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Federal agencies sought for I-79 Park

By SARAH GOODRICH

Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — The High Technology Foundation is focusing on expanding its technology park this summer by working to recruit federal operations to the park.

The foundation has been developing the I-79 Technology Park for the past 15 years, and over time has provided the park with facilities.

“In that process, we informally divided the park into four phases of the I-79 Technology Park,” explained Jim Estep, director, president and CEO of High Technology Foundation.

Phase three, which is located behind the NASA building to the right, is the area the foundation is currently emphasizing for development.

“Phase three we’ve always wanted to use to try to recruit more federal agencies, like NASA, NOAA, FBI, the defense department,” he said.

Earlier this year, the foundation was awarded a grant in the amount of $4 million from the U.S. Office of Surface Mining to start putting in the road and other infrastructure in phase three.

Estep said he hopes that process of developing phase three will begin late summer.

He noted over the next few years, the foundation will be working to begin and redevelop phase three.

“Now in addition to constructing and developing it … we are actively negotiating with several federal agencies and we’re hopeful that one or two will decide to come here,” he said.

By bringing federal operations to the park, technology jobs will become available for the community, he noted.

“If we can recruit more of these types of operations, which are going to go somewhere, that are technology oriented and do a lot of contracting every year, then every time we add one there’s going to be a lot more jobs created in the technology world for people in the region,” stated Estep.

“Which if you consider the facts that West Virginia has the least-educated force in the United States of America, that’s an area that we have to work on desperately if we want to have a healthy, balanced economy.”

The process of trying to recruit federal operations to come to the region for contracting is the core strategy driving the I-79 Technology Park, he commented.

Concerning facilities and operations that the foundation would like to see in the park, Estep said he is proposing free land to those agencies that are wanting to relocate and do contracting each year to come to the technology park.

“Because the real value for our community is having that operation here,” he said.

The other phases, include phase one, which is the most recognizable of the sections because it can be seen from Interstate 79, includes the NASA and Mon Power buildings.

He noted all but one building pad is filled up in phase one.

Phase two is the property behind the NASA building. The property is equipped with the utilities — water, sewer, electricity and gas.

Because the Marion County Industrial Park is across the street from phase two, Estep said the foundation always thought to recruit tenants that were of a “light-manufacturing-type profile.”

“So it is ready to start building,” Estep commented. “And we’re currently negotiating with a couple of potential new tenants.”

Phase four is the land behind the MVB Bank, along the interstate. Estep said phase four has always been considered an area for commercial purposes. Some of his considerations for the area are a pharmacy, urgent-care facility or restaurants to be used as resources for employees of the park.

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