CHARLESTON -- The June 2006 Open For Business report from Gov. Joe Manchin's office reflects progress in the state's economic development efforts during the past month, with projects and related announcements that will assist with the creation of as many as 48 new jobs and the preservation of a significant number of existing jobs.
* Ludowici Limited, an Australian company, acquired Innovative Enterprises LLC, a manufacturer of mineral processing equipment based in Chapmanville, West Virginia. Innovative Enterprises LLC is a relatively new company that has been successful with sales in the U.S. and exports to China of vibrating screen equipment. The purchased company will be renamed Ludowici Innovative LLC and will expand Ludowici's existing mineral processing equipment business in the USA. The selling shareholders, who are existing employees of Innovative Enterprises, will continue on with the business. Ludowici Limited is a diversified company with operations in South Africa, China, India, Chile, New Zealand and other countries.
* The West Virginia Economic Development Authority granted final approval for a loan in the amount of $78,750 to Docutex for equipment. Docutex is a document imaging company in Kearneysville. The company will be acquired by three investors and relocated to nearby Martinsburg. The company's business scope will expand from document imaging to Enterprise Content Management (ECM). ECM encompasses digital imaging, media conversion and information storage, distribution and archiving. The company will create 23 jobs over the next year.
* The West Virginia Economic Development Authority granted preliminary approval for a loan in the amount of $1,575,000 to Appalachian Forest Products. The loan proceeds will finance a sawmill located in Buckhannon, which consists of four buildings covering approximately 27,000 square feet. The operation will consist of a band mill with two debarkers, two band head rigs, two board edgers, one gang saw and a drop saw trimmer. The facility will be leased to a newly formed related company – Appalachian Hardwood Sawmills LLC. The company will create 25 jobs over the next year.
* Gov. Joe Manchin announced the location of West Virginia's proposed site for the FutureGen project. FutureGen is an initiative to build the world's first integrated sequestration and hydrogen production research power plant. The $1 billion project is intended to create the world's first zero-emissions fossil fuel plant. When operational, the prototype will be the cleanest fossil fuel fired power plant in the world. The U.S. Department of Energy will fund the project in conjunction with the FutureGen Alliance, a private-sector consortium. The state selected a 400-acre site north of Point Pleasant, which is state-owned property. The plant, which will use coal in its production process, will produce 275 megawatts of electricity, enough power for about 150,000 average U.S. homes. It also will produce hydrogen, a clean energy source because burning it results in only heat and water.
* Toyota commemorated 10 years in West Virginia with an anniversary celebration at its Putnam County plant. The celebration was led by Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota Motor Corp. executive vice president. The company has invested $1 billion in the Buffalo plant, which has expanded five times since ground was broken in 1996. Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia employs 1,050 in the state and has a $71 million annual payroll. The plant is on 230 acres with 1.5 million square-feet under one roof.
* American Electric Power announced the completion of the Wyoming-Jacksons Ferry 765 kV transmission line project. The line will carry the electricity produced in West Virginia by our workers and our coal to AEP customers throughout the East. This represents a $306 million investment in the region.
* Develop Vision, Inc., of Charlotte, N.C., announced that it is developing a new $150 million gated community project on a 720-acre tract of land bordering the Oakhurst Golf Links in Greenbrier County. The project will include a Jack Nicklaus-designed, 18-hole golf course, a 25-stall equestrian barn and center, a downhill ski slope and more than 200 housing sites.
* West Virginia's school system received the highest marks in the country in a national education technology survey, earning a grade of "A" in Education Week's "Technology Counts 2006 Report." The Education Week report tracks state progress in several critical areas of technology policy and practice – access, use and capacity. For the first time in its nine-year existence, the annual report also assigns grades to states for their performance in these three areas. In the areas of access to technology and capacity to use technology, West Virginia received "A" marks, while the state's schools received an "A-" mark for their use of technology. Nationally, states received average "C+" marks for access and use, and a "C" average in the area of capacity.
* The Greenbrier announced the most extensive and dramatic renovation at the resort since Dorothy Draper's 1940s renovation project. The project, estimated at over $50 million over the next 18 months, will encompass the Main Dining Room, Tavern Room, Old White Lounge, Main Kitchen and guest rooms in the center section of the main building. New working office space will be created with state-of-the-art VOIP technology and plasma screen TVs, putting The Greenbrier on the cutting edge of the hotel industry. Work will begin on October 15. To make the renovations as efficiently as possible, The Greenbrier will suspend all guest services on January 2, 2007, and be ready to open by April 2.
* Morgantown, West Virginia, received three designations. First, Morgantown placed fifth on Forbes magazine's 2006 Best Small Places for Business list. The magazine annually ranks best places for business and careers based on factors such as cost of doing business, job growth and educational attainment.
Second, Expansion Management Magazine placed Morgantown on its 2006 Knowledge Worker Quotient list of Five Star Metros. The study ranks 362 metropolitan statistical areas in terms of their ability to provide the depth of talent and innovative environment that knowledge-driven technology companies crave.
And finally, Morgantown placed 15th on Inc. Magazine's 2006 Hot Cities list. The study measured, in 393 metropolitan statistical areas, current-year employment growth, as well as average annual job growth over the past three years and compared job growth in the first and second halves of the period comprising the past 10 years. Inc.'s finding stated that the nation's entrepreneurial hotbeds have been migrating from the major urban centers to smaller cities on the periphery. The rise of these small communities is the most important trend emerging from this year's survey of the nation's hottest places to do business.
* The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded seven grants to West Virginia for assessment and cleanup of brownfields in the state. Two grants totaling $430,000 were awarded for cleanup in Clarksburg and Barboursville. Five grants totaling $998,046 were awarded for assessment of properties in Ranson, Point Pleasant, Monongalia County and the Region 1 Planning and Development Council, which encompasses McDowell, Wyoming, Mingo, Raleigh, Summers and Mercer counties. Ranson, in Wyoming County, is receiving a second grant to complete the assessment process.
* West Virginia's unemployment rate declined three-tenths of a percentage point to 4.2 percent in April. This is the lowest April unemployment rate on record, the fourth month in a row to post a new monthly low, and the lowest monthly rate so far this year. The total number of unemployed state residents fell 2,000 to 34,400. Total unemployment was down 5,300 over the year.