KEARNEYSVILLE, W.Va. — Officials including Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., discussed the economic potential of the newly expanded United States Coast Guard operations systems center Monday during a special ribbon cutting ceremony.
The new facility is an effort to combine three facilities into two as well as alleviate overcrowding, according to John Reisenweber, executive director of the Jefferson County Development Authority.
The facility cost nearly $13 million to construct and will employ more than 300 government and contracted workers, Reisenweber said. This facility will represent more than a third of the 800 workers employed by USCG campuses around the Eastern Panhandle.
Manchin and Capito both spoke on the importance of the facility’s expansion and the economic potential it has for the Eastern Panhandle, as well as the state.
“To have them have this much confidence and faith, to have this kind of investment here and then consolidate to where we have 300 people working in a facility now tells you an awful lot about the area, the people we have working in this area and the potential future growth,” Manchin said. “This is high-tech software support for the Coast Guard and we rely on it as a nation.”
In addition, Capito said the OSC center can continue to develop private and educational partnerships in the hopes of keeping jobs and residents in West Virginia.
“The biggest thing we fight is living here and actually being able to work here, because everyone wants to do that and a lot of people have to travel a little bit in Virginia, Maryland or closer to the district,” Capito said.
One educational representative who was happy to hear about the opportunity was Shepherd University president Suzanne Shipley. Shipley said there are at least two programs at the university, software engineering and computer information sciences, that can fill seats at the facility.
“It’s really a growing area of us and we’re going to get out as soon as possible and talk to people about how our students can help and what jobs might be added to the future,” Shipley said.
The expanded OSC center, located in Kearneysville’s Burr Business Park, has more than 40,000 square feet.
Peter Gautier, director of governmental and public affairs at USCG headquarters, said he is excited to have a new center.
“When people think of the Coast Guard, they think of helicopters, ships, small boats, and search and rescue law enforcement, but what people don’t realize is that there is a backbone infrastructure that supports all of that,” Gautier said.
Reisenweber said expansion of the OSC center will add to the needed technological support the OSC provides to USCG operations as a whole.
“Obviously in this age of Internet technology, the federal government needs that type of infrastructure and we’re pleased to have it here in Jefferson County,” Reisenweber said.