Technology Center at Concord Can Spur Economic Development: Endorsed by Area Business Leaders
Athens, W.Va. - Concord College is seeking $7.5 million dollars to develop a state-of-the-art technology center that will benefit students who attend the College and will enhance economic development in southern West Virginia. The concept has received endorsements from area business leaders.
The "Southern West Virginia Technology Center" project has received unanimous support from the Mercer County Economic Development Authority, Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce, Princeton-Mercer County Chamber of Commerce, Concord College Foundation, Concord College Board of Governors, and the Concord College Alumni Association.
Students will benefit from "technology enhanced classrooms," a virtual reality laboratory, darkroom, "midi" lab (to process digital sound), TV/radio studios, graphic design labs, computer center, tiered, multi-media classrooms, computer center, and a "help desk." Some faculty offices may be located in the renovated structure and some administrative functions will be housed in the facility.
The center will provide technology support for workforce development projects in southern West Virginia by transferring high-tech processes used at Concord to local businesses. The Center hopes to enhance the competitiveness, productivity and profitability of firms located in southern West Virginia by offering "e-commerce" through a business incubator.
The incubator will enable individuals to start a business, receive technical support and then "spin off" into the economy. Based on experience in other incubators, successful businesses will create jobs and contribute over $11 million in salaries and other economic activity in the region after three years of operation.
The construction project is estimated to support 100 direct jobs, 200 related jobs and will generate $40 million in local economic activity.
Construction of the Center will take two years, from start to finish, and Concord is actively developing the funding for the project.
"Higher education has been mandated to contribute to the economic development of the geographic region we serve," stated Concord College President Jerry Beasley. "We have been implementing technology in many areas of the campus, from ‘classrooms of the future,’ to the use of computers in managing the heating and cooling of our facilities. We will do everything in our power to stay on the cutting edge of the technology curve.
"After careful study and analyses, consultants and architects have recommended that an existing building on campus, White Hall, be renovated and substantially expanded to house the proposed technology center," stated Beasley.
"The variety of needs and productive potential for the use of electronic technologies support the conclusion that Concord College and southern West Virginia will benefit greatly from a vital technology center located on the Athens campus.
"Some of the infrastructure necessary for technology-based businesses has already been developed on the Athens campus," he continued. "Purchased with a grant procured by Senator Byrd, a high speed DS3 line already connects the College to the worldwide web.
"Perhaps more importantly, the College is producing graduates who have earned admission to the most competitive graduate schools in the world to continue their studies of computer-related fields, the very types of individuals who have achieved success in e-commerce. Two of those graduates, one now with Bain Consulting and the other a Ph.D. student at the University of California – Berkeley, are leading a team of researchers now completing a study of the feasibility of locating specific businesses in an incubator located in the Center. In addition, Gene Fife—a former managing partner and director of Goldman-Sachs’ international business arm, now owner of Vawter Capital, and a member of the College’s Board of Governors—is providing advice on the project."
Beasley stated: "Congressman Rahall has provided $1.9 million through the HUD economic development grants for the project. Our state legislative delegation has requested $750,000 in the FY 2003 state budget for the project, and the Higher Education Policy Commission has ranked it as a high priority project. The College intends to ask the Economic Development Commission, appointed by the Governor and charged with allocating proceeds from a bond sale of $200 million, to dedicate $5 million to this project. We believe that this project will help achieve the economic development and capital improvement goals of the West Virginia Economic Development Grant Committee."
President Jerry Beasley: "We are actively seeking the support of those who want to see a vital and robust economy in southern West Virginia. Technology, and an environment that encourages the entrepreneurial spirit, are keys to improving our economic picture."