By C. PETER MAGRATH and RON JUSTICE
In the midst of some tough economic times, its gratifying that a city and a universitywhich have partnered so successfully over the yearshave built a strong economic foundation.
Morgantown is a city of more than 32,000 with a metropolitan area that totals over 115,000. It is also home to the states premier high-research, land-grant institution, West Virginia University. Together, we have achieved remarkable economic strength: the lowest unemployment rate in the country at 2.7 percent and a job growth rateyes, growth rateof 2.6 percent.
While the city certainly benefits from all of the work being done by a world-class research university, WVU also benefits from a city that has its financial house in order and focuses on public safety and public works. These are all assets that support a strong business climate.
Improving the infrastructure of the city provides jobs and makes Morgantown more attractive to prospective businesses, employers, teachers, researchers and students. For example, by combining public and private investments, the city has made a significant commitment to improvements to the Wharf District. Nestled along a scenic riverfront, the Wharf District has been revived from mostly abandoned buildings and warehouses to a growing commercial and residential center.
Sunnyside Up is the name of a collaborative partnership between the city of Morgantown and West Virginia University. We are working together to revitalize Sunnyside, a historic neighborhood that is close to campus, downtown, transit services and the riverfront. We are creating a neighborhood with a variety of housing, mixed-use development and civic amenitiesand turning the area into a viable city neighborhood.
These kinds of collaborative efforts form a foundation for economic growth. They are examples of a city and a university with a clear focus on creating a strong local economy that also facilitates future growth. So, while WVU and Morgantown currently offer a diversity of employment opportunitiesfrom teaching to health care, from hospitality to manufacturingthere is also a clear focus on the future with new jobs in emerging fields such as alternative fuels, biometrics and nanotechnology.
Over the last six years, Morgantown has repeatedly received national attention for its strong quality of life and healthy economic climate. Such recognitions include being named theBest Small City in the Country(BizJournals.com),One of the Best Small Metro Areas for Business and Careers(Forbes), one of50 Smart Places to Live(Kiplinger), aBoom Town(Inc. Magazine) and one of the30 Best Cities to Find a Job(CareerBuilder.com). A recent segment on CNBC sSquawk on the Streetalso featured Morgantowns economic success, despite the national recession, and a March 17 story on theNBC Nightly Newstouted Morgantown as aneconomic oasis.
We believe that the partnership between Morgantown and West Virginia University can serve as a model for similar size communities across the country. We have created a wealth of opportunities with projects and initiatives that support our growth. We have been and will continue to be focused on creating a strong futuretogether.
C. Peter Magrath is interim president of West Virginia University. Ron Justice is the mayor of Morgantown.