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Businesses finally finding Panhandle

October 25, 1997

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Morgan County Commissioner President Phil Maggio felt the frustration for years of attempting to bring businesses to Morgan County, losing out to larger, surrounding counties.

As much effort can go in to an unsuccessful attempt to attract a business as a successful attempt, he said.

Work was being done with nothing to show for it, he said.

But now after 10 years of sitting empty, two companies, including one from Japan, have announced they will construct plants at the Morgan County Industrial Park South.

Other companies are looking at the county's industrial park, he said.

Morgan County and the rest of the Eastern Panhandle are on the move economically, local officials said.

"I don't think there's a big secret to it. In the past five to eight years, West Virginia has gotten its act together," said Jane Peters, executive director of the Jefferson County Development Authority.

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"It's not just the Eastern Panhandle. It's the whole state," she said.

Among the highly touted economic announcements:

* Lippert Components, a Michigan manufacturer, is bringing 35 jobs and Ten Inc., a Japanese high-tech company, is bringing 25 jobs to Morgan County.

* TLM Aerospace, a Taiwan aircraft manufacturer, is investing $30 million for a plant that could employ 400 people in Martinsburg.

* The National Conservation Training Center opened, a $135 million facility for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service outside of Shepherdstown. About 100 people will work at the facility, which will bring in hundreds of others for training.

* The $19 million Eastern Management Development Center in Shepherdstown will employ about 150 people.

Washington County Economic Development Coordinator Sharon Disque said there's no jealousy in the amount of businesses that have been locating in the Eastern Panhandle.

She said Washington County has had its share of success stories this year in bringing businesses to the county. They've just not gotten as much attention.

"In Maryland the governor's not going to come out for smaller projects," Disque said. "In West Virginia he will."

Officials across West Virginia said they believe the involvement by Gov. Cecil Underwood and federal officials is one of the reasons they've had success in bringing in the businesses.

"I'm not saying the governor of Maryland and others aren't doing their jobs, but when you have our governor saying `We want to help you here' that's a big help," Maggio said.

Underwood, a Republican, and U.S. Rep. Bob Wise, D-W.Va., U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., have taken highly active roles in bringing in businesses, local officials said.

Rockefeller escorted a group of about 30 Taiwan businessmen for a two-day tour of the state as part of the TLM Aerospace ribbon cutting ceremony.

"They have the full-court press on and are doing their jobs," Maggio said.

Ed Vasicek, vice president for industrial relations with Lippert Components, said he looked at sites throughout the area before deciding on Morgan County.

"The way we were received by the people in Morgan County made the difference. They were aggressive in their approach and the county commissioners were very helpful," Vasicek said.

"It is nice to be a neighbor to Maryland and Virginia. They've been a good example of economic development," Maggio said.

Maggio said that despite facing stiff competition from the two states, he looks to lure more businesses to Morgan County.

"We are going to give them a run for their money," he said.

There also is competition between the three Eastern Panhandle companies, but the economic development authorities also help each other out, too, Peters said.

Jefferson County Commissioner President James Knode said that when a business locates in Berkeley County, it is also good for Jefferson County because local workers can commute to it.

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