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W.Va. firm moves jobs from Panhandle

March 01, 2000

David LevineBy DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town




SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - A Shepherdstown firm that operates a Web site for buying and selling mortgage loans has moved some employees to a high-tech corridor in Dulles, Va., because it is having trouble finding qualified workers, a company spokesman said Wednesday.

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While Ultraprise Corp. pledges to maintain a presence in its home town, it has already moved some of its higher paying jobs in product design, legal and customer service to a technology park in Dulles, Va., spokesman Steve Campbell said.

Ultraprise took the step in part because the company is having difficulty finding qualified workers in the Eastern Panhandle, Campbell said.

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Dulles has a thriving high-tech corridor that is home to such successful computer companies as America Online, Campbell said.

The company has no intention of leaving Shepherdstown altogether, Campbell said.

"It's not so much that were losing people in Shepherdstown as much as we're building more out there," Campbell said.

At the beginning of the year, about 80 employees worked for Ultraprise in Shepherdstown. Today, between 50 and 60 work there, Campbell said.

About 25 work in the Dulles office, Campbell said. The company has another 20 workers in a Frederick, Md., office.

Economic development experts and employers in Berkeley County have complained about a lack of skilled workers, and the situation is no different in Jefferson County, said Jane Peters, executive director of the Jefferson County Development Authority.

Peters said the situation underscores the need for expanded worker training and higher education in the Panhandle.

"We would really like to attract more companies like Ultraprise. I ... hate to see them do this, but they have to do what's best for the company," Peters said.

Shepherdstown Mayor Vince Parmesano said Shepherd College is turning out workers who could find jobs at companies like Ultraprise. The problem is that Ultraprise is growing faster than the rate Shepherd is turning out qualified workers, Parmesano said.

"I sympathize with them," Parmesano said.

Through its Web site, www.ultraprise.com, banks and investors buy and sell mortgage loans through what is known as the Secondary Market Mortgage Exchange.

Before the site was developed, the process of buying and selling loans was inefficient because banks and investors spent a lot of time on the phone trying to complete deals, according to Ultraprise executives.

Since the company was started last February, there have been at least $1.5 billion worth of loan transactions through the site, said David Levine, chairman and chief executive officer of the firm.

Ultraprise grew rapidly, filling the former Keith Knost interiors building at 123 E. German St. with workers, then expanding across the street to the former Reunion tavern.

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