West Virginia Executive
Volume I 2008
By Kensie Westerfield
There are many people passionate about promoting West Virginia and bettering the Mountain State, but not everyone actually gets to see their vision through. Jamie Corton and his wife Jennifer Compton Corton, co-founders of Charles Pointe, are both lucky enough and driven enough to be able to bring their dreams to fruition. They have carefully planned every aspect of Charles Pointe around promoting a better quality of life. Located in Bridgeport, adjacent to the North Central West Virginia Airport, FBI Criminal Justice Information Services and the new United Hospital Center (opening in 2010), Charles Pointe is an all-inclusive community with commerce, residential living and recreational venues coming together to showcase the beauty of West Virginia.
WVE: Give us a little background on your family, especially how your father influenced you.
JC: I have a great loving and giving family: my wife and daughter, my mother and father with my seven brothers and sisters and my extended family by marriage. Family is certainly the most important aspect of my life and my primary driver. My family has had a great influence on me, particularly my father. He is the most successful man I know, not by monetary standards but by love, faith and character. Over his career my father, who is a former Marine, started as a lineman at the telephone company, completed his formal education at Carnegie Mellon University and led an engineering team that implemented the first major application of fiber optics in the world. He worked hard and smart; simply said, he got things done. His greatest influence on me was his strong character and importance of family. My father and mother raised eight loving children, all contributors to society. They led by example and to this day they continue to give back by volunteering. I am so fortunate to have such a strong family.
WVE: Why did you name this project Charles Pointe?
JC: After conferring with family and contemplating our new project name we all felt that honoring my wife’s father and his legacy was a natural. Charles Pointe is named in honor of Charles E. “Jim” Compton, inventor of the coal auger and well-known philanthropist, entrepreneur and advocate for West Virginia. He loved this area of West Virginia and wanted everyone to know of its beauty, tranquility and natural resources. Today, Charles Pointe is a living tribute to his legacy and strong advocacy of West Virginia.
WVE: How did you capture the vision you saw and what did you see before you actually started?
JC: I have traveled the world and always loved West Virginia. At a young age growing up outside Pittsburgh, I often hiked and camped in the West Virginia mountains and valleys. These great experiences in West Virginia caused me to move here over 20 years ago while still being employed in the Pittsburgh area.
Being a high-tech import to the state, I was determined that others wanted to be here as well – they just weren’t aware of it yet. In order to maximize the opportunities available to us, we had to determine what people wanted. I always plan with facts and work hard to understand the pulse of the people by listening, collecting data and defining SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). Generally stated, the SWOT analysis of our market area found the following:
Strength – Natural resources (not just energy but our state’s natural beauty and
Weakness – Proper planning and infrastructure commitments
Opportunities – Tremendous upside potential when compared to any state in the
Threats – Ourselves and attitudes
After understanding the above we spent a lot of time benchmarking high-growth areas and understanding why they worked. To complement what our delegation and business leaders were doing we came up with our criteria and strategy to move forward. The foundation of our success has been laid and we are excited about our future. That foundation consists of land, great strategic planning, infrastructure partnerships (public and private), our fellow workers, and customers.
WVE: Did you see something that no one else saw, especially before there was even a road built?
JC: Yes, and I can tell you it wasn’t an easy sell to our employees, advisors and government, but one by one they got on board and we are glad they did. We could not have done it without the support both internally and externally. We hope to share this model with everyone as an example of how to attract talent (jobs) while expanding our opportunities.
WVE: What made you commit to this project?
JC: There are four key factors that can explain my commitment to this project:
1) My personal commitment to Mr. Compton and his legacy.
2) My commitment to our employees and job creation.
3) The upside potential for the community and state.
4) A path that will allow us to give back.
WVE: When did you decide to pursue your vision?
JC: The conceptual vision for Charles Pointe originated in 1998. Since that time land acquisitions, substantial earthwork and infrastructure construction has occurred to support the master plan.
WVE: Were there any hesitations?
JC: Never. I believe our strategy and mind-set are solid.
WVE: How has the project progressed since you first broke ground?
JC: We attracted over $120 million in public infrastructure and have currently completed, or are in the process of completing, over $348 million worth of private investment, which includes various hotels, a conference center, and multiple commercial sites. We attracted a state-accredited child care facility called Cubby’s Child Care Center, Inc. to support our commercial office tenants and it is already at capacity. Homes have been sold in two neighborhoods, Barrington Manor and Parkview Village, and we have three more neighborhoods under construction with the expansion of existing multi-family neighborhoods. We are focusing on our customers’ needs and their requested amenities to continue our successful development.
WVE: Originally the project was going to be planned around a championship golf course, but Devonshire’s research showed that only 19 percent of people play golf so you changed the focus to a Central Park theme. Was it hard to explain the change to people?
JC: Certainly Devonshire’s research played a critical role in evaluating and obtaining the facts necessary to make this decision. As I stated previously, we listen to facts, constantly getting the pulse of our surroundings, including our customers and potential customers. We also measured the health of the golf industry locally and nationally. For example, the National Golf Federation (NGF) reports that facility closures outpaced openings in 2006 for the first time in six decades; 119.5 18-hole equivalents were opened compared to 146 closures. The change has been easy to explain because it is what our customers are demanding.
WVE: Do you think that it took courage and insight to change your plan halfway through the project?
JC: No. It took common sense, listening to our customers and the facts. When you work on a project of this magnitude, you must let go of any ego and then make your decision. Sometimes it’s hard but it needs to be done. I am sure it won’t be the last change we make in the process, but if change makes a better product we will continue to keep an open mind.
WVE: What was your first taste of entrepreneurial success?
JC: I am sure you have heard of success stories beginning with a paper route, and that is true with me as well, but my first real test of entrepreneurial success began with a non-monetary success. My mother asked my older brother and me to be altar boys for the church. My brother and I explained that we had other activities and our time didn’t allow it. My brother’s excuse was music lessons and mine was sports-related. My mother reviewed our schedules and felt we could get up a little earlier in the morning and volunteer as altar boys at the then 2,100-bed county hospital instead of our church (we thought my mother had gone off the deep end). She took us up to early mass at 7:00 a.m. and after serving mass and helping the patients, we would walk to school. Although it was hard, it has left an everlasting mark on me. That mark is caring for people, their handicaps, lives and simple needs. It is truly humbling and is a trait that is embedded in me. Being a successful entrepreneur sometimes doesn’t have anything to do with money but everything to do with people. Success truly begins with giving back, adding value to those around you and knowing where you came from.
WVE: Was there anyone that helped you decide what you wanted to do when you were growing up?
JC: No one person, but certainly family, friends and fellow workers. By nature I am a positive person and try to emulate people who possess qualities that I admire; I gravitate to highly motivated and successful people with strong character.
WVE: What has been your most rewarding undertaking?
JC: Besides family and our undertaking at Charles Pointe, I had an opportunity to consult with a firm in Georgia and the then Defense Nuclear Agency (DNA). At the end of the cold war it was necessary to quickly remove weapons of mass destruction from Russia. There was a great concern that the black market would confiscate certain nuclear materials from nuclear submarines and missiles. Our government, via fast-track legislation from Senators Richard Lugar and Sam Nunn, allowed for a responsible and effective weapons destruction plan. It was definitely a rewarding undertaking.
WVE: What keeps you motivated?
JC: Positive people, problem solving, constant listening, learning and unquestionably, generating solutions and ideas.
WVE: How do you manage your time?
JC: Besides the normal time management materials and software, I am surrounded with a great team, which is critical to getting things done. We have some great employees and great partners. I am amazed at the dedication and productivity of our small organization. I’m very fortunate and they help keep me on track.
WVE: What has been your biggest challenge?
JC: Keeping the Charles Pointe vision in focus for the community is probably our biggest challenge. Approval from all the entities involved for earth work, engineering and infrastructure installation takes time. We understand the processes and are encouraged by our progress and success.
WVE: Is there any new exciting news you want to share with our readers?
JC: In the near future we will be adding various amenities throughout the region that benefit the Charles Pointe experience.
WVE: Is there anything else you want our readers to know?
JC: Quite simply, we have planned well, worked hard and are executing our project with exact precision and excellence. We have carefully chosen our team players like our engineers, planners and builders. We are fortunate to have great leadership from our elected officials, the City of Bridgeport and the Harrison County Commission. We have all worked together to improve our economy and have not limited our potential as a community.
We encourage businesses who are interested in joining the Charles Pointe experience to contact us at (304) 808-8000 or www.charlespointe.com. There are still opportunities available and we are always eager to work with new and existing ventures.