Partnerships Serve As Development Conduit

The Bridgeport News

by A. Kim Haws, Bridgeport City Manager

Bridgeport (Thursday, September 25, 2003)

Does economic development take more than efforts in the private sector to be successful in West Virginia? There is no doubt. The business climate is difficult in West Virginia with its tax structure, worker compensation problems, prevailing wage issues and the cost of land development. In order for West Virginia to be competitive in economic development, local governments must become partners with the private sector in the development process. That does not mean that cities have to "give away the farm" however. But, it does mean active participation by local government in making the process of development as painless as possible for interested businesses.

Bridgeport has tried to combat these limitations along with the regional and national economic woes over the last few years by trying to make the business climate in the community attractive for private investment. This has occurred in several ways. The City planned for growth and development by constructing a new wastewater treatment plant. It has replaced major sewer and water lines. Roads have been added and strategic annexations have taken place. All of these efforts are basic and essential in order to accommodate growth once it happens. What else can we do to make economic growth happen?

Mayor Joe Timms and the Bridgeport City Council took a major step several years ago when they adopted some economic incentives that will serve to entice businesses to expand or to look at our area. In addition, the City acts as a conduit to leverage private investment in order to secure federal and state grants that make development feasible.

For example, the City was the applicant with the Charles Pointe developers in the recent grant award of $6 million by the West Virginia Economic Development Grant Committee. This grant will help fund the construction of a conference center in Charles Pointe as well as to construct and install infrastructure throughout Phase I of that development. In addition, the city applied for and received a $1.5 million federal grant to extend a major water line to the hotel conference center.

So, up to now, the City has expended only staff resources on the Charles Pointe development. To date, there has been no public money spent on the development of any portion of Charles Pointe. But, because of City involvement and its willingness to work hand-in-hand with Genesis Partners who created the dynamic vision for the project, Charles Pointe will soon begin developing in a major way.

The expansion of Citynet’s Bridgeport operations is another example of the City’s role in economic development. As a partner in that development, the City played the role of conduit for securing a $3 million state loan for the project along with an $800,000 Industrial access Road Funds grant.

Once again, the city is only a partner or a conduit in economic development. The process is started and sustained by vision and investment by the private sector. Bridgeport has shown by its actions that it will work with any developer and business that has the vision and private resources to sustain projects to completion.