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Capito makes working stop at telecenter

January 09, 2002

Capito makes working stop at telecenter



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


RANSON, W.Va. - U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito paid a visit to the BizTech center in Ranson Tuesday to call attention to the success of the telecenter.

The center, which opened in 1997, gives local federal and private sector workers a place to complete their jobs at computer stations instead of commuting to nearby cities.

Capito, R-W.Va., said it is time for the marketplace to "embrace the practice of telecommuting."

Eastern Panhandle residents have asked for more flexible work environments to reduce long commutes that can be stressful and take away valuable family time, Capito said.

"It really wears you down. I commute and it wears me down," Capito said.

Despite local support for the center at 401 S. Fairfax Blvd., it was threatened with closure last year.

Saying it was not being used enough, the federal government wanted to shut down the center. Last June, Capito secured a $130,000 grant that allowed it to stay open.

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Local state lawmakers also rounded up funds to keep the center open.

The center may need some "bridge funding" this year to keep it operating, Capito said.

A cubicle at the center can be rented to a private business for $500 a month. The space includes a computer, printer, office furniture, telephone and use of a fax machine, copier, scanner, shredder and Internet access, said Christina Lundberg, the director of the Shepherd College Small Business Development Center.

Usage of the center has gradually increased since it was opened. In 1999, 14 people worked at the center; today 25 people work there, director Nieltje Gedney said.

The uses of the center are varied.

Federal employees from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Customs and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service have used the center.

On the private side, a fence company that grew from a home-based company is using BizTech as its office.

A local security company also rents a cubicle so its six sales people can have a place to prepare bids and contracts, make phone calls and have meetings in a conference room, said Lundberg, who offers assistance to the center.

BizTech officials are hoping private use of the center will grow to the point where it will not have to rely on federal funding.

Gedney could not provide figures Tuesday regarding the center's current financial status.

The BizTech center is one of 17 such facilities that has opened, including one in Hagerstown.

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