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June 25, 2012
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Regional Technology Park in South Charleston is on track to be self-sustaining by late 2015, according to a report released Monday.
State Higher Education Chancellor Paul Hill said the state-owned tech park is slashing costs by shutting down a central steam energy plant, while increasing revenues by leasing space in on-site laboratory buildings. Officials predict the tech park will no longer be reliant on state subsidies by Dec. 15, 2015.
The state Legislature has allocated $3 million to prop up the tech park during this year and next.
“The continued support of the state is critical at this point, but we’re well on our way to being in a position to decrease that dependency on state support,” Hill told members of the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability. “We’re well on our way to long-range stability. We continue to increase revenues and cut costs.”
To save on utility costs, the state is installing boilers in each building at the tech park, Hill said. The boilers will replace the outdated steam plant that provided power on the tech park campus. The steam plant will close in October.
The tech park is using a $1.5 million loan from the West Virginia Economic Development Authority to pay for the boilers. The state expects to repay the loan through savings in utility costs.
To bolster revenues, the tech park plans to lease additional space at Building 740 and Building 2000. The state has 31,400 square feet of rentable space at Building 740 and 46,000 square feet of space at Building 2000.
The state expects to generate an additional $750,000 in annual revenue from Building 740′s available space, according to Monday’s report. The document did not estimate the additional revenue from Building 2000′s extra space. The four-story building is undergoing a $24 million renovation.
Hill said the state has recently completed renovations on the north and west wings of Building 2000 — the largest office building at the tech park. Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College into those offices and classrooms this summer.
“They’re moving in there right now,” said Hill.
Senate Education Chairman Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, urged Hill to work with the KVCTC to keep lease payments low so the community college doesn’t have to raise student tuition. Plymale said the Kanawha Valley community college already is stuck paying for space at West Virginia State University — space the community college no longer uses.
“I’m concerned we’re adding something else students will have to pay,” Plymale said.
Hill promised to meet with community college officials to discuss keeping lease payments affordable.
KVCTC students will start attending classes at Building 2000 this fall.
Over the past year, the number of employees working at the state tech park — formerly known as the Dow Tech Park — has increased from 550 to 597. Overall employment will drop by 35 workers, after Bayer MaterialScience closes operations at the tech park and moves its employees to Pittsburgh later this year. Dow has 188 workers at the tech park — more than any other company or state agency.
The report provided details about the tech park’s operating costs.
The state spends $3.9 million on utilities annually — more than any other expense. The state paid $1.6 million on maintenance and repairs, the next highest cost. The park has a $970,000 yearly payroll.
In December 2010, Dow Chemical Co. donated 258 acres at the tech park to the state. The chemical company also gave $10 million for the project.
The tech park has more than 800,000 square feet of offices, laboratories and chemical testing, or “pilot,” plants. The state also is building a $15 million advanced technology center at the tech park.
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