WVU's Role In Clarksburg Project Is Wise

The Hearld Dispatch -  Huntington, West Virginia

by Dave Peyton

HUNTINGTON (Wednesday, November 1, 2000)

Ten years from now, the Clarksburg-Bridgeport area of West Virginia may be the economic center of the state.

That area of northcentral West Virginia has received help from Uncle Sam in the form of an FBI fingerprint center. But it goes deeper than that.

Folks in that part of the state know where the future lies and they’re preparing for it as fast as they can.

Plans were announced last week for a $750 million community in Bridgeport. Yes, that’s three-quarters of a billion dollars. It will feature more than 200 homes, a convention center, a research park, hotels, an 18-hole golf course, an amphitheater and a retail center. It all meshes with the high-tech corridor that’s being developed in the Fairmont-Clarksburg- Bridgeport area.

Huntington has a business and technology park planned and there’s no doubt it will boost this area’s economy. But frankly, northcentral West Virginia’s plans are more ambitious. And if it works, the payoff will be immense.

Billed as "a vision of what West Virginia’s future can be," the planned community will be built on 2,000 acres off I-79 between the FBI and Meadowbrook interchanges. The community will be called "Charles Pointe" in honor of retired coal operator Charles E. Compton.

Why is it named after Compton? Because the land on which it is being built is owned by Compton. And that’s significant since it’s clear the Compton and his family, though they were made rich by coal, know that the coal economy is gone, especially in that part of West Virginia. The Comptons are putting their money where the future lies.

The area already has a significant number of high-tech businesses, but Charles Pointe is expected to bring many more. And to make sure that happens, West Virginia University has pledged its expertise in attracting the right kind of businesses and perhaps even creating new businesses from technology created at WVU.

Genesis Partners, the developers of Charles Pointe, unabashedly claim that the development is to provide "a new economy" model for the state -- "a place where technology and commerce come together in an environment that holds sacred the beauty and history that is ours."

If all this sounds upscale and yuppie, it is. But that’s what it’s going to take to attract 21st century businesses to West Virginia. The new generation of entrepreneurs want amenities and an image that few places in West Virginia can offer. But it will be here if Charles Pointe is built as planned.

We can all hope that Charles Pointe happens. It won’t hurt our own plans in Huntington for a business and technology park. In fact, the friendly competition it creates might make it better for both communities.

But there’s a message in Charles Pointe: It takes a university to really make such a project happen. Just as it appears northcentral West Virginia’s hopes hang on West Virginia University and what it can bring, it appears Huntington’s future hangs on Marshall -- not for the athletic prowess it offers the region, but the "mind power" it must share if our own dreams of a successful 21st century are to be realized.