Educators tour economic development sites
Ralph B. Davis
Julia Roberts Goad
Mingo County educators got a first hand look at projects that will employ their students, right here in the county.
The Mingo County Redevelopment Authority took teachers and school administrators on a tour of projects the Authority has developed throughout the county, including the Wood Products Industrial Park and the Mingo County Air Transportation Park.
“Diversity of the county’s economy is what this is about,” Kominar said.
At the Wood Park, the group toured the Unilin Flooring Plant, which manufactures hardwood flooring. The plant was built on a redeveloped mine site.
The plant is owned by Mohawk Flooring, the world’s largest floor covering company, with nearly $8 billion in yearly revenues.
Since the plant opened in 2001, $45 million in private sector investment has been put into the plant, the only manufacturing facility in the county.
Andrew Messinger, Plant Manager, said 130 people work at the plant, with an average wage of $14.50 an hour.
The plant has worked two shifts, but is currently operating one shift, although as business picks up, Messinger said a second shift may be reinstated.
Linda Mcentire with Unilin said the company needed employees trained in computer programs such as programmable logistics controls. She explained they have been working with Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College to train people for the plant.
Another example of post mine land use economic development is the Mingo County Air Transportation Park.
The airport is the result of a partnership between Alpha Natural Resources, the Mingo County Airport Authority, MCRA, and FAA and the West Virginia Aeronautics Commission.
Alpha Natural Resources donated 975 acres for the project, brought 5,000 feet of runway up to rough grade, constructed an access road and developed adjacent properties for future development.
To date, the FAA and WVAC have contributed nearly $4.5 million to the project for final grading of the runway and taxiway, paving of the runway, lighting, wind instrumentation and electrical facilities.
MCRA Executive Director told the tour group the county must look past coal for future economic livelihood.
The teachers who were on the tour said they would be able to customize what they teach in the classroom to fit the opportunities afforded their students by the economic development they saw in the county.
“You always hear there are only coal mining and working on the railroad, if you want to stay in the area,” Mingo schools superintendent Randy Keathley said. “Its great to see the variety of employment opportunities available to our students.”
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