Compton, Nehlen Friendship Benefits City At Public Hearing

The Bridgeport News

By Jeff Toquinto, NEWS EDITOR

MORGANTOWN  Thursday, September 12, 2002 

It’s no secret to many in the area that long-time Bridgeport businessman C. E. "Jim" Compton has been a tremendous supporter of West Virginia University academics and athletics in general and Mountaineer football in particular.

Last week, some of that support was reciprocated when former West Virginia University football coach Don Nehlen offered his endorsement to the Charles Pointe project, named in Compton’s honor, that will be located in Bridgeport. Nehlen was one of several individuals offering his support for the development during a state economic development grant committee public hearing Thursday at the Morgantown Armory drill hall.

The reason for Nehlen’s appearance likely rests with the $750 million project’s developer, Genesis Partners. Jennifer Corton, the wife of Genesis President Jamie Corton, is Compton’s daughter.

"Coach Nehlen remarked about Mr. Compton and that Mr. Compton had actually taken him on to the project site at one time," said Bridgeport City Manager Kim Haws. "Coach Nehlen said that Mr. Compton told him that the land in question was going to be in Bridgeport, be a major development and change the scope of business throughout West Virginia."

Nehlen said Haws, represented the recreational aspect of the Charles Pointe project. Nehlen didn’t offer public support on any of the other projects, including six from Monongalia County.

It’s hoped Nehlen’s support will have an impact on six of the nine committee members that were present at the meeting. The committee will be looking to divide roughly $130 million of unencumbered economic development bond money from the state that was made available this year. Bridgeport is trying to get $11.4 million for infrastructure.

Getting the money won’t be easy. Although many of the projects applying for a cut of the money have been eliminated, 68 projects requesting $416 million remain.

Twenty-three projects were up for discussion at last week’s meeting in Morgantown. Twenty-one of those projects actually had someone speaking on their behalf during the three-hour session.

The session’s length came from roughly 90 people speaking. Haws said professional people and politicians spoke during the session. Each individual was given two minutes to speak.

Along with Nehlen, several others spoke in favor of the Charles Pointe project. They included Harrison County Commissioner Roger Diaz, a representative of an international financing firm, Haws, a pair of area businessmen and a student from Fairmont State College. Haws said he wasn’t aware of anyone speaking against the project during the three-hour session in the muggy armory.

"We had a lot of other supporters there, but we didn’t want to have all of them talk because you reach a point of diminishing returns," said Haws. "The last thing you want is 20 people testifying because it loses its effectiveness."

Haws said he remains optimistic the city should get a serious look. He said the project has been in the planning stages for more than a decade and the city has become intimately involved in the last five years. Haws also said figures showing that there could be as many as $4 of private investment for every $1 of state money should have a positive impact.