CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Investments made by the state's venture capital fund topped $14.5 million to start the current budget year, about $2.5 million more than last budget year.
The West Virginia Jobs Investment Trust board of directors approved the value of its investments at a meeting earlier this week in Charleston.
"I think (the trust's) portfolio is comparable to other venture funds that are operating in challenging economic times," said Andrew Zulauf, Jobs Investment Trust executive director.
"Some companies are exceeding expectations, and some struggle because of economic and financial conditions. Overall, we're pleased with the financial performance of the fund and work very hard with our portfolio companies to achieve success."
The trust is a public entity that invests public money in West Virginia business with the intent of growing the business and creating jobs, according to the trust's mission statement.
The trust ended the last budget year with a little more than $14.5 million invested in 17 different companies. The trust started the year with about $11.9 million invested in 11 companies, according to data also approved by the board.
Protea Biosciences, a Morgantown-based biotechnology firm, remains the largest investment. The $3.68 million investment didn't change from the start of the last budget year to the start of the current budget year.
The trust has been criticized for investing in the company, as it has yet to turn a profit.
It's lost more than $52 million since it was created in 2001, about $5.3 million of that during the first half of 2013, according to a recent filing by the company with the federal Securities Exchange Commission. It's lost less money in the first six months of this year than it did last year over the same period, according to the same filing.
The Daily Mail reported in April 2012 the company had lost $37 million since its inception. An industry spokesman said at the time biotech companies have the potential to spend a great deal of money without turning any profit in the process of trying to develop a successful product.
The trust's second-largest investment is the $1.87 million it has put toward Stasis, an Eastern Panhandle company that sells luxury car parts. In August 2012, the trust came under fire for investing in the company because of complaints by a former company employee and because another former employee was connected to a man involved in bank fraud.
Trust Chairman and state Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette told the Daily Mail at the time the board decided it was comfortable with the investment. He pointed out Stasis prevailed against the first former employee in court, according to Daily Mail archives.
Other large investments include: