www.charlestondailymail.com Business http://www.charlestondailymail.com Daily Mail feed en-us Copyright 2014, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers Nick Jr., Comedy Central, CMT, more dropping from Suddenlink in tiff with Viacom http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140930/DM05/140939922 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140930/DM05/140939922 Tue, 30 Sep 2014 19:20:51 -0400 By Jared Hunt Suddenlink cable customers will lose several channels owned by Viacom Inc. at midnight after the two companies were unable to resolve a dispute over a proposed fee increase.

St. Louis-based Suddenlink Communications said it would pull the channels, which include MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, if it didn't reach a deal over the retransmission fees for carrying the stations.

Gene Regan, spokesman for Suddenlink, said Viacom had failed to make a "fair and reasonable offer" regarding the retransmission agreement, which are the fees networks charge cable and satellite providers for the right to carry their signals.

In addition to all of the channels under the MTV and Nickelodeon umbrellas, Viacom also owns the Spike, CMT, BET and VH1 networks.

Suddenlink claimed Viacom is demanding a nearly 50 percent increase in the fees for its networks. That comes as the stations have seen viewership decline by nearly 30 percent, according to Nielsen ratings data.

"Because it's not fair to ask Suddenlink customers to pay a lot more for channels that, on average, they watch a lot less, we will - starting . . . October 1 - no longer carry the Viacom channels," Regan said.

A Viacom spokesperson did not return a request for comment Tuesday, but the company defended its fee request in a Friday statement issued to Multichannel News, an online broadcasting publication. It said Suddenlink's statements and decision to pull the Viacom channels from its lineup were part of Suddenlink's "negotiating playbook."

"The increase we are asking for is fair," the statement said. "Viacom's networks are the best performing cable network group and account for nearly 20 percent of all cable viewing. Additionally, we drive nearly a third of all video on demand viewing by Suddenlink customers."

Viacom said Suddenlink recently agreed to pay more for the ESPN family of networks than Viacom was asking for all 24 of its networks combined.

To offset the loss of Viacom channels, Suddenlink said it will begin offering several channels its viewers have recently requested.

In the Charleston area, it will add nine channels to its basic tier, including FXX, Game Show Network, Great American Country and Hallmark Movies and Mysteries. It will also add 10 channels to its digital tier, including ESPN's Goal Line network, Fusion, Comedy.tv, MGM Channel and the Smithsonian Channel.

The company has set up two websites, suddenlinkonyourside.com and bypopulardemand.com, to inform customers about the Viacom dispute and new channels.

Suddenlink, which serves 1.1 million customers in 16 states, said it is not the only company to have a dispute with Viacom. It said 60 other companies have had similar disputes with the company.

Retransmission fee battles have been increasing among networks and cable and satellite providers in recent years, which has led to some temporary channel blackouts in some areas while companies haggle past deadlines. The battles can sometimes have a negative effect on a provider's subscriber base when they are drawn out.

Time Warner Cable said they lost up to 150,000 of its 11.4 million subscribers last year due to a month-long fee battle with CBS.

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

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Wonderful West Virginia to get new publisher http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140930/ARTICLE/140939976 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140930/ARTICLE/140939976 Tue, 30 Sep 2014 12:22:28 -0400 CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Wonderful West Virginia magazine is changing publishers.

Morgantown-based New South Media has won a contract from the Division of Natural Resources to publish the monthly magazine, beginning with the January 2015 issue.

Cannon Graphics of Charleston had been the magazine's publisher since 1997.

The Charleston Gazette reports that New South Media submitted a bid of $7,200 per 36-page issue, plus $700 for an additional four pages, or $1,400 for an additional eight pages.

Cannon Graphics bid $11,900 per issue, plus $1,500 for an additional four pages, or $2,800 for an additional eight pages.

The DNR will open bids for a separate contract to print and distribute the magazine on Oct. 28.

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Jared Hunt column: Airline grounds itself after setbacks http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140929/DM05/140929294 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140929/DM05/140929294 Mon, 29 Sep 2014 00:01:00 -0400 PEOPLExpress, the startup airline that recently announced direct flights between Charleston and Orlando, Fla., isn't getting off to a good start.

On Friday, the low-cost carrier based in Newport News, Va., announced it was suspending operations for at least three weeks until it sorts out a series of aircraft and personnel issues.

"Recent aircraft and crew availability and maintenance issues, including an aircraft recently damaged by a vendor's truck, an engine change and a lack of a planned spare aircraft, have made it challenging to operate a full schedule, preventing us from delivering the passenger experience we are striving for," the company said in a press release.

The release said the company planned to relaunch "on or about" Oct. 16. That's the day it plans to begin three-day-a-week service between Yeager and Orlando International airports.

"We still intend to launch previously announced service to Orlando and Charleston, W.Va., starting Oct. 16," the company said.

The airline, which borrowed its name from the low-cost carrier that operated in the 1980s, has suffered a series of setbacks since it launched on June 30.

In August, it experienced major delays when two of its pilots were unable to fly on the same day. One had an eye injury and the other's wife was hospitalized, the Daily Press in Virginia reported. The delays affected about 700 passengers on 10 scheduled flights.

Then on Sept. 19, a truck on the tarmac in Newport News crashed into one of the company's planes, leaving it unable to fly.

The company leases two Boeing 737s from Vision Airlines. The crash left PEOPLExpress with just one functioning plane to fly its scheduled routes. That plane began experiencing maintenance issues last week, so the company decided to halt service until both planes could be completely fixed.

Vinay Bhaskara of Airways News wrote the three-week shutdown could be a "terminal blow for the fledgling ultra-low cost carrier."

However, Yeager Airport marketing director Brian Belcher said the decision could be a smart move for the company given its issues.

"They want to be able to provide good customer service along with their flights," he said Friday. "They've been working hard to try to maintain their schedule. I think it's a good idea what they're doing. They're going to park it and wait."

He said Yeager officials have been in continual contact with the carrier about the situation and that the airport is going to continue promoting the airline and selling tickets.

"They told us as soon as they get the aircraft they're going to be back up and running," he said, noting that was to take 10 to 12 days. "We're going to continue to plan and launch their new service."

A PEOPLExpress spokesman said ticket sales for the Orlando-Charleston flight have already surpassed expectations. Belcher said the airport plans to do everything it can to support the company and get it back in the air.

"We are supporting them and we want to see them succeed," he said.

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Charleston Daily Mail rack price increasing by 25 cents http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140929/DM01/140929208 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140929/DM01/140929208 Mon, 29 Sep 2014 20:04:41 -0400 By now you might have seen notifications on newspaper racks at your favorite convenience store or on newspaper boxes on the street.

On Wednesday, Oct. 1, the price of the paper is going up by a quarter.

It will cost 75 cents for those who buy a copy off the rack.

This is the first time in at least 20 years our single-copy price has gone up. All that time it's been 50 cents.

"We're probably one of the last papers in the country to keep that rate," said Jim Heady, circulation director for Charleston Newspapers.

So many other products have gone up in price during that time. Charleston Newspapers is facing increased costs as well.

"The price increase to 75 cents is to help us keep providing a quality news product at convenient locations," said Brad McElhinny, editor and publisher of the Daily Mail.

"We've held the line on price for a very long time, but the time for an increase has come. At 75 cents, I still believe the newspaper is one of the most affordable products in America. I'd like to thank readers for their loyalty and understanding as we make this change."

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NiSource to spin off Columbia Pipeline Group http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140928/DM05/140929292 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140928/DM05/140929292 Sun, 28 Sep 2014 19:21:02 -0400 By Jared Hunt Natural gas firm says board has approved plans to split company

By JARED HUNT

DAILY MAIL BUSINESS EDITOR

NiSource Inc. plans to spin off its Columbia Pipeline Group into a separate, publicly traded company, the company announced Sunday.

The Merrilville, Indiana-based natural gas firm said in a statement its board of directors has approved in principle the plans to split the company into "two highly focused energy infrastructure companies." The separation is expected to be complete by mid-2015.

NiSource will remain as a regulated natural gas and electric utilities company. Meanwhile, Columbia Pipeline Group Inc. will become a "pure-play natural gas pipeline, midstream and storage company," the company said.

Columbia Pipeline Group will be made up of subsidiaries Columbia Gas Transmission, Columbia Gulf Transmission, NiSource Midstream Services and NiSource's other current natural gas pipeline, storage and midstream holdings. Once spun off, it is expected to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol COLP.

NiSource president and CEO Robert Skaggs said separating the utility and pipeline businesses was "a significant and logical step" in a long-term strategy to deliver value to investors and enhanced service to customers.

"As independent, highly focused, premier entities, both companies will benefit from the size and scale of their distinct assets and customer bases, will have enhanced strategic clarity and focus, and will be well capitalized, all enhancing their ability to successfully execute on their robust, long-term investment plans," Skaggs said in a press release.

"By creating two dynamic companies that can execute on their distinct business strategies, we expect to further sharpen each company's customer service focus, maintain strong levels of local employment and community involvement, thereby further positioning us to create immediate and long-term value for our shareholders," he said.

NiSource is currently the 80th largest private employer in the state, according to Workforce West Virginia. The Columbia Pipeline Group has offices located in Charleston.

The company said the spinoff would not affect employment levels at either company; no layoffs are expected at the Columbia Pipeline Group and the company plans to maintain current work locations.

The spun-off Columbia Pipeline Group will operate more than 15,000 miles of natural gas transmission pipelines, close to 300 billion cubic feet of underground storage capacity and a growing portfolio of midstream and related facilities.

In addition to access to energy markets along the eastern United States, Columbia Pipeline Group has strategic asset positions in the Marcellus and Utica shale regions.

"The company has leveraged these assets to develop a deep inventory of supply- and market-driven growth projects, many of which are in advanced stages of development," the NiSource press release said.

The company said these projects, combined with a long-term system modernization program, total between $12 and $15 billion of potential capital investment opportunities over the next 10 years.

The company recently announced it plans to invest $1.75 billion to construct new infrastructure that will help bring natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale regions to markets in the Midwest and Gulf Coast.

"As an independent company, CPG will be well-positioned to execute on a significant number of value-creating growth opportunities resulting from the expansion of natural gas drilling in its geographic territories, its landmark system modernization program as well as increased demand associated with liquefied natural gas exports and gas-fired electric generation - all of which is expected to benefit our customers, investors and other key stakeholders," Skaggs said.

NiSource executives will discuss the proposed company split during an investor conference call at 8:30 a.m. today. Audio of the call and an investor presentation will be available online at the company's website, www.nisource.com.

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

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New iPhones prove tough to bend in lab http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140928/ARTICLE/140929277 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140928/ARTICLE/140929277 Sun, 28 Sep 2014 20:08:37 -0400

Bloomberg News

SAN FRANCISCO - Facing an Internet outcry about their malleability, Apple's new iPhones proved fit for daily use, and difficult to bend, in lab tests run by Consumer Reports magazine.

Stress tests on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, along with comparable smartphones from competitors, showed that it took "significant force" to damage any of the devices, Consumer Reports said in results of a study published on its website. HTC Corp.'s HTC One M8 and Samsung Electronics's Galaxy Note 3 were among the other devices.

"All the phones we tested showed themselves to be pretty tough," the report said. "We expect that any of these phones should stand up to typical use."

Following uproar in social media including claims the new iPhone 6 Plus bends if it's sat upon or if enough pressure is placed on it, Apple has said bending of its devices is "extremely rare." Only nine customers had contacted Apple about a bent iPhone 6 Plus, the Cupertino, California-based company said in a Sept. 25 statement.

The iPhone 6 Plus began to deform after 90 pounds of force was applied and the iPhone 6 stood up to pressure until 70 pounds was applied, the same as the HTC One M8, according to Consumer Reports. The Galaxy Note 3 was damaged at 150 pounds. All devices withstood 55 pounds, the force needed to break three pencils, the magazine said.

"Bear in mind that it took significant force to do this kind of damage to all these phones," Consumer Reports said. "Both iPhones seem tougher than the Internet fracas implies."

The iPhone 6 Plus, a 5.5-inch screen device, which is the biggest smartphone in Apple's lineup, became available for sale last week, along with the other new model, the iPhone 6.

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Alpha Natural Resources confirms 261 W.Va. layoffs http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140927/ARTICLE/140929344 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140927/ARTICLE/140929344 Sat, 27 Sep 2014 07:52:16 -0400

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Alpha Natural Resources has idled three southern West Virginia mining complexes and laid off 261 employees.

A company news release says it will idle surface mines Independence Coal's Twilight, Pioneer Fuels' Ewing Fork No. 1 and Marsh Fork. The mines are in in Boone, Kanawha and Raleigh counties.

Two mines are connected to a July warning notice that 1,100 mine Southern West Virginia employees could face layoffs by mid-October.

Marsh Fork was not part of the July notice.

The notice mentioned 11 mine sites. The company moved back anticipated idling dates for eight of the mines to Nov. 26. One location, Alex Energy's Edwight mine in Raleigh, did not extend its warning notice and will operate as usual.

Alpha pointed to federal regulations and dismal market conditions for its layoffs.

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Prices at the pump head below $3 in much of US http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140927/ARTICLE/140929346 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140927/ARTICLE/140929346 Sat, 27 Sep 2014 07:47:33 -0400

By JONATHAN FAHEY<\n>AP Energy Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - The price of a gallon of gasoline may soon start with a "2" across much the country.

Gasoline prices typically decline in autumn, and this year they are being pulled even lower by falling global oil prices. By the end of the year, up to 30 states could have an average gasoline price of less than $3 a gallon.
The average in Springfield, Missouri, is already below $3, according to Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service and GasBuddy.com. Several other cities are on the brink.
"And there will be more, many more," Kloza said. Cities in high-priced states such as California and New York will not be among them, though, which will probably keep the national average above $3.
At the current national average of $3.35 a gallon, gas is a dime cheaper than a year ago at this time. The gap is 20 cents or more in seven states, including California, Kansas, South Dakota and Connecticut, according to AAA.
Lower fuel prices help the economy in a few ways. They make goods cheaper to ship and make travel more affordable. Drivers are left with a few extra dollars in their pockets. And consumers grow confident enough to make other purchases, perhaps even a big-ticket item. Consumer spending is 70 percent of the U.S. economy.
Aidan Obrecht, a 20-year-old community college student from Boothwyn, Pennsylvania, said gas in his area has fallen 10 to 20 cents over the past couple of weeks. He paid $3.27 a gallon Thursday to fill up his Ford Taurus on his way to work at a CVS pharmacy.
"I'm living paycheck to paycheck, so it's nice to be able to save" he said. "Even if it's $5 or $10 extra (after a fill-up), it adds up over the long run."
Fall is when refiners are allowed to switch to a cheaper blend of gasoline for the cooler months, and driving demand declines after summer vacations have ended.
Refinery problems or hurricanes can halt the typical autumn price decline temporarily by reducing gasoline production. For example, a reported outage at a refinery in Eastern Canada that supplies the Northeast with gasoline is likely to push the price at the pump slightly higher in some markets over the next few days.
But by late October prices are usually well on their way lower.
Last year, the national average fell 28 cents per gallon between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31. This year, gasoline had a head start. It entered September at its lowest level for the beginning of the month in four years - and the price of crude oil was rapidly heading lower.
The drop in global crude oil prices is a surprise. Despite increasing violence and turmoil in the Middle East, the world's most important oil-producing region, the global price of oil has fallen to $97 a barrel, close to its lowest level in more than two years.
That's partly because new technology has allowed U.S. drillers to consistently increase production from fields in North Dakota and Texas, adding to global supplies. At the same time, world demand is not growing as much as anticipated because of slower economic growth in China and Europe.
The increase in domestic supplies is also helping avoid dramatic spikes in gasoline prices, which economists say is more damaging to consumer confidence than prices that rise gradually. This year, the national average peaked in April at $3.70 per gallon. Last year, the peak was $3.79, and the year before it was $3.94.
The national average for gasoline is not likely to fall all the way to $3 because of a number of factors. Some state gasoline taxes have increased. Loyalty programs that offer discounts to members at many stations keep listed prices higher than what drivers actually pay. And some states have adopted regulatory rules that will probably add a few cents per gallon, Kloza said.
He predicts the national average will end the year somewhere between $3.15 and $3.25 per gallon.
Some analysts, including Bernstein Research's Oswald Clint, predict oil will soon head back up as OPEC countries respond to lower prices by cutting back and consumers respond by burning more fuel.
But many predict moderate oil and gasoline prices for this year and next. The Energy Department estimates the national average gasoline price for all of 2014 will be $3.46 a gallon, its lowest annual average since 2010. The government predicts the average will fall again, to $3.41, in 2015.
Phil Flynn, an oil analyst at Price Futures Group, expects an even bigger decline as U.S. oil companies produce more oil, refiners make more gasoline and demand for gasoline stays relatively low because of more fuel-efficient vehicles.
"For the regular driver, it's the best of times," he said. "Many are going to be shocked at how low prices go, but I'm saying `get used to it."'
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Jonathan Fahey can be reached at http://twitter.com/JonathanFahey .

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WV loans $1.3M to 2 expanding companies http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140927/ARTICLE/140929351 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140927/ARTICLE/140929351 Sat, 27 Sep 2014 07:39:43 -0400

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Two West Virginia companies are receiving $1.3 million in state loans to expand their businesses.

The West Virginia Economic Development Authority approved the loans this month.

Pietro Fiorentini USA is getting a $1 million loan for equipment at a planned manufacturing operation in the Wheeling area. The Italy-based company manufactures and assembles gas production accessories, like valves, vessels and regulators. The company aims to employ 31 workers after one year and 41 after three.

Inter-State Hardwoods Company is receiving $305,000 to buy and install new equipment at its Bartow facility. The more-than 70-year-old company makes hardwood lumber products.

The company employs 129 workers, and expects to increase that number to 137 after one year and 150 after three years.

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W.Va. director of small business agency retiring http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140927/ARTICLE/140929352 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140927/ARTICLE/140929352 Sat, 27 Sep 2014 07:38:44 -0400

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (AP) - The head of the U.S. Small Business Administration's West Virginia office is retiring.

Officials say Judy McCauley is scheduled to retire from the agency on Tuesday.

The West Virginia native and Fairmont State University graduate joined the agency in 1996 and has held the position of district director since April 2004.

As district director, McCauley has been responsible for the delivery of the agency's programs and services statewide. That included

The agency's programs and services include lending, contracting, training and disaster assistance, as well as oversight of the Small Business Development Centers and Women's Business Center.

McCauley also served on the agency's national advisory council representing Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Officials have not yet identified a replacement.

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Business people, Sept. 25 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140926/DM05/140929467 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140926/DM05/140929467 Fri, 26 Sep 2014 00:01:00 -0400 FINANCE

n Brett Staples has joined the Charleston office of BB&T Scott & Stringfellow as a senior managing director and financial advisor. Staples will serve as financial advisor for high-net-worth clients and institutional clients, providing and coordinating comprehensive wealth management solutions. He previously worked as an advisor and manager of J.P. Morgan's Private Bank in West Virginia. A Charleston native, Staples has 24 years of experience in the investment and banking industry.

n Dorothy Crouch has joined the Charleston office of BB&T Scott & Stringfellow as a registered client service associate.

Crouch will provide client service and support to high-net-worth clients and institutional clients at the firm. She spent 28 years at J.P. Morgan and its predecessors, most recently as an advisor in J.P. Morgan's Private Bank. She has more than 30 years of experience in the financial services industry and currently holds the Series 7 and 63 securities licenses.

HEALTH CARE

n Stacy Kelly, a registered nurse with nearly 20 years of experience, has been named nurse manager for Cabell Huntington Hospital's Surgical Intensive Care Unit and Burn Intensive Care Unit.

Kelly's nursing career began in 1995 and she has since held a broad range of patient care and supervisory roles in nursing. Most recently, she worked at Ohio State University as clinic nurse manager for gynecologic oncology.

LAW

n Environmental attorney David Yaussy joined the Spilman Thomas & Battle law firm as member. He will assume a leadership position within Spilman's Environmental Law Practice Group.

With nearly 30 years of experience assisting clients in the areas of energy and environmental law, Yaussy's practice includes environmental litigation, environmental permitting, and administrative appeals for the natural gas, chemical, manufacturing, silviculture and agricultural industries.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

n Jason Anderson has been promoted to vice president of engineering for Frontier Communication's Mid-Atlantic Region.

A resident of Daniels, Anderson served most recently as Frontier's regional director of engineering and construction. He has a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from West Virginia Institute of Technology and a master's of business administration from the University of Texas at Dallas, as well as 20 years of experience in engineering management.

n Brian Holbert has been promoted to director of business operations for the Mid-Atlantic Region of Frontier Communications.

Holbert most recently served as the company's senior manager of assignment for Ohio and West Virginia, and has extensive management experience in operations and financial management. A Kanawha County resident, he has a bachelor's degree in leadership and development from Wheeling Jesuit University and a master's degree in business administration from the University of Charleston.

Compiled by Jared Hunt

Email announcements regarding new hires, promotions, or awards at your business to business@dailymailwv.com. Attach headshots in JPEG format.

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WVU business index points to healthy growth http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140925/DM05/140929466 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140925/DM05/140929466 Thu, 25 Sep 2014 20:49:47 -0400 By Jared Hunt West Virginia's economy should continue growing at strong pace through early 2015, according to the latest state business index from researchers at West Virginia University.

The Mountain State Business Index, a measure of state business activity compiled by WVU's Bureau of Business and Economic Research, grew at a 0.5 percent pace in August, its fifth consecutive month of strong growth. Over the past year, the index has increased 2.3 percent, but looking at the last six months, the index has grown at a faster, 4.7 percent pace.

Bureau director John Deskins said that paints a positive outlook for the state's economy.

"We are becoming increasingly confident that the economy will continue to grow at a healthy pace this fall through early 2015," said bureau director John Deskins. "Chances of a recession in the coming months appear remote."

The index uses data compiled from seven categories - building permits, unemployment insurance claims, coal and natural gas production, the stock prices of top West Virginia employers, interest rates and the value of the U.S. dollar - to get a measurement of the state's business performance. It is designed to be used as a gauge of where the state's economy will likely go in the next four to six months.

Six of the indexes seven components indicated positive growth during the month, with interest rates providing the only negative influence. Natural gas production provided the largest boost last month.

"Natural gas output continues to surge thanks to highly productive Marcellus Shale wells in the Northern Panhandle and North-Central regions of West Virginia," said research assistant professor Brian Lego.

Lego said initial unemployment insurance claims have dropped in recent months and are now at their lowest level since October 2007. He said that suggests further improvements in the state's labor market are likely.

The drop in unemployment claims goes against data recently released by Workforce West Virginia. The agency reported earlier this month the state's unemployment rate spiked three-tenths of a percentage point to 6.6 percent in August as the number of employed West Virginians fell by 5,200.

Deskins and other Workforce West Virginia officials said at the time they thought the jump could have been a statistical fluke as it went against a trend of growing employment that had been in place for the first half of the year. They said the data might not have properly accounted for the number of people who left work to go back to school in August.

Deskins said Wednesday he thinks the latest Mountain State Business Index results support his belief that the state unemployment data might not have been accurate.

"This does make us even more suspicious that the latest unemployment reading was a statistical anomaly," he said.

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

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Jared Hunt column: Christmas shopping and pumpkin spice creep http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140925/DM05/140929591 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140925/DM05/140929591 Thu, 25 Sep 2014 00:01:00 -0400 Fall is officially here, and you know what that means: It's time for Christmas!

No, I'm not missing the months of October and November from my desktop calendar, I'm just thinking like a retailer.

There are now only 90 days left for you to finish shopping before Christmas, and the big box stores know it.

After a lackluster holiday shopping season last year, sales are expected to increase 4.5 percent this year, according to the latest forecast from private consulting firm Deloitte.

With the national unemployment rate falling to 6.1 percent and disposable income up about 2.6 percent, Deloitte analysts said consumers are feeling more secure in their finances.

"There's a combination of some real reasons to be optimistic and a psychological glow of people generally feeling better about the economy," Alison Paul, Deloitte's vice chairman and retail and distribution sector leader, told Bloomberg.

Retailers are also staffing extra too. Wal-Mart announced earlier this month that it will hire 60,000 seasonal workers this year, about 10 percent more than it did last year. Consulting firm Challenger Gray & Christmas (no pun intended) predicted retailers would add more than 800,000 temporary workers between October and January, the most since 1999.

Despite the consumer optimism, Paul said retailers will still be just as competitive this year. She said the holiday season would "probably be just as promotional as last year in the end." (Flashback to retailers throwing out early sales and all sorts of gimmicks to drive traffic last year.) That means you can expect to see Christmas items hitting store shelves soon, if you haven't already.

There's real, data-based reasons for the early holiday item debut.

According to a National Retail Federation survey, 40 percent of shoppers will already have started holiday shopping by the end of October. About 20 percent - one in five - will start in the month that ends with Halloween, 8 percent will begin their shopping before September ends, and, believe it or not, 12 percent had already started shopping before September began.

So remember when you roll your eyes at the Christmas items in stores next month that nearly half the people there are actually on the lookout for said items.

And this "holiday creep" has not only been limited to Christmas, but other retail holidays as well.

You could say it started in August when Starbucks decided it would do an early roll out its fall staple, the coveted Pumpkin Spice Latte (hashtag #PSL for short). Baristas started serving the autumn beverage that stirs images of falling leaves, light jackets and Thanksgiving dinner back on Sept. 2, when the weather in Charleston was a balmy 87 degrees.

And it wasn't just Starbucks this year. Almost every food product brand has tried to shove some pumpkin spice-infused creation down consumers' throats of late.

(I'm waiting for Taco Bell to introduce the pumpkin spice burrito.)

It's not just the corporations driving these seasonal selling frenzies.

"For retailers, this kind of seasonal "creep" - pumpkin spice in September, Halloween costumes right after Labor Day and even snowmen and Christmas tree ornaments in October - is all due to customer demand," the National Retail Federation's Kathy Grannis explained in a blog post. "It's the same type of consumer behavior that drives some companies to open on Thanksgiving Day."

"So when you see holiday wrapping paper at your local discount store in September or notice specials on chocolate hearts and teddy bears in early January, know that retailers are making these merchandising decisions based on what shoppers are planning," she said.

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State health care facilities to receive federal money http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140925/DM0104/140929468 DM0104 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140925/DM0104/140929468 Thu, 25 Sep 2014 20:39:40 -0400

Health care facilities across West Virginia are set to receive $5 million from the federal government.

The money, awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration, will be used to continue operations and improve preventive care at 16 health centers across the state. Sens. Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee's Subcommittee on Health Care, and Joe Manchin announced the grants Thursday.

"Community health centers across our state serve some of our most rural areas, making them a critical access point for care," Rockefeller said. "Federal funding supports these centers in their mission to keep West Virginians healthy. I'm so pleased to see several centers receive this funding for their preventive and primary health care services."

The competitive grant provides financial assistance to community health centers offering comprehensive primary and preventive health care services in underserved or rural areas.

"Improving the quality, affordability and accessibility of health care resources is critical for the people of West Virginia, especially our children, seniors, veterans and those living in our rural communities," Manchin said. "This funding will help facilities all across our great state provide the best possible preventive care, treatment and health services to residents."

The following health care centers will receive funding:

$208,052 - Belington Community Medical Services Association - Belington, W.Va.

$230,032 - Cabin Creek Health Center - Cabin Creek, W.Va.

$212,000 - CHANGE - Weirton, W.Va.

$254,970 - Community Care of West Virginia - Rock Cave, W.Va.

$219,202 - E.A. Hawse Health Center - Baker, W.Va.

$1,368,630 - Minnie Hamilton Health Care Center - Grantsville, W.Va.

$214,398 - Monongahela Valley Association of Health Centers - Fairmont, W.Va.

$202,406 - Pendleton Community Care - Franklin, W.Va.

$214,014 - Preston-Taylor Community Health Centers - Grafton, W.Va.

$212,482 - Ritchie County Primary Care Associates - Harrisville, W.Va.

$204,362 - Roane County Family Health Care - Spencer, W.Va.

$283,998 - Shenandoah Valley Medical Systems - Martinsburg, W.Va.

$198,026 - St. George Medical Clinic - St. George, W.Va.

$209,848 - Valley Health Care - Mill Creek, W.Va.

$550,205 - Wirt County Health Services Association - Elizabeth, W.Va.

$265,316 - Womencare - Scott Depot, W.Va.

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Consumers in Wayne County will soon see extended water service.

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., announced Thursday the Appalachian Regional Commission has awarded $1.5 million to the Crum Public Service District to extend service to residents in the Lincoln Magisterial District. The grant completes funding for the Route 152 Phase II Water Extension Project, one of several projects recently constructed for development by the Crum PSD to provide water to all customers in Wayne County. Another $1.9 million in federal funding was previously announced for this project.

"Clean drinking water is absolutely essential to the health and well-being of our families and communities. These are exactly the kind of investments we should be making to attract new businesses and create jobs," said Rahall, top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Appalachian Regional Commission.

The project will consist of 83,175 linear feet of waterline, two 35-gallon-per-minute pump stations and 28 fire hydrants and will provide water for 165 households, two businesses, a post office and the Dunlow Elementary School, which is the last public school in Wayne County to receive public water service. Water will be supplied from Mingo County Public Service District via a connection to an existing water main.

COMPILED BY WHITNEY BURDETTE

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Wal-Mart's mobile checking account nixes fees http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140925/ARTICLE/140929545 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140925/ARTICLE/140929545 Thu, 25 Sep 2014 06:54:07 -0400

By JOSEPH PISANI<\n>AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - Wal-Mart is the latest company to get rid of fees that traditional banks charge customers who don't have enough money in their accounts to cover purchases.

The world's largest retailer said Wednesday that it teamed up with Green Dot Corp., a company known for its reloadable prepaid cards, to bring mobile checking accounts to its shoppers. The accounts won't charge overdraft and bounced-check fees.
It's the latest attempt to offer banking services that cater to cash-strapped Americans who are still struggling in the economic recovery. Bank of America and Citibank both launched checking accounts this year that don't charge overdraft fees, which can normally cost up to $35 per transaction.
The moves come as overdraft fees, which occur when a customer doesn't have enough cash in their account to cover a purchase, have come under increasing scrutiny by regulators in the past few years.
In 2010, banks were required to get written approval from customers to provide overdraft protection, which allow balances to go below zero. But those that opt for overdraft coverage are still paying high fees: Some customers at large banks can pay, on average, almost $260 a year in overdraft fees, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Green Dot's account, called GoBank, has a monthly fee of $8.95. But that can be waived if a direct deposit of $500 is made each month.
To open an account, customers need to go to a Wal-Mart store and pay $2.95 for a starter kit. They must also own a smartphone, since most of the banking is done through the app. The kit comes with a MasterCard debit card that can be used to make purchases or to take out money, for no fee, at more than 42,000 ATMs around the country. Using an ATM outside the network will result in a $2.50 charge. There's also a 3 percent fee for money taken out at an ATM outside of the country.
And to attract people with poor credit scores and little money, Wal-Mart said that credit bureau ratings and other scores typically used to determine eligibility are not part of the process.
Daniel Eckert, senior vice president of services for Walmart U.S., said that the retailer's customers "feel they just aren't getting value from traditional banking because of high fees."
Wal-Mart's move follows similar ones by big banks. Bank of America launched its SafeBalance account, which has a monthly fee of $4.95 and no overdraft fees.
And Citibank's Access Account, launched Tuesday, has a monthly fee of $10 that can be waived if customers make one monthly bill payment or one direct deposit or if they average a monthly balance of $1,500 or more. The Citibank accounts don't charge overdraft fees either.
Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com, said it is unlikely Wal-Mart will be able to steal customers from big banks. People who do sign up for GoBank are likely to not have a checking account or are unable to open one, he said.
"The goal here is to get them in the store and boost traffic and sales in the store," said McBride.
The account also comes with perks. To make a cash deposit, GoBank customers can go to the register of any Wal-Mart store. GoBank customers also can receive payroll direct deposit earlier than their normal payday if their employer notifies GoBank of a deposit in advance.
The app notifies customers in real time if a purchase they are about to make falls outside of their budget. A "Fortune Teller" feature crosschecks the price of a particular item against a customer's planned income and other expenses.
In addition, customers can send money instantly to each other at no charge through either email or a text message.
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Michelle Chapman in New York contributed to this report.

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State assists retailers in SNAP system switch http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140924/DM05/140929582 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140924/DM05/140929582 Wed, 24 Sep 2014 20:22:19 -0400 By Jared Hunt Once available for free, West Virginia retailers have now begun paying for or leasing the equipment they need to process food stamp transactions, and state officials report the transition was completed with relatively few complaints.

The federal Agricultural Act of 2014, also called the Farm Bill, which was passed early this year changed the way retailers obtain and use Electronic Benefit Transfer equipment used to handle Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program benefits transactions.

The card-based EBT system replaced traditional paper food stamps, now referred to as SNAP benefits, in the early 2000s. For more than a decade, states have provided retailers with the equipment needed to process card transactions for free.

However, the Farm Bill change required retailers to begin buying or leasing this equipment from a private provider by Sept. 21. The change - which was implemented as a government cost-cutting measure - required retailers to absorb the full cost of the change by prohibiting them from passing on the cost to SNAP benefit customers.

Pam Santone, director of the state Department of Health and Human Resources' Office of EBT, said her office has been working all year to help state retailers adjust.

"We tried really hard to mitigate this change," Santone said.

As of her last count earlier this year, Santone said there were 2,146 retailers in West Virginia that used the state-supplied EBT system. She said many of those retail outlets are in rural parts of the state where they might be the only store selling groceries within a reasonable drive.

"The thing that really worried everyone is that the retailer wouldn't make a choice and come Sept. 21, they would have individuals come in and try to use their card and they wouldn't be able to use it because the retailer wouldn't have a system to process it," she said.

"My concern has always been to make sure we have the service available out there for our cardholders," Santone said. "It's really important for people to be able to buy their food . . . so we want to make sure people can access their food benefits quickly."

The state had contracts with two firms, FIS and JPMorgan Chase, to provide equipment and handle electronic benefits transactions. (JPMorgan Chase has since asked to assign all of their equipment to FIS.) Initially, the firms requested the state make the transition earlier than federal Sept. 21 deadline. The companies asked the state to make the transition effective July 1, which Santone said was not doable.

"I went back to JPMorgan and FIS and said that wasn't appropriate and there wasn't enough time," she said.

Santone was able to negotiate an Aug. 1 transition date. Once that was done, she said her office reached out to the West Virginia Retailers Association and the Oil Marketers and Grocers Association to help inform businesses about the looming change.

Santone said she only had two or three business owners call her office angry about the change. She said the greater problem came when outside firms began calling retailers offering to sell equipment for sometimes thousands of dollars.

"I had a number of people that were confused because they were getting contacted by these independent sales organizations saying they had to do something by a certain date," Santone said. "That caused them a lot of confusion."

One thing that helped ease the transition was the fact that many state retailers - including Wal-Mart, Kroger and other large chains - had already installed new register systems that integrated all card transactions, including SNAP benefits, into the register's built-in card reader.

When the state initially introduced the SNAP EBT system, there were more than 3,000 retailers with state-provided equipment. That number has dropped by nearly a third since. But that still left more than 2,000 mostly smaller retailers having to pay for a new system.

Santone said the state still wanted to do something to help ease the retailers into the new system.

"The retailer business is a really cutthroat business these days," she said. "With Wal-Mart and Kroger and Foodland, everybody's fighting for their market share. We have seen smaller mom and pops finding it hard to compete, so that's a problem."

The state took two steps that Santone said helped ease retailers into the new system.

First, retailers had the option to keep the equipment they were currently using as long as they paid service and transaction fees to FIS. The state negotiated a $15 monthly service fee with FIS, and a sliding scale for transaction fees: 10 cents a transaction for the first 500 transactions each month, 7 cents a transaction for the next 500, and then 5 cents a transaction for each transaction thereafter.

The transaction fee is significantly less than the typical fees retailers are charged for debit card transactions.

"This is a fairly competitive price," Santone said. "It was better than a number of the ones that we saw from the independent sales organizations."

Santone said if the retailer did not choose to go with an outside provider, they would automatically be transitioned to the new FIS system and have the charges deducted when they received their monthly settlement statement.

The second step involved retailers that also offer sales through the Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, supplemental nutrition program. While the federal law changed for SNAP EBT transactions, the state can still provide WIC EBT equipment to retailers at no cost. That equipment can handle both WIC and SNAP transactions, so if a retailer accepts both WIC and SNAP transactions, they can continue using their equipment at no charge.

Santone said that should help smaller retailers across the state.

"We pay for those smaller mom and pops that accept both WIC and SNAP at this point," she said. "We chose that path as a convenience not only to the cardholder but also for the smaller retailers. They don't want to have two or three different machines to deal with."

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

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Big new iPhone brings Apple more profit http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140924/ARTICLE/140929654 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140924/ARTICLE/140929654 Wed, 24 Sep 2014 06:35:17 -0400

By BRANDON BAILEY

AP Technology Writer

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Apple's largest iPhone is selling for $100 more than its other new model, but a new report says it costs Apple only $15.50 more to make the more expensive version.

Since Friday, Apple has sold more than 10 million of the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Analysts say consumers like the new, bigger screens. The Plus has a 5.5-inch screen, as measured diagonally, while the regular iPhone 6 is at 4.7 inches.

A report from IHS Technology says Apple will make more profit on the Plus version. The full, no-contract price for the 16-gigabyte iPhone 6 is $650. IHS estimates it costs Apple around $200 for materials and manufacturing. The iPhone 6 Plus retails for $750, but IHS says it costs Apple around $215.50.

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Racetrack lottery sales beat forecasts http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140923/DM05/140929682 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140923/DM05/140929682 Tue, 23 Sep 2014 19:01:53 -0400 By Jared Hunt West Virginia Lottery revenues are beating expectations two months into the agency's fiscal year because of smaller-than-expected declines in video lottery revenue at the state's four racetrack casinos.

Despite revenues that were less than what was collected last August, lottery sales are so far beating forecasts.

"We're hopeful that we are seeing a little bit of an uptick in the economy," said Lottery Director John Musgrave.

The Lottery on Thursday reported total revenue of about $104.8 million for August, about $4.9 million less than it reported in August 2013. However, that revenue was about 11 percent greater than projections for the month.

Stripping out revenue from The Greenbrier and table game operations, the Lottery reported gross revenue of $99.8 million, about $9.9 million more than the $89.9 million forecast for the month. That was despite the fact scratch-off ticket, online and limited video lottery games missed expectations by anywhere between 3 to 5 percent for the month.

The biggest driver of the revenue gains for the month came from video lottery at the state's four racetrack casinos - Mardi Gras in Charleston, Wheeling Island and Mountaineer in the Northern Panhandle and the Hollywood Casino in Charles Town.

Video lottery revenue from the four casinos was 27 percent greater than expectations during the month, coming in at $54 million compared to forecasts of $42.6 million. For the first two months of the fiscal year, racetrack video lottery revenue is running 21 percent ahead of expectations.

The $54 million in revenue in August was also slightly ahead of the $53.9 million collected by the four facilities during August of last year and up 6 percent from July of this year. That increase goes counter to the trend that has emerged in recent years, as competition from new casinos in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland has eroded the revenue the state collects from its panhandle casinos.

Musgrave said its possible the increase in Marcellus shale drilling has helped the Mountaineer and Wheeling Island casinos.

"We have seen somewhat of an uptick in the economy, particularly up in the northern part of the state where we've got some oil and gas operations that are functioning and have more people employed," Musgrave said. "And of course, that's where we have two of our facilities."

But Musgrave cautioned the revenue can be "up and down" and affected by other factors such as the weather.

The Lottery is also continuing to work with the casinos to find new ways to bolster their revenue through online gaming options. Lottery Commission members have met with officials at the casinos to discuss new technologies emerging in the industry. A follow-up meeting is set in October at Lottery headquarters in Charleston.

Since racetrack video lottery remains the Lottery's largest revenue drivers, the gains have helped offset weaker performance among other categories.

The Lottery's online games, including Powerball, Mega Millions and Hot Lotto, have brought in $11.9 million over the last two months. That's down about 20 percent from the same time period last year.

Lottery Marketing Director Nikki Orcutt said Powerball sales - which make up more than half the sales in that category - had been sluggish in July and August because its jackpot remained at relatively low levels. Meanwhile, Mega Millions and Hot Lotto, which saw higher jackpots during the two-month period, saw actually sales gains. Mega Million sales were up 46 percent compared to last year, with Hot Lotto sales up 19 percent.

While the Powerball jackpot was low in July and August, it has jumped up in recent weeks. Wednesday's drawing has an estimated jackpot of $225 million.

Orcutt said with the jackpot back in triple-digits, it should increase September's Powerball sales.

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Meanwhile Thursday, the Lottery Commission took additional action against eight limited video lottery retailers and two operators who self-reported violations as part of the Lottery's probe into improperly set up fraternal organizations.

Under state law, regular video lottery retailers are allowed up to five machines at any location. But there's an exception for fraternal organizations, which are allowed up to 10.

Over the past year, the Lottery has been cracking down on so-called faux fraternal organizations. Under this setup, some machine operators have convinced local fraternal organizations to allow them to use their organizational title to set up gambling establishments featuring up to 10 machines in other parts of the state.

In some cases the locations violated lottery regulations for fraternal organizations by being open to the public and not following other membership rules tied to fraternal organizations.

Last month, the Lottery issued a series of fines, totaling up to $190,000 in one case, for operators and retailers that were found to be in violation. The Lottery also gave other retailers th opportunity to self-report any violations at other facilities in the state.

On Thursday, the commission took additional actions ranging from warnings to $1,000 fines against organizations and operators that self-reported. The fines were 25 to 30 percent of what the retailers would have faced if Lottery investigators had uncovered the violations.

Musgrave said investigators will be making random inspections of locations in the coming months to make sure they are abiding by the rules. He said he hoped the fines levied so far this year serve as a warning to retailers and operators in the state.

"We take our regulatory obligation very seriously," Musgrave said. "Our auditors and investigators will be visiting the locations from time to time unannounced and we'll see if everyone is in compliance. They should be, we hope they've got the message."

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Orcutt also reported Thursday that the Lottery set another sales record at the State Fair of West Virginia.

The agency logged $370,136 in sales during the 10-day event. Orcutt said the sales record this year was especially notable, considering it rained during five of the fair's 10 days.

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

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Hospital mergers part of larger national trend http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140923/DM05/140929680 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140923/DM05/140929680 Tue, 23 Sep 2014 19:40:07 -0400 By Whitney Burdette A recent uptick in the number of hospital mergers and acquisitions in West Virginia is part of a larger, national trend.

Tony Gregory, vice president of legislative affairs for the West Virginia Hospital Association, said the changing landscape of health care is just part of the reason why.

"Generally speaking, the health care field is undergoing a period of fundamental transformation in which we're talking about the very model of health care delivery being changed in order to do two things: improve quality and lower costs," he said.

"The reasons for the change are varied but kind of the overarching theme, chief among them, are the expectations by patients, employers, insurers and government at all levels for essentially higher quality, more efficient health care at a greater value. Meeting these expectations requires building what we call a continuum of care to replace the current fragmented system. Mergers and acquisitions are often essential to make these goals reality."

Between 2007 and 2012, only 10 percent of the nation's 5,000 hospitals were involved in a merger or acquisition. Gregory said the number of hospitals involved in a merger or acquisition at any given time was relatively small.

Such transactions are rare in West Virginia, but the state is starting to see an uptick.

Last month, St. Mary's Medical Center in Huntington announced its partnership with the Pallottine Missionary sisters was coming to an end, and the facility would partner with Cabell Huntington Hospital.

"The Pallottine Sisters have worked for 90 years to make St. Mary's Medical Center what it is today," Michael Sellards, chief executive officer of St. Mary's Medical Center, said in an August statement.

"However, health care reform has caused hospitals throughout the nation to look at ways to meet the future challenge of health care. In addition, with the changing climate of health care and fewer Sisters to oversee our health care ministries, the Pallottine Missionary Sisters made the decision to end their sponsorship of St. Mary's Medical Center.

"We are pleased to explore a partnership with Cabell Huntington Hospital as we believe that by combining our complementary strengths, we can both significantly improve our ability to meet the health care needs of the region, and provide better care more efficiently."

The Pallottine Missionary also decided to end its partnership with St. Joseph's Hospital in Buckhannon. United Hospital Center will take over sponsorship of that facility. Non-Catholic hospitals also have been acquired by or merged with other facilities. Gregory said Cabell Huntington and Pleasant Valley Hospital operate under a joint management agreement. Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital and St. Joseph's Hospital in Parkersburg merged and the two joined the West Virginia United Health System.

Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center partnered with Ohio Valley Health Services and serves patients in Wheeling.

Potomac Valley Hospital in Keyser last year was acquired by WVU Hospitals.

Despite the growing number of consolidations, Gregory said the state is home to about 70 hospitals and health care systems, not including five state-operated hospitals, and 67 of those are members of the Hospital Association. Of those, 60 are acute care facilities that include 19 critical access hospitals. Fifteen counties don't have a hospital, while 30 counties have one and nine counties have two or more. Since the mid-1980s, 18 hospitals have closed in West Virginia, with another five shutting down in the 1990s.

Gregory said hospitals typically try to draw upon the strengths of another facility when considering a merger, acquisition or some other form of partnership. Realigning the way hospitals operate is one way to reach the goal of affordable, effective health care.

"Organizations are using both traditional methods to consolidate, things like mergers and joint ventures, as well as more creative structures like joint operating agreements and clinical affiliations," he said. "It depends really on what's in the best interest of the community and the services that are provided by those institutions."

How facilities go about integrating services depends on the operating structure. Gregory said transactions typically must be reported to the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice's antitrust division before approval. The West Virginia Health Care Authority regulates hospitals in West Virginia and plays at least some role in analyzing transactions, Gregory said.

"Hospitals continue to be among the largest employers in the state and often the largest employer in counties across West Virginia," Gregory said. "It's important they remain an economic engine for the state."

Contact writer Whitney Burdette at 304-348-7939 or whitney.burdette@dailymailwv.com. Follow her at www.Twitter.com/wburdette_DM.

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SEC alleges insider trading in Arch Coal acquisition http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140923/ARTICLE/140929711 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140923/ARTICLE/140929711 Tue, 23 Sep 2014 16:21:18 -0400

By MATT STROUD

The Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va.- Federal regulators claim that three men used insider information to profit illegally from Arch Coal's acquisition of International Coal Group.

Frank Tamayo schemed with two other men to generate more than $5.6 million in profits from 13 mergers and acquisitions, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission says in a lawsuit. The court filing alleges the men traded on nonpublic information taken from law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.

Only Tamayo, of Brooklyn, New York, is named as a defendant. He pleaded guilty last week to federal securities fraud charges stemming from the same transactions. The other two men, Steven Metro and Vladimir Eydelman, are named in the complaint and described as participants in the scheme.

Federal authorities have previously alleged that Metro stole insider information from the law offices of Simpson Thacher, and Eydelman worked as a stockbroker. Federal prosecutors in New Jersey say Tamayo was working as a mortgage broker between 2009 and 2013 when he received the insider information.

One of the transactions described in the complaint involves Arch Coal's acquisition of International Coal Group in spring 2011. It says the men received information from a source inside Simpson Thacher after ICG sent a draft merger agreement to Arch Coal and the law firm. Nine days later, on April 29 2011, Tamayo purchased 40,000 shares of ICG stock. After Arch Coal announced that it would purchase ICG on May 2, Tamayo began selling shares. He made $135,052 in illegal profits from the coal transaction, according to the complaint. In total, the scheme generated $231,276 in illegal profits from the ICG acquisition, it says.

As described in the complaint, a Simpson Thacher employee would pass information to Tamayo, who would then pass information to a stockbroker. The complaint says insider information was shared between Tamayo and the stockbroker at Grand Central station. Tamayo would write stock symbols of companies being acquired on Post-It notes or napkins. "Tamayo then chewed up, and sometimes ate, the post-it note or napkin to destroy evidence of the tip," the complaint reads.

The lawsuit was filed Friday in New Jersey, the same day Tamayo pleaded guilty to federal securities fraud charges. The securities fraud charges were brought by U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman in New Jersey.

The SEC asks that Tamayo be ordered to surrender the illicit trading profits, pay civil penalties and be permanently barred from violating securities law.

A phone call to Tamayo's residence was not immediately returned Tuesday, nor were emails and a phone call to Tamayo's lawyers immediately returned.

In an email to the Wall Street Journal Monday, one of Tamayo's lawyers wrote: "We cannot comment except to say that on Friday Mr. Tamayo took the first step in the process of accepting full responsibility for his actions."

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