W.Va. group aims for foreign investment

January 22, 1997


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Three Eastern Panhandle development agencies announced Wednesday the groups will come together to study ways of increasing international trade and foreign investment in the region.

The West Virginia International Trade Development Council plans to help existing companies in the three -county area explore ways of exporting their goods abroad, said Bob Crawford, executive director of the Berkeley County Development Authority.

Crawford said he hopes the newly developed council - consisting of the development authorities from Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties - will be able to work with other agencies like the U.S. Department of Commerce to help local businesses identify profitable overseas markets.


The council could also help companies determine which products would be successful for export, Crawford said.

Foreign investments in the Panhandle and increased trade for local businesses has been a growing area of interest. The Sino-Swearingen Aircraft Corp., Taiwan's first direct investment in West Virginia, is expected to create up to 800 jobs in the Panhandle when the plant is built at the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport.

Meanwhile, several local businessmen have been exploring ways of bringing additional foreign investment to the area.

John Unger, who headed a steering committee to develop the new trade council, joined with Berkeley County developer Bruce Van Wyk last summer to begin studying ways of increasing foreign investment here.

Unger said he believes the low cost of living in the Panhandle and the area's proximity to major metropolitan areas like Baltimore and Washington, D.C., make the area attractive to foreign companies wanting to expand.

In return, West Virginia can export products like glassware, lumber and environmental technologies, Unger said.

The three development authorities, whose main mission is to attract new business to their respective counties, have typically competed with each other to win new projects, said Crawford. Although the three agencies may "fight like cats and dogs" when a new foreign company is trying to decide which of the three local counties to locate to, the three groups plan to work together to promote the Panhandle as a whole, Crawford said.

"I can say we have a lot of cooperation and I suspect there will be a lot of interesting things happening in our community," said Unger, who announced the new trade council with Crawford at the Holiday Inn in Martinsburg.

The Herald-Mail Articles