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Despite national economy, local industries making gains

April 25, 2013
By Brad Johnson - Managing Editor (bjohnson@theintermountain.com) , The Inter-Mountain

Despite the nation's limping economy, industry in Randolph and surrounding counties is showing signs of not just bouncing back but also making new gains.

One of the biggest local industrial success stories of the last year was Armstrong World Industries, one of Randolph County's largest employers. First, the company hired back workers last April who had been laid off in November 2011. Then, in December, Armstrong announced it was adding 145 new jobs to its Beverly plant, which already employed 575 people.

"We're seeing new home construction improve a bit, and we believe it'll continue to improve," said Jennifer Johnson, the company's senior manager of corporate communications and public affairs. "Since our wood flooring business is tied to new home construction, we're adding back shifts in Beverly to anticipate our customers' needs."

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- Last year Eastern Hardwoods Inc. also added workers at its sawmill and lumberyard in Dailey, which opened in November 2011. Eastern Hardwoods bought Coastal Lumber's assets after that company went out of business in August 2011.

Eastern Hardwoods opened a sawmill in Hacker Valley in Webster County last April, with an initial hiring of 28 people, Plant Manager Don Megert said. The Hacker Valley sawmill also previously was owned by Coastal Lumber.

- Outside the lumber industry, TRG Customer Solutions has continued to add employees to its call center in Elkins, since the facility opened in August 2010.

In January 2012, TRG announced it would add 150 jobs in Elkins, then followed up by announcing another 100 new jobs while being honored as the Employer of the Year during the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce's annual awards banquet in March 2012.

Michael Lewis of TRG, while accepting the Employer of the Year award, said the new jobs at the Elkins center were created "due exclusively to the performance of our employees from the region."

Last August, TRG also announced the creation of 130 new jobs at its West Virginia call centers, including the Elkins center and ones in Beckley and Charleston.

TRG is headquartered in Washington, D.C. The company serves more than 175 global clients from 17 operations centers in seven countries.

- Also in Elkins, Appalachian Animal Hospital started construction on a new 6,000-square-foot facility, located near the Elkins Railyard.

The new facility will include state-of-the-art technologies. Boarding and grooming will be available at the new hospital, which also will feature board rooms and wards for hospitalized animals.

The land for the new location was purchased from the Randolph County Development Authority. Construction is scheduled to be finished by December.

- Construction continues on Davis Health System's $13 million Outpatient Care Center in Elkins, which will serve as the anchor to Davis Memorial Hospital's physician and outpatient care services.

Officials said DMH currently has approximately 130,000 outpatient encounters per year, not including physician offices. The addition of the new structure is projected to add 40,000 to 50,000 more visits per year.

The center is scheduled to open in early 2014. It is a three-story, 73,000-square-foot structure that will accommodate up to 20 physicians, exam rooms, minor procedure rooms, endoscopy center and a registration area.

- Small entrepreneurs in Randolph, Tucker and Barbour counties having difficulty obtaining financing to open a new business, or stay in business, now have another avenue to seek low-interest loans.

"The goal of Woodlands Community Lenders is to provide financial products and services to people and communities underserved by traditional financial institutions," Woodland Community Lenders Business Director Marti Neustadt said last year. "The goal of Woodlands Community Lenders is to provide financial products and services to people and communities underserved by traditional financial institutions."

Neustadt said the board of directors has four types of businesses it hopes to help with the loans.

"We hope to target organizations and communities with tourism, health care, senior services and downtown revitalization," Neustadt said.

The first loan made by Woodland Community Lenders went to Tip Top Coffee Bar in Thomas.

"This loan provided the business with kitchen equipment, created three new full-time jobs and filled a vacant storefront," Neustadt said. "Three other businesses we helped are the Historic Beverly Preservation Goff House, Tangled Up in Thomas and the Custard Stand in Elkins."

Woodlands Community Lenders is located at 1404 N. Randolph Ave. in Elkins. Inquiries should be directed to 304-636-6495, ext. 29, or by sending an email to mneustadt@wdgwv.org.

- WorkForce West Virginia now offers a wide array of services for employees and employers.

"In Elkins, the WorkForce West Virginia Center is available even on Saturdays to better serve folks who work," Russell L. Fry, acting executive director of WorkForce West Virginia, said about the center last year.

The Elkins office provides one-on-one assistance and has the largest database of jobs in the state. Those looking for employment opportunities can search online on WorkForce's computers during regular business hours Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

WorkForce West Virginia also helps employees prepare for a new or upgraded position through training. Staff members are available to assist in preparing resumes and cover letters. They also give tips to help with interviewing skills.

Services provided through WorkForce West Virginia Centers include case management, vocational guidance assistance, assessment, job development contracts, referrals to job openings, resume preparation assistance, labor market information, job-finding workshops, veteran tax credit eligibility determination, civil services information and referral to partners and other agencies.

Additional information is available by visiting WorkForce WV at 1023 N. Randolph Ave., or by calling 304-637-0255.

- A study unveiled last June stated nonprofit arts and culture make up a $6.2 million industry in the Elkins area - one that supports 146 full-time equivalent jobs and generates $768,000 in local and state government revenue.

The local results of the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV study was created using detailed financial and event attendance information provided by six nonprofit arts and culture organizations in Elkins: the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College; the Mountain State Forest Festival; the Old Brick Playhouse Co.; the Randolph County Community Arts Council/Center; the Riverside School Association; and Youth Empowered Solutions.

The study results show $1.6 million is spent by nonprofit arts and culture organizations in Elkins, with an additional event-related $4.6 million spent by their audiences.

Those organizations generate $3.3 million in household income to local residents, according to the study.

"This data shows there is a direct correlation between the arts community and the business community," Randolph County Development Authority Executive Director Robbie Morris said of the study. "And our duty now is to try to mesh this."

A steering committee was formed last June to work toward using the study to advance local economic development.

- Randolph County continues to gain footing as a travel and tourism destination, the Randolph County Convention and Visitors Bureau's executive director said this year.

"In 2012 Randolph County did exceptionally well," Brenda Pritt said. "We're pretty excited that the year ended so well."

Pritt reported that individual travel and group travel both were up in Randolph County, as was the number of visitors to the CVB's website and to its Facebook account.

Pritt credited the two theaters in the county, the American Mountain Theater and the Gandy Dancer Theatre, as well as the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad for attracting large amounts of visitors to Randolph County.

"Ten years ago we weren't a destination, and now we are," Pritt said.

 
 

 

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