical West Virginian. I love my state, I love the people, I love WVU football, I'm proud of who we are. When I look around, I see the people who work the earth while respecting it, who care about each other while minding their own business. West Virginia is producing good, qualified students for our workforce, but we need a diversified workplace so we will have a place to work. Right now, we're just sending them south down to Charlotte.

In six days, it'll be one year since September 11th. I believe that many have re-thought their life choices and are working for a better way to live. West Virginia is a better way and a better place and I want to stay. Charles Pointe will allow me to do that. Like many young people, I want to have a good job, a nice car, and time off to enjoy life.

Last weekend, I attended a gathering and a local band was playing "Country Roads." Here, surrounded by many people my age, we all joined arms - - - half of them I didn't even know - - - and we sang along to the song and we knew every word, every one of the words, and we all believe those words.

Charles Pointe will give us a place where we can stay here. Thank you.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. The next speaker is Mr. Don Nehlen. I never thought I'd introduce Don Nehlen this way.

MR. NEHLEN: My name is Don Nehlen and I'm just an old football coach. You know, I came here in 1980, and Jim Compton, whose land that we're talking about here with Charles Pointe, that was his farm. If you knew Jim, Jim was a great visionary. He used to drive me up on this farm and he said, "You know, Don," he said, "Some day I think this can be the biggest economic boom for the entire state of West Virginia." He says, "I envision research parks, industrial parks, hotels, golf courses, the whole bit." And if you've ever been on that land, it's absolutely breathtaking.

They have spent seven and a half million dollars already in developing this type of a situation and I'm here because, you know, I'm a West Virginian by choice, not by birth. This is a great place to be. I'd kind of like for my grandkids to be able to stay here. And when I'd go out and recruit players to come to West Virginia, their mom and dad would always say to me, "Coach, why should we come to West Virginia, we're going to have to go back to Pennsylvania to get a job, we're going to have to go back to Ohio," and I'm tired of hearing that. I think Charles Pointe can solve some of those problems. I think it's a win-win situation if I've ever seen it.

Like I say, I'm impressed with their management team and the land is breathtaking and I think this can be a real boom for the entire state of West Virginia and our region. Thank you very much.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Nehlen. The next speaker is Roger Diaz.

MR. DIAZ: Brian, I never thought I'd follow Don Nehlen speaking either. I am Roger Diaz, I'm the Harrison County Commissioner. I'm here tonight to talk with you all, not about a city project and not about a county project, but a regional project. Something that will be good for the region. I'm talking about counties that are two counties deep from Harrison County. If you made a circle of the counties around Harrison County and then make another circle around and brought all those counties in, that's what I see Charles Pointe doing for the entire area, for the region. It's a regionalistic approach, that it will be something that would be good for the region so far as jobs are concerned.

When Phase One of this project is completed, there's going to be approximately 800 jobs immediately available in goods and services in support areas. That means that the people in all of these areas around Harrison County will have an opportunity to have a job that will pay a decent wage and have a job that will give you the kind of benefits that you need to exist and have a family. It will be the kind of job that will allow people who are now in lower paying jobs to move into jobs that may be vacated by some of these people, or maybe even they will be the people themselves that would get these jobs. So I see Charles Pointe as being a catalyst for jobs. Not just a one time shot, but over and over again because of the vision of what Charles Pointe has.

The other thing that I see Charles Pointe creating is a new tax base for Harrison County. All the counties in the state of West Virginia have a problem with infrastructure. We do not have the money to put infrastructure out in our counties to attract economic development and housing projects. If this project goes through and if it is funded, I promise you today that the Harrison County Commission will capture all of those new taxes and we will utilize those taxes for leveraging dollars to implement infrastructure into the county and into areas which will cause economic stimuli for not only Harrison County but for the surrounding counties because it will provide jobs throughout the area.

Finally, I want to tell you that this is a unity thing. This is not the city of Bridgeport, it's not Harrison County Commission, and it's not the city of Clarksburg, although it will benefit all of those in the long run. Clarksburg currently is undergoing a renovation. The Waldo Hotel has been bought by the Vandalia Group and they are doing some things in renovation to create new things in the arts that will provide entertainment to the people who would come to the area at Charles Pointe in the conference center or just in the hotel.

The other thing that's occurring is the City of Clarksburg and the County Commission are working to purchase the Robinson Graham Theater, again to implement the arts back into the community and provide a destination for people to go to once they're in the area.

Finally, the last thing I see happening is changing the image of West Virginia. Because when you have people coming into West Virginia and when they have an opportunity to go and do and see and touch and smell and eat the things that we have in this entire region, they leave as ambassadors of West Virginia. So they will portray a different image of us poor hillbillies with our bib overalls and our corncob pipes.

So I urge you to consider this because this project is a catalyst and it's a catalyst for millions upon millions of dollars to occur in this region. Thank you.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Commissioner. The next speaker is Kim Haws.

MS. HAWS: Good evening. My name is Kim Haws, I'm the City Manager of the City of Bridgeport and I represent the applicant for this particular project, which includes a development at Charles Pointe. As City Manager, I certainly am, and having been involved in the economic development process throughout the United States, I can say that the central focus of any kind of development project is the planning process that goes into it.

I can say that this particular project reflects tremendous thought and planning. It reflects years of detailed planning on the part of the city and the Genesis Partners. It reflects detailed plans for the master plan community, which is the first of its kind in the entire state of West Virginia. The project is not just a whimsical idea or notion or as a result of poor planning or inadequate planning. It is a well planned, well thought out project. It represents a very clear example of what can happen with energy and innovation when the public sector and the private sector come together to create a project.

You've heard some comments tonight from other individuals regarding how well the project will effectively leverage the state funds to create substantial private sector investment. The level of job creations when Phase One of Charles Pointe is completed, we're talking about 1900 jobs. It's not a small project.

Once again, we'd like to thank the Committee for allowing us to make our presentation. This is a great project. I would encourage you to continue deliberating on the project and its merits based on the criteria that this Committee has developed and is basing their decisions on.

I want to invite each of you to come out to walk the project with me. I guarantee and promise you that as you walk that project you will come away from it with a stronger commitment and a stronger vision of what potential this development might lend to the state of West Virginia. Thank you.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. I want to thank you for the comments for the City of Bridgeport