www.charlestondailymail.com Business http://www.charlestondailymail.com Daily Mail feed en-us Copyright 2015, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers Downtown commercial property market may have stabilized http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150426/DM05/150429370 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150426/DM05/150429370 Sun, 26 Apr 2015 17:54:16 -0400 By Jared Hunt Charleston's commercial property market may have finally bottomed out following the departure and downsizing of energy-related firms, according to a vacancy survey of downtown office buildings by commercial broker Howard Swint.

The city's six "Class A" office buildings - Chase Tower, BB&T Square, Huntington Square, Laidley Tower, the United Center and MVB Bank building - saw their overall vacancy rate improve to 15.5 percent in April, up a bit from the 16.2 vacancy rate the properties had surged to in Swint's November survey. Of the 989,462 square feet of lease-able space in the six buildings, 153,766 is currently available for lease.

While the current vacancy rate is still up significantly from the 10 percent rate for the properties one year ago, Swint said it's finally beginning to appear that the worst of a prolonged market contraction is over.

"We've hopefully bottomed out, stabilized and hopefully just started to trend back upward," Swint said.

Class A buildings are typically more modern, with on-site parking, security and located in the heart of a city's business district. Another class, Class B, consists of properties in smaller, older buildings, similar to those along Capitol, Quarrier and Virginia streets, that may not have on-site parking or other amenities.

The Charleston office property market has been hit hard in the last two years by the exodus and contraction of several natural gas and coal companies, as well as the accounting, law and other service firms tied to those industries.

Swint's March 2013 found the five main office towers (Chase, BB&T, Huntington, Laidley and United buildings) at "effective full occupancy," with an overall vacancy rate of 3.4 percent. But later that year the vacancies began to mount.

The first wave occurred when several natural gas firms, including Chesapeake Energy, Cabot Oil and Gas, Halliburton and Autobahn Engineering, reorganized their operations and relocated staff to north-central West Virginia and Canonsburg, Pa.

In 2014, pressure on the coal industry began to mount. The biggest blow came last September when Patriot Coal, which occupied 40,000 square feet of office space in Laidley Tower, moved its headquarters to offices in Scott Depot.

The 18-story office tower was one of two buildings to see its vacancy rate increase between Swint's November and April surveys. The building saw its vacancy rate increase from 30.2 percent to 38 percent over that time. The United Center saw the other increase, with its vacancy rate going from 4.6 to 9.1 percent.

The bulk of the latest increase in Laidley Tower was due to the law firm Jackson Kelly, a key tenant, downsizing its footprint by vacating one of the floors it occupied in the building.

Laidley Tower has also fallen into financial straits in recent months. On April 1, a federal judge placed the tower into receivership after its owners failed to make full monthly payments on a $25 million loan outstanding with Wells Fargo Bank.

David Peterson of Charlotte, N.C.-based property management firm Colliers International has been appointed to manage the property while its owners financial situation is worked out in federal court.

Swint said he has been providing consulting services to the new receivership team as they try to secure new tenants for the building.

"They are knowledgeable of the West Virginia market, and Charleston in particular, and appear to be very capable," Swint said of the Colliers International team.

Swint said the high debt load carried by the building's owners made it difficult for them to invest in improvements or offer lower lease rates. With a new team coming in and stabilizing the building's finances, he said it will open up better opportunities to negotiate with prospective tenants.

"The good news is the receivership will thaw the money needed to make improvements to attract new tenants," he said.

Other good news for the downtown commercial property market is that three of the other office towers have seen their vacancy rates fall in recent months.

Chase Tower, which has a total of 227,685 square feet of office space, saw its vacancy rate decline from 11.8 percent in November to 6.3 percent in the most recent survey. BB&T Square, with 250,429 square feet of space, saw its vacancy rate decline from 9.3 percent to 4.7 percent. Huntington Square, which has 116,000 square feet of office space, saw its vacancy rate go down from 21.4 percent to 15.7 percent.

The MVB Bank building, which recently celebrated its grand opening, still has 14,000 of its 30,000 square feet still available for lease, which was unchanged from November.

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

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City National reports record first-quarter profits http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150423/DM05/150429558 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150423/DM05/150429558 Thu, 23 Apr 2015 20:02:09 -0400

City Holding Co., parent company of City National Bank, announced a record first-quarter profit Thursday.

The bank holding company headquartered in Charleston earned $18 million, or $1.17 a share, in the first quarter. Results were boosted by the Jan. 1 sale of its CityInsurance operations, which resulted in a one-time after tax gain of $5.8 million.

Total average deposit balances increased $74.7 million or 2.6 percent during the quarter. Loans decreased $19.6 million, or 0.7 percent. Declines in commercial, home equity and consumer loans were partially offset by an increase in residential real estate loans during the quarter.

With $3.6 billion in assets, the company operates 82 bank branches in West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio.

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Local marketing company buys Pittsburgh firm http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150423/DM05/150429555 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150423/DM05/150429555 Thu, 23 Apr 2015 20:02:39 -0400 Artistic Promotions, a Dunbar-based promotional marketing company has acquired Pittsburgh-based Branded Solutions and the combined companies will operate under the name AP Branded Solutions.

Dan Weisberg, president of Branded Solutions, will remain with the combined company as vice president of sales, and Artistic Promotions President Ryan Westerman will continue in his role as president.

Weisberg said after 35 years in business, he "wanted to team with an innovative and progressive partner that would energize myself and the company."

Westerman said the combination of his company's technology platform and approach and Branded Solutions' experience and expertise will be a good fit.

"This is a great step toward continuing to grow our organization and we look forward to the integration process with Branded and all future opportunities that this partnership creates," Westerman said. "The company will double in size but we will still have the same great people and that is exciting."

The combined company will maintain its offices in Dunbar and Pittsburgh and retain the 16 staff members working in both offices.

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Free shred, recycling event set for Saturday http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150423/DM05/150429556 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150423/DM05/150429556 Thu, 23 Apr 2015 20:02:31 -0400

Residents will be able to dispose of sensitive documents and old consumer electronic devices during a free "Fight Fraud, Shred Instead" recycling event from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at Cabela's in Charleston.

The event is sponsored by AARP West Virginia in partnership with Charleston Newspapers, KnightHorst Shredding, Bluegrass E-Cycle, and Cabela's.

Individuals may securely dispose of residential paper documents that contain sensitive information, which will be shredded and recycled into consumer paper products. There will be a limit of six bags or boxes of documents per household; business documents are not allowed.

In addition to the shredding, Charleston Newspapers will be collecting newspapers, magazines and telephone directories for recycling. Bluegrass E-Cycle will offer free electronics recycling of consumer electronics items, including batteries, cable and wire, CDs, cell phones, circuit boards, computers and computer accessories, ink and toner, modems, flat screen monitors, MP3 players, network equipment (servers, routers, switches), printers, satellite receivers, video cassette recorders and cameras, video games and consoles. Older tube TV's and monitors will not be accepted.

In case of severe inclement weather, the event will be rescheduled. For more information, call AARP West Virginia at 304-346-4610.

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AEP earnings beat analyst expectations http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150423/ARTICLE/150429557 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150423/ARTICLE/150429557 Thu, 23 Apr 2015 20:02:25 -0400

COLUMBUS, Ohio - American Electric Power Co. (AEP) on Thursday reported first-quarter net income of $629 million.

The Columbus, Ohio-based company said it had profit of $1.29 per share. Earnings, adjusted for non-recurring gains, were $1.28 per share.

The results topped Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of nine analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $1.11 per share.

The utility posted revenue of $4.7 billion in the period.

AEP expects full-year earnings in the range of $3.40 to $3.60 per share.

AEP shares have decreased 7.5 percent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index has increased slightly more than 2 percent. The stock has increased nearly 9 percent in the last 12 months.

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Comcast reportedly dropping bid to buy Time Warner Cable http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150423/ARTICLE/150429552 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150423/ARTICLE/150429552 Thu, 23 Apr 2015 20:09:46 -0400

By TALI ARBEL

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK (AP) - Comcast is abandoning its $45.2 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable, according to media reports.

Bloomberg News and The New York Times both said Thursday that the cable company is planning to drop the bid after pushback from regulators. They both cited unidentified people with knowledge of the matter.

Comcast may make an announcement as soon as Friday, Bloomberg said.

Comcast and Time Warner Cable declined to comment.

Combining the No. 1 and No. 2 U.S. cable companies would put nearly 30 percent of TV and about 55 percent of broadband subscribers under one roof. That would give the resulting behemoth unprecedented power over what Americans watch and download.

That has had competitors, consumer groups, and Senators lining up to oppose the deal.

"This is one of those deals where the opponents of the merger have been one of the most vocal I can remember," said S&P Capital IQ Tuna Amobi.

One concern, for example, is that the company could undermine the streaming video industry by requiring onerous payments from new online-only video providers for connecting to its network. Dish, the satellite TV company behind the new Web video service Sling TV, and Netflix are opposed to the deal.

Another charge is that Comcast hasn't stuck to conditions imposed on it when it bought NBCUniversal. The company says it has, except for one circumstance when the FCC found it wasn't promoting a stand-alone Internet service. Comcast says it fixed that.

Pushback against the merger has picked up in the last couple weeks.

Al Franken, D-Minn., along with five other Democratic senators and Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, this week urged the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice to block the merger, saying it would lead to higher prices and fewer choices.

Recent media reports suggested that regulators aren't going to approve it. On Friday, Bloomberg, citing unidentified people, said Department of Justice staff attorneys were leaning against the deal. The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday said, also citing unidentified people, said that FCC staff recommended that the merger review go to a hearing under an administrative law judge, although no final decision had been made.

The FCC would send the deal to a judge if it didn't believe it serves the public interest. The company has the right to present its case to the judge. But a trial could take months and even then a decision could be appealed to the FCC.

"It's a dead end for Comcast," said Rob McDowell, a former FCC commissioner.

The Justice Department declined to comment. The FCC declined to comment and spokesman Neil Grace said the review is ongoing.

Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice confirmed that company executives met Wednesday with Justice Department and FCC officials. But she would not comment on what occurred during the meetings or what other conversations the company is having with regulators.

If the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal falls through, a transaction with Charter Communications Inc. aimed to smoothing the way for regulatory approval also falls apart. Charter's bid for Bright House Networks, which it announced in March, could also be killed.

Many analysts expect that Charter, which lost out on its bid for Time Warner Cable to Comcast, to resurrect its effort if Comcast is rebuffed.

"Other cable deals that don't involve Comcast might be allowed to go through," McDowell said. There "seems to be an antipathy towards Comcast at the FCC" because the agency thinks Comcast didn't stick to the conditions of the NBCUniversal merger, he said.

A combined Charter and Time Warner Cable would have 15 million video customers and 16.5 million Internet customers. That's still smaller than Comcast alone, which has 22.4 million video subscribers and 22 million Internet customers.

Comcast wanted Time Warner Cable to bulk up on subscribers as it deals with old rivals Dish, DirecTV and Verizon's FiOS, as well as newer, cheaper online competitors like Netflix. The company had also said the deal would help it cut costs, including for programming - the shows and movies it pipes to subscribers.

But Comcast may have to look overseas for future acquisitions.

"Washington's concern here is excessive control of broadband in the hands of a single company," wrote analyst Craig Moffett in a client email. "For all intents and purposes, their M&A ambitions would be on ice in the U.S."

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Nasdaq closes at record high http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150423/ARTICLE/150429553 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150423/ARTICLE/150429553 Thu, 23 Apr 2015 20:09:10 -0400

By KEN SWEET

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK - Fifteen years, one month and thirteen days.

That's how long it took the Nasdaq composite index to close above the record it set at the apex of the dot-com bubble.

The Nasdaq rose 20.89 points, or 0.4 percent, to 5,056.06, above the record of 5,048.62 it set on March 10, 2000. In many ways, the crossing of that threshold is purely ceremonial and psychological.

The index, while still weighted with technology and Internet companies, has not been defined by the like of Pets.com, Geocities or WebVan for a decade and a half.

Apple, a company that was teetering on the edge in 2000, is now the biggest and most profitable company on the planet and makes up a significant piece of the Nasdaq. Google, which didn't exist as a public company in 2000, also makes up a notable percentage of the index.

And the Standard & Poor's 500, which most fund managers use as a benchmark for the overall stock market, recovered from its dot-com peak in 2007.

"It's a major psychological barrier, but in the end, it's just a number," said Scott Wren, senior global equity strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors.

The Nasdaq's advance was part of a broader move higher by the stock market on Thursday.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 20.42 points, 0.1 percent, to 18,058.69. The S&P 500 rose 4.97 points, or 0.2 percent, 2,112.93. The S&P 500 is about four points below the record high it set March 2.

The Nasdaq's close was a side attraction for many professional investors, who have been focused on companies that have been reporting their quarterly earnings and how the strong U.S. dollar has been having a negative impact on U.S. companies that rely a lot on overseas sales.

3M, General Motors, Procter & Gamble and Caterpillar all reported their earnings on Thursday and all said the strong U.S. dollar hurt them.

P&G, which makes Tide detergent and Gillette razors, said its profits were down roughly 7 percent and sales were down 8 percent from a year earlier. The company blamed a strong U.S. dollar, which makes its products more expensive when sold abroad. P&G fell $1.48, or 2 percent, to $80.95.

Another consumer products company, 3M, also reported lower profits due to the dollar. The maker of Post-Its and Scotch Tape fell $5.01, or 3 percent, to $159.66.

While Caterpillar reported a better-than-expected profit for last quarter, the construction equipment maker said it may face bigger issues later this year as long as the dollar remains strong. Caterpillar fell 8 cents to $84.79.

"The results have been pretty consistent this earnings season. If you're an export-heavy company, your results have suffered from a strong dollar," said Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose $1.58, or 2.8 percent, to close at $57.74 a barrel in New York. The advance helped lift energy stocks, which gained 1 percent. Brent crude rose $2.12 to close at $64.85 a barrel in London.

Oil has been recovering slowly from low levels it hit in March, which investors have taken as a sign that prices are starting to stabilize after a year of declines.

In other trading of energy futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange, wholesale gasoline rose 7.1 cents to $1.997 a gallon, heating oil gained 5.3 cents to $1.924 a gallon and natural gas fell 7.5 cents to $2.531 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In other markets, the dollar fell to 119.50 yen from 119.98 yen late Wednesday. The euro rose to $1.0828 from $1.0725. Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note declined to 1.95 percent from 1.98 percent late Wednesday.

In metals, gold rose $7.40 to $1,194.30 an ounce, silver rose 3 cents to $15.83 an ounce, and copper rose 3 cents to $2.69 a pound.

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Businesses in 3 W.Va. counties eligible for disaster loans http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150423/ARTICLE/150429604 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150423/ARTICLE/150429604 Thu, 23 Apr 2015 14:59:16 -0400

the associated press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin says businesses in three West Virginia counties damaged by severe storms in early March are eligible to apply for low-interest loans.

Tomblin said Wednesday that a federal disaster declaration has been amended to include small businesses in Fayette, Mercer and Tucker counties.

The available loans are from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Loan amounts and terms are based on an applicant's financial condition.

The earlier disaster declaration approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency made public assistance available to 29 counties for infrastructure and cleanup efforts.

West Virginia also will receive $5 million in emergency funds from the Federal Highway Administration to fix storm-damaged roads.

The storm brought heavy snow and rain, knocked out power to more than 80,000 customers and caused flooding, landslides and mudslides.

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Huntington lawyer is new president of W.Va. State Bar http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150423/ARTICLE/150429605 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150423/ARTICLE/150429605 Thu, 23 Apr 2015 14:58:38 -0400

the associated press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - W. Michael Frazier of Huntington is the new president of the West Virginia State Bar.

The organization announced its officers for 2015-2016 on Wednesday.

John R. McGhee Jr. of Charleston is president-elect and Meshea L. Poore of Charleston is vice president.

Newly elected members of the bar's Board of Governors are Courtney A. Kirtley of Summersville, J. Burton Hunter III of Buckhannon, William J. O'Brien of Bridgeport, Monica H. Haddad of Morgantown, Mark E. Gaydos of Kingwood, Floyd M. "Kin" Sayre III of Martinsburg, and Kameron T. Miller of Charleston.

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Chipotle looks to build first Charleston restaurant http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150423/DM05/150429613 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150423/DM05/150429613 Thu, 23 Apr 2015 14:34:23 -0400 By Jared Hunt Chipotle Mexican Grill is looking to build its first restaurant in Charleston.

Rich Rashid of Ridgeline Inc. confirmed Thursday the Denver-based company has selected a space in the Southridge Center development off Corridor G to build the new restaurant. The space is located between the Texas Steakhouse and Bob Evans restaurants along Mountaineer Boulevard.

"We're excited to have Chipotle in Charleston," Rashid said.

He said his firm has been working to recruit the popular Mexican dining restaurant to the area for years. The company already has stores in Barboursville and Huntington.

Chipotle will use a section of the Texas Steakhouse parking lot to build its new restaurant.

Rashid could not say when the company plans to break ground or open the new location. He said the company has submitted plans to Charleston's Building Commission, and is waiting for approval before proceeding with construction and selecting an opening date.

"Once they get their building permit then they would determine that," Rashid said.

The plans submitted to the building commission call for a more than 2,300-square-foot building with 23 parking spaces. The dining area would be capable of seating 51 customers and food would be prepared in an 841-square-foot kitchen. A 518-square-foot outdoor eating patio area capable of seating 22 customers is also planned.

City permits coordinator Susan Johnson said the company's plans appear to be in order. She said all the commission is waiting for is the company to pick a contractor and submit its projected construction cost, which had previously been estimated at around $300,000.

Once the company submits the remaining information, the city will be able to approve the building permit, Johnson said.

A spokeswoman for Chipotle would not comment about the new location Thursday. She said the company does not discuss restaurant openings until it has a lease signed and construction scheduled.

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. was founded with a single restaurant in 1993 and has grown to nearly 1,800 locations in the U.S., Canada, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

According to the company's 2014 annual report, Chipotle planned to open between 190 and 205 new restaurants this year.

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

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Jared Hunt column: Youth shine in stock market game http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150423/DM05/150429685 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150423/DM05/150429685 Thu, 23 Apr 2015 00:01:00 -0400 West Virginia youth continue to impress with their financial knowledge.

A few weeks back I reported state high schoolers scored better than all other states in their knowledge of financial matters. Earlier this week, I got to see that knowledge firsthand.

With that column in mind, Justin Southern, spokesman for State Auditor Glen Gainer's office, invited me to the West Virginia Future Business Leaders of America State Leadership Conference Monday at the Charleston Civic Center to help judge presentations from a competition the Auditor's office helped organize this year.

For the second year, the office partnered with the Future Business Leaders of America -- Phi Beta Lambda chapter to host an Online Stock Market Simulation game.

During the game, students at various schools formed teams and were given a fictional $100,000 to invest over a five-month time frame. Students were encouraged to become "specialists" in certain stocks and offer the rest of the group advice on whether they should buy or sell particular stocks, and monitor the daily news and financial information surrounding each company.

On Monday, during the annual FBLA conference, teams gave presentations on how they fared, what influenced their decisions and what they learned from the process.

I was impressed.

Presenters ranged from sophomores to seniors and all were well-mannered, sharply dressed and able to answer questions with the confidence of professionals beyond their years. The groups who made presentations Monday all made money over the course of the competition, and they also learned lessons they plan to use to improve performance either next year or when they start making real money later in life.

When it came to deciding what to invest in, most of the students followed the Warren Buffett strategy of buying what you know.

For Amber Saltz, a senior representing the team from the Mid-Ohio Valley Technical Institute in St. Marys, that meant buying shares of Dominion Resources and Antero Resources, as her team saw those companies investing in new natural gas rigs in their area.

Darrell McBeath, a senior on the Mason County Career Center team, said his brother worked at Toyota's Buffalo plant and had been telling his family about the new transmission line they were putting in last year.

"That to me told me this company was expanding and growing," he said.

Other popular investments included Apple, Facebook, Disney, Twitter and Netflix - all firms that produce products or content teenagers want to consume.

John Marshall High School in the Northern Panhandle produced the two winning teams in contest, one winning the presentations and the other earning the best return on their portfolio.

Team one of senior Amanda West and junior Julie Francis put together the most diversified portfolio, with companies like Apple, Best Buy, Disney, Kroger and American Electric Power among many others and won the presentation round by being able to have rapid-fly answers for each stock they owned.

The second team of seniors Danielle Cook and Anna Gaughenbaugh made more than $5,000 during the short period. However, they took the most unconventional approach.

Knowing that five months wasn't a very good investment time frame for a typical long-term investor, they took more of a technical analysis approach, finding stocks with momentum and chart patterns that indicated a good time to buy on dips. While they won, they readily admitted this was not a good investing method. Both said they would never do that if it was with their own money, and would prefer a longer time frame to invest.

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Huntington Bank sees strong loan growth http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150422/DM05/150429679 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150422/DM05/150429679 Wed, 22 Apr 2015 20:36:30 -0400 By Jared Hunt Despite weakness in the state's energy markets, Huntington Bank is still seeing strong growth in business, home and auto loans, the company reported Wednesday.

Huntington Bancshares Inc., the Columbus, Ohio-based parent of Huntington Bank, reported first quarter profits grew $17 million to $166 million compared to the same quarter one year ago.

The company saw total deposits increase 10 percent to $4.5 billion during the quarter, while total loans and leases also increased 10 percent to $4.4 billion.

Chad Prather, a commercial region manager based in the company's Morgantown office, said the recent quarter marked the fifth consecutive one in which the company originated more than $1 billion worth of automobile loans in its six-state footprint.

The company also saw an 8 percent increase in residential mortgage loans and a spike in refinancings during the recent quarter. The company also maintained its status as the top lender of U.S. Small Business Administration program loans in both the country and West Virginia.

"We continue to see strong momentum there," Prather said.

In West Virginia, the company does do a significant amount of commercial business with coal and natural gas firms.

Prather said the price declines in both markets in recent months have "softened somewhat" that activity. But he said the company believes as the market works off excess supply the business would rebound.

"It's really just a supply and demand situation," he said. "As there's more demand and prices increase, that activity will pick back up."

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

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After more than 50 years, family remains central to St. Albans Windows http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150422/DM05/150429672 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150422/DM05/150429672 Wed, 22 Apr 2015 20:44:15 -0400 By Charlotte Ferrell Smith After more than half a century, St. Albans Windows is still going strong as a family-run business.

"The business is going into its 56th year," said Robert Withrow, vice president and co-owner. "Family has always been tied to the company. We've been blessed with good work relations and work well as a team. We have mutual respect and the same goals. There is harmony when you realize that. We've been very blessed."

His mother, Burma Withrow, who is president and co-owner of the company, recalls taking calls from an extension telephone in her home when her children were young.

The business began through the hard work of her husband, Russell W. Withrow, who died in 1984. He started Aluminum Building Products on old Main Street in 1959 and opened his business in the current location at 2141 MacCorkle Ave. in 1962. At first he primarily did aluminum siding and in the mid-1970s added manufactured aluminum windows.

"As business grew, Dad saw what was coming down the pike in vinyl in the 1980s," Robert Withrow said. "Vinyl windows were becoming popular. He bought equipment to start building vinyl windows."

Russell Withrow was a born salesman who did lots of odd jobs to get the initial money to invest in his business. Hard work and honesty earned the trust of his customers. He died in 1984 at age 53 without getting to see how successful the business would become.

Building vinyl windows on site on an ongoing basis has set the company apart, Robert Withrow said.

"The name of the business changed in 1984 to St. Albans Windows," he said. "Aluminum was on the way out. Everything was shifting to vinyl."

Other family members involved in the business include his sister, Valerie Grass, who works in sales, and her daughter, Stephanie Grass, who is office manager.

A brother, Russell W. Withrow, Jr., who once worked in sales, died in 2012 at 53, the same age as his father.

Stephanie Grass, who turns 28 on May 16, joined the company right out of high school.

"I like working with all the guys and family," she said. "We're always laughing and cutting up."

She said she gets calls regularly from customers who tell her their parents and grandparents bought windows there.

The company employs about 40 people, including several who have been there for decades.

Brian Lowe, who works in sales, has held several posts.

"I started here in February of 1984," Lowe said. "When I started there was myself and one other fellow working here. We would build windows one day and install them the next."

As business grew, more employees came aboard and work continued to flow. While the company does some advertising, it's satisfied customers who keep things moving.

"In a rare case, we disappoint someone," Robert Withrow said. "We do our best to take care of them. Our customers are part of the St. Albans Windows family."

Bill Shahan, who is married to a cousin, is a former radio personality who joined the business three years ago as a salesman.

"It's almost like radio except you get to meet the people face to face," Shahan said. "It's nice to sell something tangible instead of air. You have their trust because they feel like they know you."

St. Albans Windows Manufacturing & Siding Co. offers windows, siding, doors and sunrooms.

"We are an Energy Star partner," Robert Withrow said. "Our windows are energy efficient. You have to go through testing and meet certain criteria. We're a full-service home improvement company specializing in windows we manufacture. We can also buy brands. We do sunroom kits by Joyce. The sunroom kit comes in sections. We assemble and do any prep work. We do porch enclosures with conventional roofs and patio porch covers."

Asked about the company's biggest challenge, he said the economy is always a concern for businesses. He added West Virginians are smart buyers who try to upgrade homes and make them energy efficient when budgets permit them to do so. Estimates are free.

Robert Withrow, 46, attended Marshall University and finished his political science degree at West Virginia State.

He likes his work. Jobs of all sizes include residences, businesses, and houses of worship.

"I enjoy the people," he said. "Every day is a new challenge. Every day is a new page to turn. Every month is a new chapter."

For more information on St. Albans Windows Manufacturing & Siding Co., go to www.stalbanswindow.com or call 304- 727-9363.

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at charlotte@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1246.

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Goodwill hosts jobs fair for military veterans http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150422/DM01/150429673 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150422/DM01/150429673 Wed, 22 Apr 2015 20:39:55 -0400 By Whitney Burdette Veterans often possess a unique skills set that sets them apart from other job seekers.

Companies and industries from across the region got a taste of what veterans can bring Wednesday at a job fair sponsored by Goodwill Industries. The expo was only open to veterans, and offered resume and networking workshops as well to help those veterans sharpen their job hunting skills.

More than 100 veterans attended the job fair, including Kenneth Gwinn from Charleston, who served in the Marine Corps and Army.

"My profession now is electrician, so I'm trying to find something looking for that type of employee," he said. "The mining industry, Army Corps of Engineers is here. The Department of Corrections was pretty helpful. You wouldn't think that. You would think of corrections officers, but that's a base job. Every corrections officer has something else to do. There might be electrician work there."

Gwinn filled out one application at the fair and dropped off one resume, but made several contacts with other vendors.

David Fields from Charleston, who also served in the Marines, said he was looking for a stable job.

"I'm working for a temporary agency right now but looking to pursue other options for full-time employment," Fields said. "I've done construction work, some work for (temp agency) Labor Ready doing different things for hotels and state colleges."

Like Gwinn, Fields dropped off a couple of resumes and applied for a painting job.

More than 70 companies were represented at the fair, including Wal-Mart. Patricia Mercer, a marketing and human resource manager with the company, said the skills and experience veterans have make them attractive to the company.

"I look for leadership," she said. "They can do the job, but it's their leadership, their commitment, it's their sense of getting the job done and doing it right that makes them very enticing to me."

The event was part of Goodwill's larger duty. The organization's motto, "Finding purpose in people and things," drives the group's mission of helping the community through things like job fairs or providing job readiness training. VetCorps member Robert Knight works with veterans and others who need to spruce up their resumes or learn certain computer applications like Microsoft Word.

"I teach the work readiness courses, teaching people how to develop resumes, develop interviewing skills," Knight said. "We did some mock interviews and I do that with our Goodwill clients. We have classes on job searching, doing online resumes."

Goodwill's new Prosperity Center, located on Virginia Street West, won't have its grand opening until next month, but the building is ready to house a variety of training seminars and boasts several computer labs that will be open to the public. Kathy McKinley, Goodwill's director of community relations, said eventually financial literacy courses, GED prep courses and community college classes will be held at the center.

Contact writer Whitney Burdette at 304-348-1251 or whitney.burdette@ dailymailwv.com. Follow her at www.Twitter.com/wburdette_DM.

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Shredding, e-cycling event set for Saturday http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150422/DM01/150429708 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150422/DM01/150429708 Wed, 22 Apr 2015 17:09:38 -0400 From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, the BBB will host its 4th annual Shred & E-Cycle Event at the BBB offices parking lot, Boulevard Towers, 1018 Kanawha Blvd. E. in Charleston.

Businesses and individuals are asked to bring old credit card statements, IRS tax records, credit card offers, or anything that lists personal information to be commercially shredded. The event will be held rain or shine.

Participants should enter off Leon Sullivan Way and exit onto Dunbar Street. There is no charge for this event, however monetary donations to the BBB Charitable and Educational Fund will be collected in order to continue to provide future shredding events.

E-cycling of old electronics will also be available. The following items will be collected (those with a fee are marked): Batteries (no alkaline), Cable, CDs, Cell Phones, Circuit Boards, Computers, Consumer Electronics, Game Consoles, Ink & Toner Cartridges, IT Equipment, Keyboards, Laptops, Mice, Modems, Monitors (w/glass tube - $5 fee), MP3 Players, Network Equipment, Phone Systems, Printers, Routers, Satellite Boxes, Servers, Speakers, Switches, Telecom Equipment, TVs (w/glass tube - $10 fee), UPS Units, Video Games, Wire.

For more information, visit www.bbb.org/canton/programs-services/shred-day-2015/ or call the BBB office at 304-345-7502, ext. 112.

The event is presented by the local Better Business Bureau Charitable & Educational Fund Inc. and sponsored by Kanawha Valley Board of Realtors, South Charleston Chamber, Mark E. Snapp & Associates and ServPro.

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WV's natural gas severance doubles http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150422/DM05/150429725 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150422/DM05/150429725 Wed, 22 Apr 2015 15:46:14 -0400 By Whitney Burdette The burgeoning oil and natural gas industry paid more than $188 million in severance taxes last year, more than doubling the amount paid in 2013, according to information from the Department of Revenue.

Of that $188.3 million, about 90 percent was allocated to state government, helping state officials balance the fiscal year 2014 budget. The remaining 10 percent was split between gas-producing counties, which saw 75 percent of that share, and other counties and municipalities, which split the remaining 25 percent of the share. According to the State Tax Office, more than $13 million in severance tax payments were made to counties and municipalities in 2014. Four counties received more than $1 million in severance tax revenue: Harrison at $1.9 million, Wetzel at $1.6 million, Doddridge at $1.2 million and Marshall at $1.1 million. Wetzel County Commissioner Bob Gorby said the money helps provide additional services to the 16,204 residents.

"Six or seven years ago, Wetzel County was classified as a depressed county," Gorby said. "With the additional resources made available by the gas industry severance tax revenue, we are able to provide additional services to Wetzel County citizens. As a result, we are no longer listed as a depressed county."

Mark Muchow, the deputy secretary of the Department of Revenue, said coal and natural gas severance tax collections continue to be on the upswing, though collections are down over last year.

"So far this fiscal year, at least through march we collected $298.5 for the general revenue fund," Muchow said. "Last year we were at $316.6 so we are down a little bit from last year."

Meanwhile, coal severance taxes have been on the decline. Not only that, but taxes associated with the coal industry have been down as well. Muchow explained that the coal industry requires more employees, so when the market declines and workers are laid off, things like personal income taxes decline with it.

"The impact on coal on the West Virginia economy is greater than natural gas," Muchow said. "Coal is much more labor intensive than natural gas production.

"There's a whole lot fewer people employed in the natural gas industry."

But for counties and municipalities in the northern part of the state, those severance tax revenues mean more money in their coffers. Five cities in the Northern Panhandle split more than $3.8 million in severance taxes, with Wheeling receiving more than $51,000. Seven counties in North Central West Virginia split $4.11 million in severance taxes last year, including $1.9 million to Harrison County.

"The doubling of severance tax receipts helped the state of West Virginia balance its 2014 budget and provided needed revenue to county and city governments," said Corky DeMarco, executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association. "The local funds are used to support vital public services - everything from local emergency responders, community projects and social programs."

The increase in natural gas severance taxes can be tied to the increase in drilling in both the Marcellus and Utica shales, which are estimated to contain more than 100 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

"These numbers represent just one small part of the natural gas industry's impact in this region," DeMarco said. "The industry's impact can be felt through the thousands of good paying jobs, support for local businesses and increase in mineral property values."

But Muchow remains cautious.

"The concern going forward is lower energy prices, which across the board may have a bit of a deteriorative affect on future natural gas output," he said.

Contact writer Whitney Burdette at 304-348-1251 or whitney.burdette@dailymailwv.com. Follow her at www.Twitter.com/wburdette_DM.

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Ohio beats out W.Va. for third cracker plant http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150422/DM05/150429727 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150422/DM05/150429727 Wed, 22 Apr 2015 15:36:44 -0400 By Jared Hunt A Thailand energy company has picked Ohio over West Virginia for the potential location of a multi-billion dollar petrochemical cracker complex.

Meanwhile, the Brazilian company behind the potential West Virginia cracker continues to say volatility in global energy prices is delaying the decision to green-light its project.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced Wednesday PTT Global Chemical, Thailand's largest integrated petrochemical and refining company, has partnered with Japan-based Marubeni Corp. and selected a site in Belmont County, which borders West Virginia in the area around Wheeling and Moundsville, to locate the potential plant. The companies will spend the next 12 to 16 months completing engineering, designs and permitting at the Ohio site, before making a final investment decision to proceed with the project sometime in 2016.

If approved, it would take about three and a half years to build the cracker plant, which takes ethane from natural gas and "cracks" it into ethylene, which is used to make plastics and resins used in everything from packaging to pharmaceuticals.

"There is more work ahead before final decisions on this project are made, but I know our Ohio team will do everything we can to bring it fruition," Kasich said in a statement. "A project of this size can help lift the region forever."

Chris Stadelman, spokesman for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's office, said West Virginia was in the running for the project. He said the companies had a preferred site they were evaluating in Mason County, but informed state officials in recent days the Ohio site was their final choice.

Stadelman said the companies had worries about the ability to get natural gas supplies to the Mason County site.

"There was an issue getting the raw materials to them and guaranteeing we can build a pipeline into Mason County," he said.

The PTT Global-Marubeni project is the third potential cracker announced in the region in the past three years. Royal Dutch Shell announced in 2012 they were eying a site in Monaca, Pa., about 20 miles from Chester in Hancock County, to build their plant.

In November 2013, Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht unveiled details of Project ASCENT, which involved potentially building a cracker and four polyethylene plants just south of Parkersburg. ASCENT stands for Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise.

However, in February, David Peebles, the company's vice president for business development, said the recent collapse in global oil prices was forcing the company to rethink the project.

He explained at the time the company has two options for creating the ethylene they hope to use in plastics. They can either use what's called naphtha, which is derived from crude oil, or ethane derived from natural gas.

When crude oil was trading above $100 a barrel last year, low-priced natural gas from the Marcellus shale held a solid cost advantage. But with the oil price now cut in half and natural gas producers shutting down rigs in the Marcellus region, that dynamic has changed.

Odebrecht and its Braskem subsidiary are working to design a petrochemical complex that would last for at least 50 years, and executives want to make sure they engineer the plant to function as profitably as possible.

"This is a mega-project, this is a project that requires a lot of front-end planning, that planning process is probably a three- to five-year process," Peebles said in February. "The planning is in stages that you're always rethinking. That's what planning is all about.

"The rethinking is a rethinking of what is the impact of the cost of feedstock and what are the sources of feedstock that we should be planning for," he also said at the time.

The company said this week it is continuing to re-evaluate what those energy market changes mean for the potential Wood County plant.

"From the beginning, we have taken a deliberate approach to Project ASCENT," the company said in a statement. "Under the current energy scenarios, the original configuration of Project ASCENT needs to be re-evaluated and a final investment decision on the Project will require more diligence. We have already begun our re-analysis and will continue to take a prudent, deliberative approach to ensure that ASCENT's business will be successful and sustainable for the region, our shareholders, team members, industry partners, and clients."

Some media outlets interpreted the company's statement as meaning the project was "paused" or "on hold." However, a company spokesman said the best way to describe the scenario is that a decision on the project is being "delayed." He said the latest statement was in line with what Peebles had discussed in February.

While Odebrecht has publicly discussed the potential project, it has not made what's known as a "final investment decision," which officially green-lights construction.

The company is currently going through what's known as the front-end loading, or FEL, method of project planning. The process, commonly used for long-term, capital intensive projects, is very thorough and involves three stages: FEL 1, FEL 2 and FEL 3.

During FEL 1, the company evaluates the overall scope of the project. In FEL 2, preliminary engineering, land, permitting and design work is completed. During FEL 3, the company finalizes its specific engineering and design plans and estimates the costs to build and operate the plant.

After completing FEL 3, company executives would review all plans and financial estimates and issue its final investment decision, which would be the official approval or rejection of the project.

During an interview at the state Chamber of Commerce's Annual Meeting and Business Summit last August, Peebles said the company hoped to issue that final investment decision sometime in the fourth quarter of 2015. From there, it would take about four years to construct the plant, meaning it could be ready for production by late 2019.

But in February, Peebles said that timetable was being pushed back due to the re-evaluation of the project.

"We've not even gotten into FEL 3 yet, and that takes a lot of time ... So how long is it going to be (until the final investment decision is made)? I can't tell you," he said at the time.

Stadelman said Tomblin and Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette have had "frequent and ongoing" conversations with Braskem and Odebrecht executives, meeting most recently with them on Tuesday to get an update on the project.

"They (the company executives) continue to move forward with permitting processes and other associated activities, but they did acknowledge that because of the changes in the worldwide energy markets, they're going to re-evaluate the best configuration for the project," Stadelman said.

"They're still very happy with the site, the state's business climate, the workforce availability that we've offered," he said. "It's purely a matter of them waiting to see what configuration makes the most sense with the project."

Meanwhile, commerce department officials and administration staff are still confident Project ASCENT will become a reality.

"We remain hopeful, we remain optimistic, but we understand that its a very expensive and time-consuming process and we'll continue to work through that," Stadelman said.

Odebrecht is not the only company taking its time with evaluating a cracker. Royal Dutch Shell has still yet to make its final investment decision to approve the Pennsylvania cracker, which was announced prior to Project ASCENT.

Tomblin and Burdette had also lobbied hard to land the Shell cracker. Despite getting just one of the three potential facilities, officials believe the proximity of the other two to the West Virginia border will still have a positive effect on the state's economy.

"We'd love to have all three, but the reality is that all three would be beneficial to the state of West Virginia," Stadelman said.

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

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Thanks offered after grand opening of CAMC cancer center http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150422/DM01/150429740 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150422/DM01/150429740 Wed, 22 Apr 2015 13:22:24 -0400 By Charlotte Ferrell Smith Discussion of the new Cancer Center was a highlight of the regular meeting of the Charleston Area Medical Center Board of Trustees on Thursday morning when oncologists offered thanks to all who made the facility possible as well as hope for strides yet to come regarding treatment.

David Ramsey, CAMC president and chief executive officer, said plans call for seeing patients at the new center on May 4. An excerpt showing CAMC's inclusion in a recent PBS documentary was presented to the board. It was a moving experience to see patients interact with family members and medical staff as discussion swirled around diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis.

Following the presentation, Dr. James Frame said the brief presentation offered a realistic look at how physicians become emotionally involved with a patient's care. He called working as an oncologist "an honor to serve."

Dr. Steven Jubelirer said treatment is tailored to each individual and he expects more medical strides within the next few years.

About 200 patients are seen each day in the cramped areas of the David Lee Cancer Center, located on the Memorial Hospital campus. Officials said the new spacious facility will present a comfortable, healing environment for patients and families.

About 1,000 people visited the open house at the new center on Saturday. Ramsey said it was exciting to meet some of the patients looking forward to appointments scheduled in the new building.

Meanwhile, Ramsey said 800 attended the annual employee dinner on Tuesday night at the Charleston Civic Center where many longtime employees were recognized. These included 102 employees with 25 years of service, 53 with 30 years, 55 with 35 years, 30 with 40 years, and 10 with 45 years. Also, a volunteer at Women and Children's Hospital was honored for 50 years of service.

Ed Welch, University of Charleston president and head of the quality committee, reported a successful visit from CAMC's new accreditation body, Det Norske Veritas, a Norwegian-based company.

"There were many positive comments about staff," he said. "Preparation was efficient and staff presented themselves extraordinarily well."

He noted some issues that need attention such as incomplete post operative notes and a need to get keys from employees who leave as well as more extensive testing of equipment. Welch said the hardest point to correct would be smoking on campus.

He said the hospital also faces the "historic challenge to reduce falls." This seems to happen most frequently when a patient tries to go to the restroom without assistance, he said.

Gail Pitchford, CAMC Foundation president, reminded the group there is still time to plan to attend the annual Gala to benefit Women and Children's Hospital 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences. The event plays a significant role in providing funds to deliver health care to indigent children and families.

"So far, we have $420,000 in sponsorships, another record-setting year," she said.

Tickets are $200 to the Gala with special VIP tickets available to meet professional tennis player Chris Evert. Call 304-388-9860 for information.

Prior to this month's regular meeting, Ramsey presented several employees with "Heart and Soul" awards for going above the call of duty in their respective jobs.

Joey Griffith, who works in security at General Hospital, has been known to help in the parking garage by escorting people to vehicles, starting disabled cars, or changing tires. He has used his own resources to purchase snacks for children in waiting areas. He has also delivered snacks and ice water to patients.

Ashley Witt, who works in the emergency department at Teays Valley Hospital, was honored for extra assistance with a patient there. While collecting a urine sample from a patient, she noticed the woman needed clean clothes. After learning the woman had no water or electricity at her home, Witt bathed the patient and found clean clothing for her.

A team working in surgery at General Hospital was recognized for helping a young girl who was injured in a car accident. Her back had to be stabilized and she could not be turned to have her hair cleaned of dirt, blood and glass. While in the operating room, a team managed to wash the girl's hair and braid it for her. Those recognized for showing "great compassion" were nurse anesthetist Nichole Jones and nurses Scherie Stover, Dawn Petry, and Kendra Caines.

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at charlotte@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1246.

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Employers cut jobs in 31 US states as growth slows http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150422/ARTICLE/150429757 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150422/ARTICLE/150429757 Wed, 22 Apr 2015 07:51:09 -0400

By CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER

AP Economics Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Employers in 31 U.S. states cut jobs last month as weak economic growth weighed on hiring and a slowdown in oil and gas drilling caused big job losses in some states.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that unemployment rates rose or were unchanged in 27 states and fell in 23 states. Eighteen states gained jobs, while employment was unchanged in Idaho.

The biggest job cuts occurred in states with large oil and gas drilling, led by Texas, which lost 25,400 jobs, and followed by Oklahoma, which cut 12,900. Pennsylvania lost 12,700, the third largest loss. A sharp fall in oil prices since last June has caused oil and gas companies to cut back on drilling. Pennsylvania has benefited in recent years from the discovery of shale gas fields in the state.

Nationwide, employers added just 126,000 jobs in March, the fewest in 15 months and snapping a year-long streak of monthly gains above 200,000. The unemployment rate remained 5.5 percent.

Harsh winter weather and a labor dispute at West Coast ports that disrupted shipping dragged down the economy in the first three months of the year. Consumers, meanwhile, have saved much of the windfall they have received from cheaper gas prices, lowering spending. And a big jump in the dollar's value also has made U.S. exports more expensive and lowered overseas sales of U.S. goods.

All told, economists forecast that growth slowed to an annual rate of 1 percent or less in the first quarter, down from a roughly 3.4 percent pace in the second half of last year. Still, most analysts expect hiring and growth to rebound this spring.

The cutbacks in oil and gas production have also led to job losses in North Dakota, which had experienced an oil and gas boom since the recession. The boom sent the unemployment rate falling to the lowest in the nation.

But in February its unemployment rate rose and the state no longer had the lowest unemployment rate nationwide. It rose again in March, to 3.1 percent. Nebraska now has the lowest rate, at 2.6 percent.

Nevada reported the highest unemployment rate, at 7.1 percent.

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Unemployment rates up in 27 W.Va. counties in March http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150422/ARTICLE/150429759 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150422/ARTICLE/150429759 Wed, 22 Apr 2015 07:05:06 -0400

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Unemployment increased in 27 of West Virginia's 55 counties in March.

WorkForce West Virginia says Calhoun County's unemployment rate of 15.9 percent was up from 14.7 percent in February and was the highest in the state.

Other counties with the highest rates were McDowell at 15.4 percent and Roane at 14.4 percent.

Jefferson County had the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 4.8 percent, followed by Monongalia County at 5 percent, Pendleton County at 5.8 and Berkeley County at 5.9.

Overall, the unemployment rate dropped in 17 counties and didn't change in 11 others from February.

West Virginia's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose one-half of a percentage point to 6.6 percent in March.

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