CHARLESTON, W.Va.– After years of testing and developing hyperloop technology at their full-scale test site, Virgin Hyperloop unveiled today that West Virginia will be home to the Hyperloop Certification Center.
Hyperloop moves people and goods in pods through a vacuum tube at speeds exceeding 600 mph, enabling travel from Pittsburgh to Chicago in 41 minutes or New York City to Washington, D.C. in just 30 minutes.
“Today is one of the most exciting days in Virgin Hyperloop’s history,” said Sir Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group. “The Hyperloop Certification Center is the start of the hyperloop journey for West Virginia, for the United States, and for the world. We’re one step closer to making hyperloop travel a reality for people everywhere.”
Beyond progressing hyperloop on the regulatory and commercial fronts, the HCC will also create an entirely new ecosystem, creating thousands of new jobs across construction, manufacturing, operations, and high-tech sectors.
“West Virginia is at a pivotal moment in time and I believe Virgin Hyperloop has made an extremely strong choice for the location of the new HCC,” said native West Virginian John Chambers, former Executive Chairman and CEO of Cisco Systems and current founder and CEO of JC2 Ventures. “West Virginia was once the coal and chemical capital of the world, but it failed to disrupt itself and was left behind. Today, every company, country, and state needs to have a digital mindset. West Virginia’s renewed focus on innovation to drive inclusive job creation and economic growth will be elevated and brought to life with the development of the HCC. I personally could not be more honored and excited to work with Virgin Hyperloop to bring this transformative technology to the masses.”
The HCC will be located on nearly 800 acres of land, spanning Tucker and Grant counties, where it will leverage intellectual capital and resources from West Virginia University, Marshall University, and from across the state.
Work on the HCC is expected to begin in 2021 with a planned Welcome Center, Certification Track and Operations Center, Pod Final Assembly Facility, Production Development Test Center, and Operations, Maintenance and Safety Training Center.
With this development, the HCC will pave the way for an entirely new ecosystem, creating thousands of new jobs across construction, manufacturing, operations, and high-tech sectors—many of which Virgin Hyperloop plans to source locally.
WVU’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research predicts the total economic impact of the center’s ongoing operation on the West Virginia economy to be $48 million annually.
The land, owned by Western Pocahontas Properties and located near Mt. Storm is being donated to the WVU Foundation in partnership with Virgin Hyperloop.
“As part of this process, Western Pocahontas Properties employed some of the world’s best environmental planners, including SWCA Environmental Consultants, Planned Environments Inc., and others; to ensure this new development would complement the area’s uniqueness and beauty,” said Corby Robertson, owner of Western Pocahontas Properties “This thorough planning and commitment to our community and environment make this site very attractive to Virgin Hyperloop because they share our values for sustainable growth.”
The anticipated reach of HCC extends far beyond the state’s borders.
“I am committed to building a consortium of universities from around the country, which will lend their expertise to further develop the vision of hyperloop,” WVU President Gordon Gee said. “We will also create educational and institutional opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to be a part of this program. There is no greater learning lab than what we will build here in West Virginia.”
Marshall University has worked closely with WVU and others throughout the process.
“Higher Education institutions are hubs for research, innovation, and talent,” Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert said. “Colleges and universities help build and strengthen our communities and, in this partnership with Virgin Hyperloop, the awesome opportunity to build the communities of the future is now at our doorstep.”
The West Virginia Community and Technical College System will also play a key role in helping to create education and job training programs.
Sarah Biller, executive director of Vantage Ventures at WVU, explained these partnerships will help generate additional interest in a number of innovative projects starting up across West Virginia.
“This is another example that proves we actually can attract investors, attract the talent, and really reframe the conversation for our future,” Biller said.
The HCC has received bicameral and bipartisan support at all levels of the government, at the local, state, and federal level, including from Governor Jim Justice, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Representative Carol Miller (R-WV), Representative Alex Mooney (R-WV), and Representative David B. McKinley, P.E. (R-WV).
“Today is a fantastic day for the state of West Virginia, and I’d like to be the first to officially welcome the folks from Virgin Hyperloop to their new home,” said Governor Jim Justice. “For years, I have been saying that West Virginia is the best kept secret on the East Coast, and it’s true. Just look at this announcement and all it will bring to our state – investment, jobs, and tremendous growth. It’s a true honor and privilege to be selected as the site for the Hyperloop Certification Center and lead the nation in this next step forward for transportation. When we approached Virgin Hyperloop, I told them that we would do everything we could to bring this opportunity to West Virginia. We look forward to working with the Virgin Hyperloop team to create a lasting partnership for years to come.”
“Nearly a year ago, I wrote to Sir Richard Branson, highlighting the benefits of doing business in West Virginia and urging him to pick the Mountain State for the newest Virgin Hyperloop venture. Today we celebrate the beginning of a new partnership between West Virginia and Virgin Hyperloop that will last for decades to come,” said Senator Manchin. “Virgin Hyperloop’s decision to make West Virginia the home of their Certification Center is a testament to our people and proves that when West Virginia competes, we win. West Virginia continues to grow in the technology, manufacturing, and innovation sectors, and I look forward to witnessing the benefits of this progress as we advance the future of travel right here in our great state of West Virginia.”
“Over the last several years, West Virginia’s economy has begun to diversify into new sectors,” said Senator Capito. “The announcement that Virgin Hyperloop’s Certification Center and test track will be located right here in our state will help us continue this growth in the knowledge based economy. I’m glad that Virgin Hyperloop views West Virginia as a state on the edge of the tech economy. With our educational institutions, research and development opportunities, skilled workforce, low cost of living, and high quality of life, West Virginia is the ideal selection. I’ve been a consistent advocate for this project and am thrilled we’ve been selected as the site. Not only does this announcement prove that West Virginia is moving forward, but it also shows that we have what it takes to draw in more technology jobs that will support the future of transportation. This is a tremendous day for all of West Virginia, but particularly Tucker and Grant counties.”
This announcement builds off of significant progress in the US on the regulatory front. In July 2020, the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Elaine Chao and the Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology (NETT) Council unveiled the guidance document on a clear regulatory framework for hyperloop in the United States. This historic announcement not only provides a pathway for hyperloop regulation and deployment in the US, but also establishes hyperloop’s eligibility for federal funding for projects.
This federal momentum, combined with the advancements at the HCC, will pave the way for the certification of hyperloop systems in the US and around the world – the first step towards commercial projects.
“Particularly as we look to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, it’s clear that we need a 21st century solution that will propel us forward, allowing us to not just rebuild, but actually evolve.” said Jay Walder, CEO of Virgin Hyperloop. “Hyperloop is that solution, and we look forward to working with our partners across the country – in places like West Virginia, Ohio, Texas, Missouri, Washington, and North Carolina – to connect the country from coast to coast.”
Virgin Hyperloop aims to achieve safety certification by 2025, with commercial operations beginning in 2030.
Several members of the state’s congressional delegation expressed their support and excitement for this opportunity in West Virginia.
“The Hyperloop Certification Center will put West Virginia on the map as a hub of innovation. The project will help further diversify our economy, attract jobs and investment, and shine a spotlight on what makes our state great,” Congressman David McKinley said.
“There is no better place than West Virginia for high-tech, innovative transportation solutions. The Hyperloop Certification Center will create thousands of new jobs in the region, and American-made technology will be produced right here in the Mountain State,” Congressman Alex Mooney said.
“I am excited to welcome Virgin Hyperloop to West Virginia. This partnership will create modern jobs, establish our state as a hub for innovation, and unlock new opportunities in the 21st century economy. Working together, we will develop cutting-edge American transportation technology that we will export throughout the world,” Congresswoman Carol Miller said.