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CHARLESTON, WV-In 1991, the Southridge Centre Business Park here in the hills of West Virginia had already attracted three tenants before most roads and sewers were completed. But nine years later, there are still no office buildings in the park and it has attracted only one additional employer, a telemarketing firm. And the city had to pitch in $400,000 in 1995 to make that deal happen. Charleston is 180 miles south of Downtown Charlotte.

Today about 1,000 people work in the park at a US Postal Services mail processing facility, the National Weather Service, the regional jail and the telemarketing firm. It is estimated the park, which has lots of hills and valleys unsuitable for development, has the potential room for another 1,000 jobs.

The Business & Industrial Development Corp., a public-private partnership designed to promote the Kanawha Valley, developed and manages Southridge Centre Business Park. According to a published report citing BIDCO president Bill Goode, about $8.5 million has been invested in the park and another $1 million is needed to complete the infrastructure. Goode inherited the project when he became president in 1997.

Lots are currently available at about $150,000 per useable acre. Goode says that includes all utilities and a paved road to the property. He concedes BIDCO is more interested in the project than the sale price of the land. Goode says the company would donate the land for the right economic development project.

Looking back, Goode thinks a lot of things could have been done differently, such as closer proximity to Interstate interchanges. Southridge is about five miles from Interstates 64 and 77. That’s not far, but park traffic must go through residential and commercial areas with numerous traffic lights.

BIDCO could have considered redeveloping former sites that already have utilities and roads in place. Goode says in the published report that BIDCO would like to work with the coal companies and look at using their property after their mining operations have ceased. By planning together, properties that were no longer mined could be redeveloped into industrial or mixed-use property, he says.

Goode describes success as getting somebody in the state interested and then finding a location that suits their needs. He says Southridge is just one project they have to offer prospects. However, not all projects qualify to locate at Southridge, which is zoned for light manufacturing. Also, an employer that already operates in the area and just wants a new facility doesn’t qualify for Southridge. That’s because BIDCO is seeking new jobs, not jobs changing locations.

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