April 10, 2015

Manchin visits Aerospace Education Center | Clarksburg Exponent Telegram

BRIDGEPORT — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., visited the Robert C. Byrd National Aerospace Education Center in Bridgeport Thursday to hear concerns from local officials and to share the latest issues being debated on Capitol Hill.

Officials representing industry, education and government were all gathered in a classroom inside the education center to discuss a range of issues affecting the region and the state.

After meeting with officials, Manchin talked about some of North Central West Virginia’s key economic assets, including the airport and the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Systems Division campus.

“You have an economic opportunity here. It’s an economic engine. The airport has spun off about 1,500 jobs — over $1 billion of economic impact is coming out of this one area,” Manchin said. “You have that type of an economic might, and then you have just right across the hill the whole FBI federal complex, which is growing in size and services to our country.

“We need to make sure that we harness all of that and continue to grow from it, and that’s really what the meeting today was all about.”

Manchin also talked about the success that has come out of using the Aerospace Education Center to feed into the industrial growth at North Central West Virginia Airport. He said investing in the education center should continue to be a priority for promoting economic development in the region.

“Every person that comes through here and is successful in this program gets a job. That’s unbelievable,” Manchin said. “If this is where we invest, we know we’re going to get about 100 percent of the people, or let’s say 90 percent of the people, gainfully employed that are going to be good community role models, that are going to pay taxes, that are going to contribute to our society.”

Local officials seemed happy to get the chance to interface with the senator during his busy schedule.

“We’re so proud of the senator coming and visiting the aerospace center, because we know what an economic development tool it is for North Central West Virginia,” said Tom Stose, director of the center.

“And what’s even more marvelous was all of our teammates were here, all of our different companies on the field and the (Benedum) Airport Authority and the airport.”

Rick Rock, the local airport’s director, said meeting with Manchin offered a chance to share important concerns with someone who will be an advocate across the state and in Washington, D.C.

“He can go around as he travels around the whole state, and he can discuss the good things that are going on in North Central West Virginia and help get the word out about this school and about our airport and the companies that are here,” Rock said. “It really is a great opportunity.”
Dr. Doreen Larson, president of Pierpont Community & Technical College, said Manchin has played a key role in fostering the development of the Aerospace Education Center.

“The senator’s responsible for the major initial expansion of this facility about five years ago,” Larson said. “I’ll always be grateful to him for stepping up and helping us open a whole new hangar here.”

Added Larson, “It was nice of him to ask about the employment rate of our graduates, because he knows it’s 100 percent. It’s good for all of these people to hear that that’s what it is. These students that are walking around today, when they finish, are going straight to jobs right here.”
Ron Eagle of HQ Aero said one thing he appreciated about Thursday’s meeting was the chance to get to know more about Manchin.

“It was great, first of all, that he’s here to represent the airport and support us, but just to listen to him talk about what’s actually happening politically in the nation and where he stands, I got more of a sense of who he is as a senator than I ever have reading anything in the newspaper or watching anything on TV,” Eagle said.

Stose said Manchin has long been a valuable ally in efforts to foster growth in the aerospace industry in North Central West Virginia.

“I’ve worked with Sen. Manchin when he was Gov. Manchin, and he’s always been a supporter of this center,” Stose said. “It’s been marvelous to work with him as a governor and marvelous to work with him as a senator, because he understands what Sen. (Robert C.) Byrd was trying to accomplish by putting this aerospace center here.”

By:  Jeremiah Shelor