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Tech Park director Phil Halstead to resign

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia Regional Technology Park executive director and CEO Phil Halstead is resigning effective Feb. 25, officials announced Wednesday.

Halstead, head of the Regional Technology Park Corp. since August 2011, is "leaving to pursue other interests," according to a news release.

"In the near future, the Tech Park Corporation's Board of Directors will chart a course for securing permanent leadership," the release said. 

Dow Chemical Co. gave the tech park to the state in December 2010.

The state Higher Education Policy Commission received the park on the state's behalf and guided its progress until 2011, when a board of directors was named and Halstead was hired as executive director.

Paul Hill, the commission's interim chancellor, still serves as chairman of the tech park board of directors and the commission still represents the park in matters before the Legislature.

James King, the current commission liaison to the tech park, was named interim replacement following Halstead's departure. He will manage the park's day-to-day operations until a permanent replacement is named.

Halstead declined to comment on the matter when reached by telephone Wednesday afternoon. He referred all questions to commission spokeswoman Ashley Schumaker, who then deferred comment to tech park officials.

In the official news release, Halstead thanked tech park board members and Hill, "for the opportunity to serve the Tech Park and live and work in the Kanawha Valley over the past few years."

Halstead lived in Tallahassee, Fla., prior to being hired at the tech park.

"During my time leading the Tech Park, it has been very clear to me that the residents of the Kanawha Valley and the State of West Virginia understand the importance and role of the Tech Park in revitalizing the chemical industry that once flourished in this area," Halstead said in the news release.

Hill said in the release that Halstead's tenure "has been marked by significant achievements including the establishment of an operational structure as well as the beginning stages of renovation and redevelopment efforts, which remain on-going."

"I wish Dr. Halstead well in all future endeavors and express sincere gratitude on behalf of the Kanawha Valley and the entire State of West Virginia for his leadership and commitment to building a solid foundation for future growth at the Tech Park," Hill said.

Hill said the tech park will diversify its tenant base.

He said this new phase would "focus on the recruitment of business and industry that will advance the research and development capabilities of the Tech Park, the Kanawha Valley, and the State of West Virginia -- ultimately creating new jobs through innovation and high-tech, high-wage industries that hold great promise for the state's economy."

South Charleston Mayor Frank Mullens was surprised to hear Halstead was leaving.

"All I can say is we wish him well and we'll continue to work with (the commission) on building continued success up at the tech park," Mullens said.

Bob Anderson, the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director, said he was "dumbfounded."

Anderson said he had worked well with Halstead on a number of economic development issues involving the South Charleston Economic Development Council.

"We've felt that he's just been doing a fantastic job," Anderson said. "We just hate to lose him because he's been a vital person to help the EDC board and the city of South Charleston."

Halstead led the effort to make the tech park financially self-sufficient by 2015.

While it receives annual income from tenants, it still needs about $3 million in legislative appropriations to operate.

That appropriation was temporarily held up last year when state Senate Education Committee chairman Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, pulled funding for the park from the budget bill on rumors that WVU-Tech was going to move its engineering school from Montgomery there.

The rumor wound up being untrue and the funding was restored.

Halstead was planning to ask the Legislature for an additional $3 million to operate the park in the coming year.

The park has grown under Halstead's tenure. 

Last year, employment at the park grew by nearly 82 full-time positions, an increase of nearly 14 percent over the prior year.

When the state first took over the park, 550 people worked there. Today, it has about 678 full-time employees.

One of the biggest drivers in the last year was the addition of the Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College, which brought in 107 employees. Bridgemont Community & Technical College is also located there.

Factoring in students, nearly 2,500 people either work or attend classes at the tech park every day.

"As I reflect on my service, I remain very optimistic about the Tech Park's future and will forever be grateful for the opportunity to play a vital role in the beginning stages of the Tech Park's rebirth," Halstead said in the news release.

"For me, the Tech Park will always be the world's friendly front door to chemical innovations and will serve as an innovation factory for years to come," he said.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.


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