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Eastern Panhandle fails to land USDA

January 09, 1997

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Economic development officials in all three Eastern Panhandle counties tried last year to land a 100-employee, U.S. Department of Agriculture training and research center but lost out to Nebraska, according to Philip Maggio, president of the Morgan County Commissioners.

Morgan County's effort was the most unusual of the three counties.

Morgan's County's proposal promised to assign a county resident to work one-on-one with each new USDA employee to show them around the county and help them get settled. Local residents were also to help spouses of the USDA employees find work in the area, Maggio said. The proposal also promoted the quality of life in Morgan County, including its proximity to Washington, D.C.

"We took the friendly approach," Maggio said.

Maggio said he felt Morgan County had done a good job to draft a serious and unusual presentation.

The county assembled a special five-member team that included Maggio, County Administrator Bill Clark, Mary Lou Trump, president of the county's economic development commission, local resident Sally Marshall and Hagerstown contractor Paul Perini, who would have built the center to government specifications.

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Maggio said Marshall has ties with federal officials and was instrumental in putting the county's package together.

The team presented its offer to USDA officials last summer. He said he learned over the holidays that the government had picked a site in Omaha, Neb., for the center. Maggio said the government chose Omaha because of its central location in the country. The selection was delayed until after the general election, he said.

The new center will become part of the USDA's inspection division. The center's staff will include veterinarians and other specialists, Maggio said. The center will have a payroll of more than $1 million a year, he said.

Berkeley and Jefferson counties also assembled teams to lure the USDA, according to Robert Crawford and Jane Peters, who head the county economic development offices respectively in Berkeley County and Jefferson County.

Crawford said area developers Bruce Van Wyk and Kenneth Lowe were on the Berkeley County team.

The offices of U.S. Rep. Bob Wise, D-W.Va., and U.S. Sens. Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, both D-W.Va., encouraged the counties to try for the center, Maggio said.

Crawford said the USDA considered 18 sites in six states before choosing Omaha.

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