By CHARLIE BOOTHE Bluefield Daily Telegraph 25 March 2018
After almost a year and a half of working on the nuts and bolts of making a project happen, the renovation work at the city of Buefield’s Commercialization Station is finally ready to go out for bids. More than $2.5 million has been earmarked for the station, with about $2.1 million from the federal EDA (Economic Development Administration) and $510,000 from the Shott Foundation.
The announcement for these grants was made in October 2016 as the station was getting off the ground.
Located in the old freight station on Bluefield Avenue, it is designed to be a business incubator focusing on manufacturing and entrepreneurship.
Of course, as we all know, the wheels of government move slowly, and after the announcement was made the process began of seeing the plans come to fruition. That process included many hoops to jump through related to the EDA, including the approval of final engineering reports, which is a steep hill to climb.
But it’s finally done, with everything in place to allow companies to bid on the work at the 60,000-square-foot facility, which includes electrical upgrades, new lighting, doors and windows, among other improvements. Bids are due May 2.
Jim Spencer, the city’s economic development director and the force behind the station, has asked city board of director members to place the renovation work as an action item on each meeting starting in May. That is necessary because deadlines for approvals must be met as things surface during construction.
Economic development is a far cry from what it used to be, and the city as well as the region are making adjustments. No longer can anyone depend on a coal boom.
The economy had to diversify and that is what is happening.
We all know the impact that tourism is having related to the popular ATV trails in the area and other initiatives planned to make this area a destination. But it takes more than that, and Spencer and the city are focusing on building businesses from the ground up with entrepreneurship.
That is precisely what the Commercialization Station is all about and those who take advantage of it will have plenty of help. The city has many partners that are ready and willing to help entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground, and do it in the station.
In fact, another EDA grant for $750,000 was announced in October 2017 for the Center for Applied Research and Technology (CART) Inc., a Bluefield-based partner with the city on the station. “This will be almost like phase two of the project,” Spencer said of what the grant money will do. “CART will develop programs (for the station) that create jobs.”
Bruce Mutter, CEO of CART, said the purpose of the project is to provide technical assistance and related support services to technology-based small businesses and entrepreneurs.
We are excited about this project and look forward to seeing the old freight station becoming an integral part of the city and of economic development. We are also pleased to see the city place an emphasis on entrepreneurship, which allows local talent to surface and thrive. The station will provide what they need to do that.
— Contact Charles Boothe at email@example.com
CART: ingenuity to industry
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