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MATRIC center in South Charleston helps businesses on the move

Chris Dorst
Matric CEO Steve Hedrick , talks about providing cutting edge jobs to keep young people in the area.
Chris Dorst Eric King, a chemist at MATRIC, takes a break from working in his lab.
Chris Dorst The MATRIC building is located at the West Virginia Regional Technology Park in South Charleston.

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Located within South Charleston's 258-acre regional technologic park, the Mid-Atlantic Technology Research Innovation Center focuses on rekindling the Kanawha Valley's innovation leadership that was once driven by Union Carbide.

"MATRIC is on the move," said Steve Hedrick, MATRIC CEO. "We're driving for the next 10 years with our vision to be recognized as the strategic innovation partner of choice for our customers in our market where science and technology provide that competitive advantage."

After Union Carbide and Dow Chemical merged and moved the majority of its research facilities out of West Virginia, then-Gov. Joe Manchin teamed up with the state Higher Education Policy Commission in 2010, which gave the state control of the park.

On Aug. 8, MATRIC celebrated 10 years of operation.

"We're proud to have achieved 10 years," Hedrick said. "Most startup companies don't make it to 10 years."

Located in the old Union Carbide building, MATRIC scientists and chemists work to develop new ideas, processes, systems and products confidentially for customers worldwide. So far, MATRIC has done business on six continents.

"MATRIC represents a major component of research and development at the tech park," said Paul Hill, chancellor of West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, which oversees the entire park.

"As the park advances and we continue honing in our focus on technology-based economic development, MATRIC is an indispensable partner. They attract contract work and technical projects that pay dividends in terms of employment and business opportunities."

Hedrick prides himself on the company's "uncommon expertise."

He said the "intellectual capabilities of scientists in this organization are unmatched." Despite Union Carbide's departure, the intellectual power is still in the Kanawha Valley to be a leader in innovation, Hedrick said.

"That's the trick," he said. "You offer, 'This could be worked on anywhere in the world, but the know-how expertise associated with executing true innovation, real innovation -- that requires that human element.'"

He added that the company also has uncommon infrastructure.

"When we bring new customers here they're just amazed by it and they wonder why they don't have it," Hedrick said.

Hill added that MATRIC is a company rooted in market-driven innovation, which aligns with the tech park's mission to provide avenues for West Virginians to pursue high-tech training, education and careers.

Since joining MATRIC as CEO, Hedrick and his leadership team sought to refine the companies' goals to move forward.

While the company has not had a lot of new hires since Hedrick joined, they have had a few that he says are indicative of the company's future. Eric King, a Charleston native, is one of those. King went to Ohio State University for his doctoral degree before returning home to work at MATRIC as a chemist.

The company is also developing and enhancing partnerships with area universities. West Virginia University's chemical engineering school works closely with the company. Hedrick says this ensures that students have the best opportunities possible and MATRIC knows students who graduate from there are prepared for work.

"MATRIC represents the future for this region and our state," said Steve Roberts, West Virginia Chamber of Commerce president. "Innovation and technology have long come together in the Kanawha Valley in ways that brought us a worldwide reputation for quality and significant accomplishment. MATRIC is uniting the forces that can redouble our efforts to attract and keep the very best and brightest right here."

Hedrick said the community should expect a great neighbor, economic development and growth from the company in the years to come. Regionally, oil and gas developments present the company with exciting partnership opportunities.

"The Marcellus Shale is, and [new shale gas developments] play as a whole, the most significant domestic energy event in the last 50 years," Hedrick said.

He is still open-minded about a regional cracker plant.

"For me to turn away from that as a CEO would be improper," he said. "I still think it's a significant part of the future of our company and a significant part of our economy."

Regardless of a plant locating in the area, MATRIC will look to benefit from the regional developments in the shale gas industry.

"What we would hope to do is partner with those companies who seek to engage heavily in the opportunity associated with the Marcellus and help them develop and deploy their technologies in such a way as to be the safest that they can be and the most efficient they can be," Hedrick said.

"Market-driven innovation is more than just a tag line, it's the reality of it," he added. "It is our responsibility to understand that it's market driven and go compete." Reach Caitlin Cook at caitlin.cook@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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