MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — Are Morgantown’s economic prospects headed in the right direction?
“I’m absolutely positive of it,” said Russ Rogerson, president and CEO of the Morgantown Area Partnership.
He pointed to multiple areas of growth across the area such as WestRidge, a business and retail development, the Morgantown Industrial Park (MIP), Mylan Park with recreational activity growth, and the Chaplin Hill Business Park.
“I’d say the whole west side of [Interstate] 79 is a big strength and growth area for us,” Rogerson said. “In fact, I think, in general, that area will continue to grow both with housing as well as with business opportunities.”
In the MIP, Mountaintop Beverage is building a 330,000 square foot manufacturing facility on the park’s west side. The park is also going to be the home of Monongalia County’s next 911 center and garage.
Glenn Adrian, co-owner of Enrout Properties, which owns the MIP, said they’ve been preparing for those and other new developments by bringing roads, gas, electric, water, sewer and fiber to the park with a TIF bond for almost $22 million.
An 11-acre site will sit next to the Mountaintop Beverage plant. Adrian said another 7- or 8-acre lot will be developed beside the 911 center, and there are plans to develop a 30 acre lot in the future.
A much-needed project to help the MIP development is the construction of the Harmony Grove Interchange, which will connect the park directly to I-79 and relieve Westover from heavy truck traffic. Adrian said truck traffic will immediately double when the Mountaintop Beverage Plant becomes active.
Gov. Jim Justice, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, Sen. Joe Manchin and just about every local elected official have publicly supported the project.
Rogerson said he’s also bullish on downtown Morgantown and the surrounding parts of town, citing Wharf District, Sunnyside Up project and the Richwood development project which is right on the edge of downtown and will hopefully launch in about six months.
The Richwood project is a 9.5- to 10-acre redevelopment project and will be a mix of housing, with some commercial and “small retail,” Rogerson said.
“We’re pretty excited about what the future will bring,” Rogerson said.
Downtown proper has seen multiple new businesses over the past year, Rogerson said.
There is also the airport runway extension, and the Interstate 68 commerce park, which should start development with phase three of the runway project. Rogerson said they could be talking about available sites in about a year.
“These are all uniquely different opportunities, which I think is also a strength, right? Because we’re able to attract multiple types of companies with multiple different needs,” Rogerson said. “And I think that’s a huge to have that kind of diversity.”
Communities should never stop evolving, and the best time to evolve is when an economy is strong, Rogerson said. The area needs to continue to grow and adapt so Morgantown is always a significant community for people to live, work and play.
Even in the wake of the former Mylan plant’s closure at the end of July 2021 which cost the area about 1,400 jobs, the economy is strong, he said.
Rogerson said he’s really excited about what WVU Medicine and WVU Innovation Corporation are doing with the former plant, located on Chestnut Ridge Road — converting it into a multi-tenant building to help bridge the void of jobs lost.
The first company to go into the building is Hope Gas, which announced 100 jobs — including accounting, IT, other administrative type positions and a call center — will be housed there.
A 50,000 square foot former Mylan facility on Collins Ferry Road will host research and development for the company Omnis, which is also building a 150,00 square foot plant in Bluefield.
Of course with growth comes challenges, but Rogerson said the type faced by the Morgantown area are the kinds of problems that a community wants to have — namely the construction of enough infrastructure to keep pace.
“As opposed to having a ton of infrastructure and having nobody to take advantage of it, I’d much rather have the need to build infrastructure to meet the demand, as long as we’re doing it in a timely manner,” Rogerson said.