Spotlight: West Virginia
ALTERNATIVE ENERGY SOURCES MAY BREATHE LIFE BACK INTO THE MOUNTAIN STATE’S
Biomass researchers were on the other side of the EPA and received a three-year deferral on green-
ECONOMY. LONG KNOWN FOR ITS COAL PRODUCTION, WEST VIRGINIA IS NOW EXPLORING
OTHER ENERGY OPTIONS — FROM NATURAL GAS DEPOSITS IN THE MARCELLUS SHALE TO
RENEWABLE BIOMASS ENERGY.
The state’s coal industry was dealt a serious blow this past January when the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) revoked Arch Coal’s permit for a mountaintop-removal coal-mining project in Logan County.
While the company is appealing the decision, other energy projects in the state are moving for ward.
house-gas permitting requirements from the burning of biomass materials this past February. Re-
searchers from Marshall University and West Virginia University are looking into the use of biomass,
which comprises materials from plants or animals, as a renewable-energy source. Of particular interest
to researchers is the potential for the growth of biomass fuels on current and abandoned surface mines
— land that is typically unsuitable for other uses.
In addition, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin created a Marcellus to Manufacturing Task Force this past Feb-
ruary to encourage development around the Marcellus Shale deposits. One of the task force’s primary
aims is to attract businesses that work with natural-gas processing as well as its byproducts.
Charleston Office Market
Asking rents for office space in the capital city were hovering around $14.88 per square foot this past
November, according to data from LoopNet. That’s greater than the state average of $14 and a 2.1 per-
cent increase from August — but a 0.8 percent decline year over year.
The Class A office-tower market in Charleston, however, is averaging $20.37 per square foot, according
to a December 2010 survey by Howard Swint of West Virginia Commercial LLC. The survey also reports
an overall vacancy rate of 17 percent for Class A towers.
The city lost a major tenant when Chesapeake Energy pulled out of the area, leaving City Center West
with a 64.7 percent vacancy rate.
“When Chesapeake exited the market, they put a giant hole in what was, in effect, a full occupancy rate
for Class A office space,” Swint says. “Prior to that, we had spillover in demand from Class A space to
Class B space.”
The building was purchased by the West Virginia Lottery Commission this past June, however, and state
agencies will begin occupying space as existing leases expire. This move could put downward pressure
on Class B space as state agencies vacate their current locations, according to Swint.
Industry Focus: Lodging
The Mountain State’s hospitality sector is outpacing national numbers. In the first half of 2010, U.S.
hotel occupancy increased 4. 4 percent; West Virginia’s occupancy rate increased 5. 4 percent in that
period. Revenue per available room also increased 6. 5 percent in the state, compared to 2.3 percent
nationally, according to Smith Travel Research.
Room demand showed improvement, as well, increasing 9. 9 percent through the first 10 months of
2010, according to the West Virginia Division of Tourism.
For the first time since 2007, West
Virginia’s unemployment rate was
greater than the national average at
the end of this past year. The state’s
unemployment rate was 9. 6 percent
this past December, compared to
the national rate of 9. 4 percent. The
state’s unemployment increased from
9. 3 percent in October and November
and represents its highest unemploy-
ment rate in the past decade.
Source: U.S. Department of Labor
West Virginia has added 8,100 jobs
since December 2009, however. According to the West Virginia Department of Commerce, the service-
providing sector provided the bulk of the new jobs, with 7,500. Leisure and hospitality added 3,300
jobs, and mining and logging added 2,500.
Jennifer E. Garrett is an associate editor at Scotsman Guide. Reach her at (800) 297-6061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
3 Regions to Watch
This past October, the second phase of construction
began on the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout
Reserve. The 10,600-acre site will be the permanent
home for the Boy Scouts of America’s National Scout
Jamboree and will also house a high-adventure camp,
leadership center and summer camps. The Summit’s
first Jamboree is planned for July 2013.
MARSHALL COUNT Y
Dominion Resources Inc. plans to build a multimillion-
dollar natural-gas processing plant on 56 acres at the
Natrium site in Marshall County. Construction is ex-
pected to begin this summer, and the first phase will
be completed in 2012. The facility could create 45 to
50 permanent jobs.
Construction began this spring on a 1.3 million-
square-foot fulfillment center for Macy’s Inc. The cen-
ter is expected to create 1,200 full- and part-time jobs
for the area, as well as 700 seasonal positions. Built to
support the company’s growing online business, the
center is scheduled to begin operating in April 2012.
WHAT THE LOCALS SAY
“West Virginia used to lead the nation in unemploy-
ment and economic decline. Those days are over
because of one thing: diversification away from
natural resources. It was a concentration on natural
resources that made us subject to a boom-and-bust
economy based on the demand, or lack thereof, for
those resources. Now we’ve grown past that point.”
— HOWARD S WINT, ASSOCIATE BROKER,
WES T VIRGINIA COMMERCIAL LLC
Sources: Charleston Daily Mail, The (Huntington) Herald-Dispatch,
LoopNet, The New York Times, Parkersburg News and Sentinel,
Smith Travel Research, West Virginia Commercial LLC, West Virginia
Department of Commerce, West Virginia Division of Tourism, U. S. Census
Bureau, U. S. Department of Labor