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Upshur County Development Authority executive director Jennifer Bostian addresses SUBA members last week. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

Upshur Development Authority director: One medical marijuana processing facility may open as early as May

ROCK CAVE – Armory Pharmaceuticals on Route 20 South plans to open in late April or early May, the executive director of the Upshur County Development Authority announced recently.

UCDA executive director Jennifer Bostian attended the Wednesday, April 6 Southern Upshur Business Association meeting to update members on various ongoing projects, new area business and industry ventures, and the economic development organization’s future goals. One of those updates related to the two medical marijuana processing and/or growing facilities being constructed in Upshur County: the one in the newly renovated old National Guard Armory on Route 20 South Road and a second in the Upshur County Industrial Park.

First and foremost, however, Bostian said finalizing the UCDA’s strategic plan for developing the local economy now and in the future was of utmost importance.

“We’ve been going through a strategic planning process because that’s job number one, for which I was hired, was to get a strategic plan in place for the Upshur County Development Authority,” Bostian said. “That’s been accomplished; the organization is responsible for the economic prosperity of the county, so we’re really looking at focusing on business retention and expansion.”

The first project Bostian discussed was the Upshur County Industrial Park along Corridor H.

“The Upshur County Industrial Park was a big project we undertook, and it is getting a booster station to get the water pressure addressed in the park, and we also are working with West Virginia Split Rail to get their split rail side of their business moved from downtown Buckhannon up to the Industrial Park,” Bostian said. “That’s probably still a year-and-a-half off, but they’re in the process. The Brushy Fork Industrial Park [off Brushy Fork Road] is where one of the medical marijuana grow facilities is going in, as well as Aaron Harris’s Auction House and Event Center.”

She said Armory Pharmaceuticals, located in the old armory on Route 20, is on track to open soon.

“They’re looking at opening sometime this month or in early May,” she said.

When it comes to broadband, she said the wireless tower project is winding down and the UCDA will now focus more on fiber-optic lines.

“There are no more towers being constructed at this point – all the broadband towers that were going to be constructed have been constructed – and we’re really going to switch focus to fiber projects,” Bostian said.

She also shared some of the results from the business survey the UCDA conducted in December.

“We had 150 responses, which I really think it’s a pretty good result, and the most overwhelming things we heard about the Upshur County Development Authority was that we need to do more marketing [and] communications,” Bostian said. “That’s a huge part of the strategic plan: people just don’t know what we do. They have seen us around, and we just need to be more present with organizations as well as just making sure that we’re serving business needs, so we’ll be really focused on that going forward.”

Going forward, Bostian said they would like to work on West Virginia’s low workforce participation rates.

“West Virginia has one of the lowest workforce participation rates in the country, which means that, overall, people who are able to be in the workforce, some of them are choosing not to work or there’s some reason why they’re not in the workforce,” Bostian said. “I think it’s somewhere around 55 percent, and if you look at the average, Upshur County actually does better than that – but we still need to raise that up into the 60s if we can, because that really put us in line with where other states are as far as the workforce participation rate.”

To achieve that goal, Bostian said that would involve adding about 900 more people to Upshur County’s workforce.

“We may have to bring in more people,” Bostian said. “I don’t know what the answer for that is — it may be down to recruiting people, which I do think is a big part of the equation. That would involve getting more people to come promote and assist in developing the quality of life, so focusing on housing.”

She said unique retail opportunities, service industries and outdoor recreation are good ways to add to the quality of life locally.

“We really need to empower our stakeholders, and when I say stakeholders, I mean people who will make investments, developers to act on new opportunities,” Bostian said. “We need to be getting more education to our folks that have the ability to make an investment, and that’s going to be part of the job going forward.”

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