“We Are Not Standing Still,” Concord Honors Congressman for Supporting Technology
Athens, W.Va. – The weather was clear as Concord President Jerry Beasley welcomed more than 250 guests to the groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Nick Joe Rahall, II Technology Center. The ceremony was held in the “Valley” in front of the current John Baker White Hall, which is in the process of being demolished to make way for the new facility.
“Today we are celebrating not only a modest shift in mission for Concord, but also a new facility that will help accommodate that new mission, and will signal for all, in a tangible way, the determination of all West Virginians to build a better future for our state,” stated President Beasley.
“It is fitting on a day like today, to turn momentarily to the past: John Baker Hall was dedicated as a dormitory in 1939--a place where young men with dreams could stay while they earned an education. The decision to build White Hall came at a time when this state and our country still languished in the throws of the Great Depression.
“The focus of our appreciation today is on those who made this new beginning possible: Senator Robert Byrd, a scholar who understands the power of the new information and communication technologies. Were he here, we would thank Governor Wise and the members of his administration, for they believe that crumbling college buildings across the state should be replaced and renovated. Moreover, they believe that an investment in this particular facility could prime the pump of economic development and renew Mercer County and southern West Virginia. We especially thank members of the West Virginia legislature for authorizing a major sale of bonds for economic development and for the renewal of college facilities.”
President Beasley also thanked the “Technology Planning Committee,” headed by Dr. Stephen Rowe, which spent more than four years working on plans for the new facility.
“This Center will house programs that are vital and essential to the future of Concord University: entrepreneurial studies, graphic arts and business to name a few,” continued Dr. Beasley.
“The other immediate benefit to this region is that over the next 18 months there will be over 100 full- and part-time jobs provided for construction here. So it is good to have you here to celebrate this new beginning for Concord and for southern West Virginia.”
Concord alumnus and Executive Director of the Jobs Foundation, Mr. William H. Baker, who served as superintendent for both Mercer County and Raleigh County school systems, was the former chair for Concord’s Board of Advisors, and was a member of the Economic Development Grant Committee that provided $2 million for this project, spoke next.
Mr. Baker: “The Economic Development Grant Committee reviewed 196 grants. Concord was the right project, in the right location and met all the criteria that we were looking for. The leveraging was there, the job creation was there, so it was a project that was easy to support and push for.
“Congressman Rahall is to be commended not only for this project, but for everything that he has done for bringing technology to southern West Virginia. I-64 is a technology corridor from Beckley to Lewisburg because of Congressman Rahall. He has funded projects on both ends of this corridor, as well as other technology projects like this Center.”
Mr. R.W. “Buz” Wilkinson, president of First Century Bank and the Hugh I. Shott, Jr. Foundation, Inc., spoke next.
“Our goal is to improve the social and economic quality of life in our trade area,” stated Mr. Wilkinson. “This includes Mercer and surrounding counties. If we want to improve the quality of life of our people, we have to improve the per capita income. We are the lowest in any part of the state. If we want to raise and improve West Virginia, we have to improve southern West Virginia.
“So how do we overcome and evolve into a new economy? We do that through our schools. This new facility, this economic development facility, will create an opportunity to attract young people . . . and create an incubator and jobs and teach those young people how to be entrepreneurs and do it here at home, then our kids can get educated and stay here. That’s why I am so strongly in favor of this. I commend Concord University and I commend Jerry Beasley and Congressman Rahall for making this college a place where people can grow and mature and create opportunities so that they can live, work and love West Virginia.”
Concord alumna and chair of the Concord University Board of Governors, Margaret J. Sayre, spoke next.
“It’s been my privilege to serve as chair of the Concord University Board of Governors during a very interesting and progressive period. The groundbreaking today is a culmination of one of the more interesting projects, and I am particularly happy that the honoree is Congressman Rahall.
“Today marks the beginning of a new enterprise on this campus that underscores the fact that higher education is an important part of economic development.
“We are deeply grateful to Representative Rahall, Governor Wise, the Economic Development Committee, and all others who helped bring this dream to fruition. An ancient Chinese proverb says, ‘Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.’ On this occasion of breaking ground for our new Technology Center, we at Concord are not standing still, but looking forward to the future and moving confidently.”
Congressman Rahall, Ms. Sayre and President Beasley unveiled a large sign with a picture of the new facility. Next, the delegation broke ground.
“Congressman Rahall and his staff have been working on this project for more than four years,” stated President Beasley in his introduction of the representative. “He has arranged for more than $1 million in each of the last three congressional budgets. His faith in us, and what this facility might do for the improvement of southern West Virginia, prompted others to follow suit.”
Congressman Rahall first asked guests to remember the brave American men and women who are defending our great country. Then, he talked about the “boom and bust” days when West Virginia’s economy was based on coal and prosperous. “The tide has definitely turned, and it is rising in southern West Virginia on a wave of technology that is branching out through our hills and our hollows,” he stated. “President Kennedy once said, ‘A rising tide lifts all boats.’ Well the tide of industry, innovation and invention is certainly rising in southern West Virginia. We are witnessing the effects of that growth today. We are unearthing a new source of power for West Virginians. We all know how important technology is to building and maintaining a strong economy, and it is becoming increasingly important here in southern West Virginia. That’s why we must jump on board today, so that we as individuals, as local communities, can ‘rise with the tide.’
“We must work together to ensure that there exists a vibrant telecom system in West Virginia that is second to none, so that our small businesses can compete, our students can learn, and our citizens can participate in our changing global society.
“I would like nothing more than to see southern West Virginia, my home, play a vital role in the economy of the 21st century, as industry and agriculture once helped us do in the past.”
PHOTO #1: A picture of the new Rahall Technology Center is unveiled by Concord President Jerry Beasley, Planning Committee Chair Stephen Rowe, Board Chair Margaret Sayre and Congressman Rahall.
PHOTO #2: Concord President Jerry Beasley, Board Chair Margaret Sayre, and Congressman Rahall share in breaking ground for the new Rahall Technology Center.