Funding Decisions Due Next Week On Development Projects

Clarksburg Exponent Telegram

by Shannon Blosser, REGIONAL WRITER

CHARLESTON (Tuesday, November 9, 2002)

All 58 projects still being considered by the state Economic Development Grant Committee will be up for certification during a two-day meeting next week. Among the projects are 13 in North Central West Virginia.

The meeting, scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Monday in the Senate Judiciary room in Charleston, will serve as the final chance for committee members to hand out the remaining $103.2 million in grant funding.

Committee members began the process with $200 million in funding. The Wheeling Victorian Outlet Mall was certified for $70 million, contingent upon developers raising $50 million by January.

Five additional projects have been certified thus far. The West Virginia High Technology Consortium was certified for $11.3 million last month.

The schedule for Monday's meeting had not been determined by Friday. But committee spokesperson Chris Morris said any projects that members do not want to discuss will be tossed out at the start of the meeting.

Members are scheduled to meet all day Monday and again on Tuesday, if necessary.

"The goal is to determine which projects will be certified by Tuesday," said Morris.

One of the projects scheduled to be discussed is Charles Pointe, the only proposal from Harrison County that made it to the final round. Bridgeport officials and Genesis Partners are seeking $11.5 million for infrastructure northeast of the Interstate 79 and W.Va. 279 intersection and construction of a city conference center.

The Charles Pointe project was supported by former West Virginia University football coach Don Nehlen during a public hearing in Morgantown.

Also up for possible consideration are three projects from Lewis County, including one that blamed the grant process for its recent shut down. GlassWorks WV, LLC is seeking $540,000 to fund a modernization project to produce cameo glass. GlassWorks halted business in October citing a lawsuit against the grant committee as one of its reasons.

The West Virginia Citizens Action Group is suing the grant committee claiming the grant process is unconstitutional. A Kanawha County Circuit Judge has ruled the grant committee can certify projects, but can not sell any bonds, thus holding up funding.

Other projects from Lewis County includes $5.4 million for the Stonewall Resort and $2 million for a state fire academy in WVU Jackson's Mill.

Also up for possible consideration are projects in Barbour, Marion, Monongalia and Randolph counties.

The grant committee may also consider funding for two race tracks, including one in Braxton County, that are attempting to obtain a NASCAR-sanctioned event.

"It's going to be difficult," said Morris. "There is a limited amount of remaining funds."

Three projects recently pulled out of the grant process, Morris said. One of the projects was a $1.5 million request from the Monongalia County Economic Development Authority and Genesis Therapeutics to create a new biotechnology business.

The other two projects that withdrew from consideration were based in Beckley, Morris said