Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


July 16, 2013

Job creation — Innovative projects in McDowell

A pair of recent announcements from McDowell County are good examples of officials thinking outside the box when it comes to job creation.

The same county that took the innovative approach of converting an old hospital into a county-managed state correctional center is now hoping to expand the structure in order to accept an additional 144 state inmates. Also of unique note is a new tent-repair job-creation project at the National Guard Armory in Welch.

As part of the new National Guard initiative, damaged military tents from different hot spots across the world, including Afghanistan, will be repaired by a team of about 15 non-military workers in McDowell County. The tents will be shipped to the National Guard Armory in Welch where the team of workers will make the repairs. Potential candidates are still being interviewed for the positions, according to county Economic Development Authority Director Peni Adams.

Adams said the crews repairing the tents will work four days a week, 10 hours a day.

More than 50 candidates have already applied for the 15 positions. Adams said tents will be shipped to McDowell County each Monday and shipped out on Thursdays to either a storage facility or new military destination.

The old Stevens Clinic hospital was converted into a prison by the county in 2006. The facility can currently hold about 322 inmates at one time. The prison employs about 150 people. The proposed expansion would allow the county-managed Stevens Correctional Center to house an additional 144 state inmates and potentially add new jobs.

A structure located behind the prison that once housed the nursing quarters at the old hospital would be renovated to help hold the additional inmates. The building was recently acquired by the EDA.

The expansion project is estimated to cost $4 million. Adams said county officials are still working to find the funding necessary to complete the renovation project. State inmates are incarcerated at the county-managed facility as part of an agreement between the McDowell County Commission and the state Department of Corrections.

Both the tent repair, and the prison expansion, are innovative projects that will create additional jobs for McDowell County. The county’s EDA, and its three elected county commissioners, are to be applauded for their willingness to explore unconventional ideas when it comes to job creation.

An aggressive attitude, and a willingness to explore all options when it comes to job creation, is a welcomed trait among the McDowell County leaders.


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