CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Advocates for the high-tech corridor along Interstate 79 in Northern West Virginia sent legislators a letter recently, asking about what they call a major difference in funding for the state's two high-tech parks.
The I-79 high-tech corridor receives about $200,000 annually, according to the Affiliate Leadership Council, which represents the corridor. The West Virginia Education, Research and Technology Park in South Charleston -- which is partly owned by the state -- receives $3 million annually, the council said. The letter was sent Aug. 14.
"The state of West Virginia is in a very precarious position," said John Dahlia, a council member and director of corporate communications for Global Science & Technology. "They essentially have this tech park in Charleston that they have no choice but to support financially."
In 2010, then-Gov. Joe Manchin announced that West Virginia, in conjunction with the its Higher Education Policy Commission, would champion revitalization efforts at the South Charleston tech park. Since the initial commitment, the state has supplemented the park's resurgence with $9 million.
During that same time, the government allocated $645,102 to the Affiliate Leadership Council.
"We understand there is a difference between the two," Dahlia said. "However, we were in a way dumbfounded that the state year after year has invested millions upon millions of dollars in this tech park in Charleston to essentially keep the lights on."
The Northern high-tech corridor -- which includes Harrison, Lewis, Marion, Monongalia, Preston and Upshur counties -- grew from the vision of late Sen. Robert C. Byrd and then-Rep. Alan Mollohan, both D-W.Va., to bring federal anchors into West Virginia to cultivate a high-tech business community, Dahlia said.
The FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services, the Department of Defense's Biometric Identity Management Agency and the National White Collar Crime Center are located in the area. NASA's Independent Verification and Validation facility and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration are in Fairmont. Morgantown is home to the National Energy Technology Laboratory and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
According to an economic-impact study compiled by Fairmont State University assistant economics professor Amy Godfrey in 2011, West Virginia's north-central technological industries provide 11,500 jobs with a $1.6 billion production-output value. Overall, West Virginia's technology industry grew by 8.2 percent between 2010 and 2011, accounting for 7.3 percent of total jobs statewide.
"That's the frustrating part," Dahlia said. "The bottom line is, we are in great support of the tech park in Charleston. It's clearly a start-up. The tech park up north is in a growth mode. All we're asking for is a little bit more support financially so we can go the next step and grow even more and do even more and benefit the whole state."
West Virginia House Majority Whip Mike Caputo, D-Marion, said he sees the importance of supporting both regional developments as much as possible.