Laura Dean Bennett
It was a picture perfect fall day Thursday when interested parties, including elected officials, business leaders, members of the Pocahontas County Chamber of Commerce and members of Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation gathered in Building 1 of the Edray Business Park.
All were there to take a close look at the facility and discuss how to promote it to companies who may be interested in buying or leasing it.
Owned by the GVEDC, the Edray Industrial Park consists of two separate office buildings opening onto a giant – and sub-dividable – warehouse space.
After battling 10 years of a struggling economy and slow economic growth in Pocahontas County, the winds of change are stirring and our business community is focusing on finding a buyer and/or tenant for this state of the art light manufacturing facility.
The program and tour were organized under the auspices of the GVEDC staff – Interim Executive Director/Property Manager Tom Cross, Financial and Marketing Director Peggy Crowder and Office Manager/ GVEDC Local Foods Initiative Coordinator Heather Hanna.
The GVEDC is a non-profit aggregation of business leaders in Pocahontas, Greenbrier and Monroe counties, dedicated to growing a robust economy.
Pocahontas County is well-represented on the GVEDC Board of Directors.
The President of the Board is Charlie Sheets, a Green Bank resident. The Treasurer, Selina King, is from Pocahontas County and is manager at Pendleton Community Bank. Other members of the board with ties to the county include Pocahontas County Commission President Bill Beard, Rita Griffith and Rita Hedrick-Helmick.
The GVEDC is supported in many economic development endeavors by the Pocahontas County Chamber of Commerce.
COC President Bill Jordan, Vice-President Ben Wilfong and other chamber members were present and showed enthusiastic support for the promotion of the Edray Industrial Park and its excellent potential to bring jobs to our area.
“The Pocahontas County Chamber of Commerce wants to facilitate more businesses moving into our county and providing more jobs here, so naturally, we are on board with promoting this facility,” Jordan said. “We’d all love to have a quality company come along, take this building and employ some local folks.”
Pocahontas Center director Judd Worth was present, as well.
“Whether this facility attracts one employer or serves as a springboard for more investment here, it is bound to provide an opportunity for economic growth,” Worth said.
Guests enjoyed a nice lunch – financed by donations from local businesses and prepared by Pocahontas IGA – as they listened to the roster of speakers extol the virtues of the Edray facility and their efforts to attract business to our community.
The program began with a welcome from and invocation by Marlinton Mayor Sam Felton, and greetings from the COC and GVDEC staffs.
Mayor Felton began his remarks with a review of the history of the Edray Industrial Park.
“I got out an old file on this project in preparation for this meeting,” Felton said. “Twenty-one years ago the Community Action Plan finished the plan for the water and sewer lines to service this facility.
“Anyone who has worked in government or on any large civic projects can tell you how frustrating it can sometimes be. There’s often so much more labor, time and effort required to see them through than you’d ever think possible. And that may be what we have here, but we are certainly going to attract the right business here and bring this facility to life.”
Felton added that he felt confident that there has been a renewal of interest in the possibilities that the property represents.
Linda Simmons, the Community Liaison for the COC welcomed attendees and made mention of two of the county’s most successful businesses – Burns Motor Freight and Mitchell Chevrolet.
“Both of these privately-owned companies made Pocahontas County their home,” Simmons said. “Burns started here sixty-five years ago with just one truck and now look – they have an entire fleet of trucks. And Mitchell Chevrolet just celebrated their fiftieth anniversary.
“We’d like to welcome other companies to do the same thing – come to Pocahontas County and become part of a close-knit, hardworking community.”
She concluded her remarks by thanking the sponsors of the event.
“If we turn over enough rocks, I know we will get a quality employer in this building,” she said.
GVEDC president Charlie Sheets expressed his hopes for the facility.
“It’s been ten years since this facility was built and here it is, still in brand-new condition.
“We are proud to have this light manufacturing facility sitting on this beautiful Edray site in Pocahontas County,” Sheets said. “As you can see, it is move-in ready.
“The buildings have insulation and heat throughout. The spaces are airy, modern and comfortable. All it needs now is an owner or a tenant.
“I’m pleased to announce that First Energy will be showcasing this facility on their website as a premier property.”
James Moseby, of the West Virginia Development Office, explained that it is the responsibility of his office to recruit industry and business to the state.
“We can provide information about assistance with employee training and tax incentives to businesses considering moving here,” he said.
“We maintain an inventory of sites like this one and will be featuring it prominently when we talk with any businesses interested in locating in West Virginia.”
Several speakers, including Delegate Bill Hartman and Senator Greg Boso, further examined the idea that being surrounded by thousands of acres of hardwood timber makes the idea of attracting a company in the business of using timber or hardwood lumber an absolute no-brainer.
Rob Ketchum, Manager of Northwest Hardwoods (formerly, Industrial Timber and Land) said that his company would welcome a new neighbor at the Edray site.
“We have three mills in West Virginia, plus our Edray site,” Ketchum said. “We are the largest hardwood lumber manufacturer in the U.S. We employ about 25 people here at our Edray site and most of our timber comes from within the sixty-to-seventy mile radius around us.
“The lumber and timber industry in the biggest industry in Pocahontas behind Snowshoe.”
Ketchum reminded the group that in addition to Northwest Hardwoods, Interstate Hardwoods and Beckwith Lumber Company are located here in Pocahontas County.
He told the audience that 37 million board feet of lumber is shipped out of West Virginia each year. It is a carefully managed, renewable resource.
“Naturally, a furniture or cabinet manufacturer would be the ideal business to move into Edray Industrial Park,” Ketchum concluded, to resounding applause.
Tom Cover with the West Virginia Division of For-estry – Timber Production Data division, further detailed the abundance of timber and gave a detailed overview of the timber industry.
“Pocahontas County has a wealth of hardwoods here, and transportation in and out of Marlinton is no problem,” Cover said.
“It’s a shame to ship this lumber out of the country to China and Viet Nam when we could be processing it right here in Pocahontas County. We need more manufacturers to locate here – we have everything they would need to build a thriving business – raw materials, a motivated workforce and trans- portation.
“We have custom cabinet makers located elsewhere in West Virginia, and we can certainly accommodate more – obviously, we have the supply.
“Our county contains two state forests – Cal Price and Seneca- just full of beautiful hardwoods. There’s plenty of timber here and even with all the mills we have here in the area, we actually lose more timber to old age than to cutting. Selective timber harvest is key to maintaining forest health and the regrowth of our forests.”
After the luncheon and the program, the group toured the entire site, indoors and out, as earnest conversations continued.
“Frontier is proud to have made 21st century technology available to this site,” GVEDC member Griffith said.
“Prospective clients and owners will like what they see – the modern office space, three-phase power, truck bays and then there’s this immense warehouse which can be subdivided for one use or various uses.”
It would be a natural fit to have a furniture manufacturer locate here, but other ideas were also discussed.
Why not try to interest UPS in the Edray Industrial Park as a regional distribution center?
And other ideas were suggested – a large high tunnel operation in connection with a year-round county farmers market, an indoor recreation facility (think roller rink) or a local brewery – all of which would make excellent additions to our local tourism-based economy.
When asked about the purchase price, Cross, said it would be negotiable.
“We are open to negotiation and will entertain any serious offers,” Cross said. “My mission is to get Edray Industrial Park out of our inventory and into the ranks of occupied West Virginia facilities.”
Built 10 years ago, but in like new condition, the 30,000 square foot facility sits on 104 acres and has it all: two loading bay doors, radiant heat throughout, 25,000 sq. ft. of industrial warehouse space, 5,000 sq. ft. of new office space, sprinkler system throughout, building can be expanded an additional 100,000 sq. ft., surrounded by asphalt parking lot, 59 parking spaces- 24 asphalt/26 graveled, 40 additional acres are available.
It sits in close proximity to Burns Motor Freight in Marlinton.
All utilities are available and suitable for a manufacturing facility.
Telephone and reliable broadband service is accessible through Frontier Communications.
The Edray Industrial Park is located in the scenic, rural community of Edray in Pocahontas County, near the historic town of Marlinton, just 45 miles from I-64 at Interchange 169 and 43 miles to the Greenbrier Valley Airport.
For more information, contact GVEDC Marketing Director Peggy Crowder at 304-497-4300 or email: email@example.com
“I would also like to invite everyone to visit our website: www.gvedc.com,” Crowder said. “We are working toward a bright future by bringing jobs and economic growth to our community.”
Sponsors of the event included Mitchell Chevrolet, City National Bank, Burns Motor Freight, Inc., L. Jay Kniceley Insurance, Judy’s Fencecraft, Snowshoe Mountain, Genesis Health Care, Glades Building Supply, The Outhouse, First Citizens Bank and Jacob S. Meck Construction.