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Tech park evolves into booming campus community

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia Regional Technology Park may not look like your typical college community, but it's quickly becoming a thriving campus, said Phil Halstead, the park's executive director.

Since the park was established by the Dow Chemical Co. two years ago, the addition of the Kanawha Valley Community & Technical College and Bridgemont Community & Technical College has attracted more than 2,000 students and faculty who now roam the campus everyday. 

"Life changed in the Tech Park the day those students started showing up to class. This is the colleges' home now," Halstead said

The college experience will continue to grow with up and coming projects to provide "state of the art" facilities for students. An $11.6 million, 50,000-square-foot technology center is under construction and slated to open in October, according to Halstead.

Employment in the tech park increased by more than 13 percent since last year, adding more than 80 full time positions.

In addition, West Virginia State University has begun conducting agricultural research in one of the park's buildings.

 Halstead hopes that the tech park will work as a revolving door that attracts students, trains them, and then retains them in the area as professionals and residents.

"There's no question that there's a bigger picture here. We're in the chemical valley, and we will be producing technically trained specialists who will work in the chemical industry. Students will come here, live here, work here, play here. That's the emerging dynamic of having a park like this," he said. "We think these students will want to stay in the area. In fact, we're already looking at the long-term impact the park will have in terms of housing."

Currently, residential areas cannot be built inside the Tech Park as part of the agreement with Dow. However, with the Park's master plan underway, ways to accommodate the growing community is a top priority, Halstead said. The master plan includes plans to build more additions, refurbish old buildings and create recreational facilities such as bike paths and walkways.

 "We're master planning right now and looking at the aspects we need for this park to grow and serve the existing and future tenants," he said. "The park is coming into a very exciting phase."

Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.


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