West Virginia Universitys proposals to develop a ResearchPark in Morgantown and a new ExtensionFireServiceTrainingAcademy at WVU Jacksons Mill near Weston received a major boost Tuesday (Nov. 12) when the state Economic Development Grant Committee approved $5 million for the park and $2 million for the academy. Funding for the park was half the amount requested by the University while the training academy request was fully funded.

“WVU will do the very best it can to create 21st century jobs for 21st century West Virginians,”said WVU President David C. Hardesty, upon hearing the news.”We thank the committee for its strong statement of support for our efforts in these two important areas.”

John Weete, vice president of research and economic development at WVU and president of the WVU Research Corp., echoed the presidents statements.

“We are extremely pleased that the Committee has recognized the ResearchPark as a viable economic development engine for the state of West Virginia,”said Dr. Weete, who was attending a conference out of state.”This funding will allow the University to start the infrastructure necessary for our future park.”

The park will be located on 100 acres near the Maple Avenue exit off Route 705, site of the old WVU poultry farm near Monongalia GeneralHospital. It will be developed in phases.

“The overall mission of the park will be to facilitate the economic development role of the University by contributing to the diversification and enhancement of the states economy,”said Weete.”The ResearchPark also will provide an outlet for the commercialization of University-based technologies.”

The park will accomplish its mission, according to Weete, by hosting and nurturing an array of commercial entities relating to the research and technology strengths of the University, including start-up companies based on technologies developed at WVU . Already, several companies have expressed interest in locating in the park, Weete noted. Likely tenants would include those in the biometrics, biotechnology, biomedical, homeland security and forensics fields.

The Legislature paved the way for the park earlier this year with a bill that allowed a land transfer. The land swap was completed last month between WVU and Monongalia GeneralHospital.

Grant funding for the new ExtensionFireServiceTrainingAcademy at WVU Jacksons Mill in LewisCounty will be used to complete site preparation, said Dave Miller, special assistant to the president for external affairs at WVU .

Officials are using about $1.3 million already obtained for the academy project to conduct initial core drillings and other preparation work on the 35-acre site.

Total cost is estimated at $10 million, and Miller says they plan to issue bonds to pay for the remainder of the project.

“Once completed, this state-of-the-art training facility will attract first responders, industrial emergency brigades and other emergency personnel from all across the Mid-Atlantic region,”Miller said.”We are pleased the Grant Committee recognized the importance of this project.”

The current state fire training facility in Morgantown was built in the 1950s.

WVU is the major land-grant, comprehensive doctoral-granting research institution in West Virginia. Its classification as a Doctoral/Research University-Extensive by the Carnegie Foundation qualifies it as one of the top 150 academic institutions in the country and the only nationally recognized research institution in West Virginia. External funding for sponsored programs, mostly research, has doubled since 1996 to a record high of $134 million in fiscal year 2002.