www.charlestondailymail.com Business http://www.charlestondailymail.com Daily Mail feed en-us Copyright 2014, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers $5B natural gas pipeline to start in WV http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140902/ARTICLE/140909909 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140902/ARTICLE/140909909 Tue, 2 Sep 2014 09:19:33 -0400


AP Energy Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - Dominion Resources, Duke Energy and other partners are proposing a $5 billion natural gas pipeline to connect the Southeast with the prodigious supplies of natural gas being produced in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

Gas is being relied upon to generate more of the nation's electricity in recent years because enormous new domestic supplies have drastically lowered its price and because natural gas burns cleaner than the nation's other most important fuel for electric power, coal.

The 550-mile project, called the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, would begin in Harrison County, West Virginia and stretch through Virginia and North Carolina to Robeson County, near the South Carolina border. It's designed to tap the rapidly growing supplies of gas produced in two geologic formations, known as the Marcellus and Utica shales, that are now accounting for more than a quarter of the nation's natural gas. In the past, the Southeast has received nearly all of its gas from more traditional gas-producing states of Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma.

Utilities prefer having diverse sources of fuel to reduce shortages and price spikes that can arise in terms of high demand, such as hot summers or cold winters. Also, demand for natural gas for electric power generation, heating and manufacturing is expected to continue to rise.

Clean air and clean water regulations - some already approved and some in the process of being finalized - are expected to make burning coal more difficult and expensive in the future. In response, utilities are preparing for increased use of natural gas.

"We've retired half of our coal fleet for the last 5 years, and certainly that will continue," said Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good in an interview Tuesday. "We see natural gas as an important part of the electricity generation mix for many decades to come."

Burning natural gas emits almost none of the toxic chemicals and particulate matter that burning coal produces, and about half of carbon dioxide, which scientists say is responsible for climate change.

Natural gas does have its own environmental drawbacks, however. When the gas leaks or is otherwise released directly into the atmosphere it heats the planet much faster than carbon dioxide. And the drilling technique that has led to increased U.S. supplies, called fracking, has raised concerns about water use, water contamination and other issues.

The pipeline is already sparking some protest along parts of its proposed route from landowners who worry that the pipeline could reduce property values, threaten water supplies and keep tourists away.

"It's a dark day for the Shenandoah Valley and our part of the country," said Nancy Sorrells, co-chair of the anti-pipeline group Augusta County Alliance of Tuesday's announcement.

The pipeline is estimated to cost between $4.5 billion and $5 billion to build. Dominion Resources Inc. would own 45 percent of the project, Duke Energy Corp. would own 40 percent, Piedmont Natural Gas Co. would own 10 percent and AGL Resources Inc. would own 5 percent.

The pipeline would carry a huge volume of gas - up to 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. By comparison, the U.S. consumed 71 billion cubic feet of gas per day last year, according to the Energy Department. Yet Tom Farrell, Dominion's CEO said Tuesday that most of the gas is already spoken for, and he expects the rest to be snapped up later this year after the companies open up the remaining capacity for bidding.

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said the announcement has the potential to create good-paying jobs in the state.

"We appreciate the continued investments Dominion is making in our region and look forward to capitalizing on our state's abundant supply of natural gas, which has the potential to provide promising opportunities for both current and future generations," Tomblin said.

"This expanded distribution network will have a positive impact on the natural gas industry, from the largest gas producers to the small royalty owners, but more importantly, bring revenue to West Virginia taxpayers," said House Speaker Tim Miley, a Democrat who represents Harrison County.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said the proposed pipeline would be a boon for the state's economy for the construction jobs to build the pipeline itself and because the additional natural gas will allow the state to recruit more heavy manufacturers.

"This is a game changer for manufacturing for us," he said.

The pipeline requires approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and state regulatory commissions. The pipeline partners expect to receive approval by mid-2016 and to start operating the pipeline in 2018.

Business editor Jared Hunt contributed.

John Burdette column: Don't strand retirement on Dark Side of the Moon http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140901/DM05/140909973 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140901/DM05/140909973 Mon, 1 Sep 2014 09:40:11 -0400 I recently completed a retirement plan enrollment for 200 employees at a local health care company and was on site for two days talking to plan participants whose ages ranged from 21 to 70.

I spoke to many young people that said they could not afford to participate in the plan, even though the company offered a match of 4 percent. In effect, these people chose to walk away from free money. Many of the older employees expressed regrets that they had not started soon enough to secure an adequate retirement.

Happily, there were also many that had made saving a priority over the years and they described the future with hope and optimism.

Time is a funny thing. Your perspective of time changes as you grow older.

I certainly think about it differently now that I am at mid-life. When we are young, it is hard for us to place priority on a retirement that seems so far away.

The lyrics of "Time" from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album sums this up pretty well.

"You are young and life is long, and there is time to kill today

And then one day you find ten years have got behind you

No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun"

When we enter the workforce, we are no longer preparing for life, we are in the thick of it. My goal in retirement enrollment meetings is to make sure everyone understands the importance of taking the first steps today.

Time is a limited resource and once it has passed it cannot be recaptured.

Imagine you are starting your career at age 25 and you earn $25,000 per year. If, for example, your company offers a 4 percent match on your retirement contribution, you would need to set aside less than $20 per week to fully capture the match. That is less than a movie ticket and popcorn. Anyone working should be able to prioritize saving $20 per week to receive a $20 free match toward retirement.

In this example, if the investment averages returns of 8 percent until age 65, the account will grow to more than $580,000. That's not a bad return on lifetime contributions of only $40,000.

If you wait until age 40 to begin this plan, your investment will only total $158,000 at retirement.

These small decisions really do make a meaningful difference over time in determining the shape of your life.

If you are not participating in your company retirement plan - especially if you are forgoing a free match - I encourage you to go to your human resource department tomorrow to get started. If your company does not offer a plan, discuss investing options with a financial advisor and learn the options available to you.

Interestingly, on the Dark Side of the Moon album, in addition to the song "Time," there is a song titled "Money." I'm pretty sure the guys in Pink Floyd were not financial advisers, but making small investments over "Time" is the surest way to get to the "Money" in the future.

John Burdette is a financial adviser at Fourth Avenue Financial in South Charleston.

Disclaimer: Securities and advisory services offered through National Planning Corp. (NPC), member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. Fourth Avenue Financial and NPC are separate and unrelated companies.

More gamblers abandoning dog racetracks http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140901/DM01/140909940 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140901/DM01/140909940 Mon, 1 Sep 2014 19:39:03 -0400



For a long time, the one-armed bandits inside the Mardi Gras Casino and the four-legged racers outside on the greyhound track were all spinning in the same direction.

The arrival of slots in the 1990s was a jackpot for West Virginia's fading dog-racing industry. As in many states, lawmakers here allowed new casinos to open only in conjunction with existing dog and horse tracks and steered a cut of their winnings to purses at the track.

"It was kind of a golden age after that," said Sam Burdette, head of the West Virginia Greyhound Breeders Association.

But now, an explosion of casino gambling is strangling the greyhound industry that it once rescued. The bettors have largely migrated to the faster-paced gambling inside; the dogs are running in front of mostly empty stands, and the marriage between the bing-bing-bing and the bark-bark-bark is heading for divorce. West Virginia may become the latest state to sever the link between casinos and tracks, a trend that could finally spell the end of the sport of queens.

"We'll be done in a couple of years if nothing changes," said Harvey Maupin, 50, a longtime West Virginia greyhound trainer who races at both of the state's dog tracks, in Charleston and Wheeling. At one time, he and his wife, Loretta, operated two kennels with a dozen employees. Now they are down to two workers and are about to let one go.

In much of the country, these are the dog days of greyhound racing. Once a mainstay of American gambling, dog tracks seem unlikely to outlast growing animal welfare concerns and the relentless expansion of other ways to gamble.

"People want instant gratification these days," lamented Burdette, a retired civil engineer who raced dogs as a sideline before becoming head of the greyhound lobby. "It'll take you half an hour to lose $50 at a racetrack. You can do it in five minutes sitting in front of a slot machine."

Nationally, betting on greyhound racing - both trackside and at remote simulcast parlors - has plummeted from a peak of $3.5 billion in 1991 to $665 million in 2012. At one time, more than 50 tracks operated in 15 states. Now, 21 tracks remain in seven states as interest has waned and legislatures have begun to reexamine the requirement that casinos operate - and subsidize - greyhound racing as a condition of offering slots, poker and blackjack.

Massachusetts, after a campaign highlighting animal welfare concerns, voted to ban racing altogether in 2010. Iowa became the latest state to cut the connection between casino revenue and dog tracks in May when Gov. Terry Branstad (R) signed a law that will shutter one of the state's two tracks and eliminate the yearly $14 million subsidy to the greyhound industry.

Similar "decoupling" initiatives are expected in other racing states this year, including West Virginia, where the politics are complicated by the fact that the governor's 80-year-old mother is one of the state's best-known greyhound owners.

Casinos 'working against us'

"I honestly think they're working against us," said Rod Monroe, who raises about 100 dogs on a farm near Wheeling. "I think they want to make it hard for people to come out to see the dogs."

At one point, patrons at Wheeling Island Casino were diverted through a parking garage to reach the dog track, Monroe said, although the facility's new general manager has restored the old entrance. At Mardi Gras, race fans take a side elevator and navigate across two floors of gaming to access the outside gallery, which itself is filled with slot machines and table games.

"You need a GPS to even find us," said Charleston-area trainer Tim Byrnes.

In many states, casinos that want to get out from under the racing subsidies have formed a surprising alliance with animal welfare groups, who say the sport is cruel. In the worst cases, advocates say trainers have beaten dogs, fed them contaminated meat and trained them using live rabbits as bait.

But even at good kennels, they say, dogs are often injured in the races and endure training routines in which they are housed in pens for most of the day.

"None of them are malicious acts of cruelty, but in our view these standard practices together constitute an industry that is cruel and inhumane," said Carey Theil, head of GREY2K, an advocacy group that pushes anti-racing legislation around the country.

Greyhound breeders dispute that critique, pointing out that many urban dogs spend their days in crates. They were outraged in March when Danny Adkins, a senior executive of the company that owns both the Charleston casino and another in Hollywood, Fla., published an op-ed with Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle that called for allowing casinos to get out of racing on animal welfare grounds.

Critics say the casinos' real concerns are sinking revenue, as gambling expands in one state after another, and the costs of operating the dog tracks. "He didn't think greyhound racing was inhumane when he was making millions from it," Byrnes said of Adkins.

Adkins, in an interview, said he does not consider the racing itself to be cruel. But as the money dries up, he said, it's fair to ask whether kennels can still afford to provide the dogs with proper care. In the op-ed, he cited the case of a kennel that falsified vaccination records to cut expenses.

"When we were making millions of dollars, they were making millions of dollars," Adkins said of the kennels. "Now I wonder how they're paying for it."

Rod Clark, who breeds about 130 dogs a year at a greyhound farm outside Charleston, offers a tour of his own facility.

On a recent afternoon, dozens of dogs milled about in 28 separate chain-link runs. Six puppies yipped in pens in an air-conditioned room. In another, Clark opened a door and 20 dogs, most wearing plastic muzzles, bounded in and lined up to be let into pens lined with paper and carpet.

"There have been some roughnecks in the greyhound business for sure," Clark said, after pointing out the stacks of premium dog food, the refrigerator full of vaccine and the list of greyhound adoption groups he works with. "But now everybody in the world is looking at your dogs."

'Not much interest left'

West Virginia racing opponents say they plan to introduce a decoupling bill in the coming legislative session, and both sides wonder what role will be played by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D). His family owns Tomblin Kennel, a major player on both state tracks. His mother, Freda Tomblin, is one of the state's best-known greyhound breeders, with a table permanently reserved for her in the restaurant overlooking the Charleston track.

Tomblin declined to comment for this article through a spokesman, who also said Freda Tomblin was ill and unavailable. Racing foes assume the governor will work to derail the legislation. But those in the industry point out that Tomblin has supported cutting the greyhound subsidy in the past.

"We don't expect the governor to be our savior by any means," Burdette said.

And there may not be one. In Florida, where 12 tracks operate mostly in conjunction with poker halls, Adkins, the casino owner, sees no future at all for dog racing. He will close the Hollywood track if the law is changed to allow it, he said.

But in West Virginia, he thinks at least one track might survive if the year-long racing schedule were reduced to a few months in the summer. Survive, at least for a while.

"I think it's going to come to an end ultimately," Adkins said. "It just seems there is not much interest left."

On a recent Wednesday night at the Mardi Gras track, Kenneth Feustel perched on a stool, alone with a pack of Pall Malls, a racing program and a betting system working well enough that, if you don't mind, he'd rather not talk about.

But once the eight panting greyhounds had sprinted by in their forever-fruitless chase of the mechanical bunny, he was happy to chat about every other aspect of a sport that continues to entrance the 70-year-old widower, even as most of the gambling public has turned away.

"Not many are as devoted as I am anymore," says Feustel, a retired tree-service owner who remembers when the grandstands were twice the size and packed with eager bettors.

"There's still a crowd here, I guess," said Feustel, one of just a dozen or so spectators in the small covered gallery, "but they're all inside playing slot machines."

To view a related video, go to http://wapo.st/greyhounds.

Fans near, far have options to view WVU game http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140829/DM01/140829222 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140829/DM01/140829222 Fri, 29 Aug 2014 00:01:00 -0400 By Whitney Burdette Some West Virginia University fans may be traveling more than 600 miles for Saturday's season opener against Alabama, but they'll find a home away from home when they get there.

Laseter's Tavern, located at 4355 Cobb Parkway in Atlanta, is home to the WVU Peach State Alumni Chapter and will host a game viewing party Saturday, when the Mountaineers will take on the Crimson Tide at 3:30 p.m. at the Georgia Dome. General manager Rich Boden said it's fun for the restaurant to get involved in game day festivities, especially because Laseter's is part of the WVU extended family.

"We've been hosting the alumni group for about 15 or 20 years so I'm definitely a big fan," said Boden, originally from Pittsburgh. "It's the Chick-fil-A kickoff classic, there's one every year and a bowl game also. We're kind of used to it. Laseter's Tavern is more of a local institution so we don't get a lot of out of town guests. It's fun to be a part of it. I'm glad West Virginia is playing in the game because we're a part of that now."

Boden said Laseter's is similar to taverns found in Pittsburgh and Morgantown. The menu features chicken dishes, burgers, salads, sandwiches and wraps, as well as dinners such as steak and pasta.

Then there's the beer. The list is extensive, featuring dozens of craft beer selections, imports and draught.

"We run beer and liquor specials every day," Boden said.

Laseter's hosted a pregame party Thursday for about 250 fans. Boden said that puts the restaurant pretty close to capacity, but he anticipated another 100 or 150 fans will turn out Saturday.

"Of course after the game, since a lot of people are staying at the Waverly Hotel about a mile north of Laseter's, they have about 200 rooms so we're expecting them to come down to Laseter's also," he said.

Although West Virginia faces a disadvantage on the field Saturday, Boden is confident the team will do well against the multi-time national champions.

"Alabama is a pretty big favorite. It's gonna be a tough game for West Virginia, very tough," Boden said. "They have to play the game. Alabama has a new quarterback. I think if West Virginia can rattle him a little and stop the runs, they may have a good shot at an upset."

For fans sticking a little closer to home, a watch party at Buffalo Wild Wings in Nitro will raise money for a good cause.

Sponsored by the Sugar Bowl Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at raising money for various charities in the Kanawha Valley, the party will feature former WVU star Major Harris and Bo Orlando and a silent auction to raise money for the Childhood Language Center.

"We've been doing these for about four or five years with the nonprofit I started a few years back, the Sugar Bowl Foundation," said Anthony Lewis, the nonprofit's founder. "I'll pick out different charities and invite former players. We just rally around the game. It's free to attend, but we have a silent auction and a raffle and if people want to make a donation and buy pictures of the players for autographs and things, they can."

The party will begin at 2:30 p.m., so Lewis encourages fans to come early. The restaurant will still be open to the public.

"Even if there is nothing going on at Buffalo Wild Wings, it's packed for a WVU game," Lewis said. "You have people who are coming as sponsors who have a reserved table, then people who maybe didn't sponsor but want to come to the event. They kind of roll the dice and come early to try to get seats. Then you have people coming out anyway, so it kind of creates a bit of a zoo. It's packed and hard to get in if you don't get there early or reserve a table.

"Being that it's the first game of the season and they're playing Alabama in the middle of the day I'm expecting a huge turnout," he added.

The Childhood Language Center works with children on the autism spectrum and provides a variety of free speech and language therapy to children in the Charleston area. Lewis said he selected the charity to benefit from Saturday's event for personal reasons.

"My sister is a autism specialist and educator," Lewis said. "I have a cousin who has autism and I have a lot of friends with children with autism and Asperger's. I always wanted to do something, but nothing ever presented itself."

That changed when Lewis, a photographer for WSAZ, covered a story about the center. He connected with staff and told them he'd work to bring some awareness to the facility through his foundation.

"They gave me a tour of the facility and it's great, the services they offer are great, the fact they're free is spectacular," Lewis said. "I guess I got a little bit of a soft spot in my heart for kids and families that have to battle through Autism and yet we have a place in Charleston doing a lot of great work."

The game airs on ABC at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

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

US indexes drift a day after record; Express gains http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140828/ARTICLE/140829252 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140828/ARTICLE/140829252 Thu, 28 Aug 2014 09:07:32 -0400



Major U.S. stock indexes were mixed Wednesday afternoon, changing little on a quiet day of trading. Investors monitored company earnings and the latest corporate deal news ahead of the Labor Day holiday weekend.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 was little changed at 1,999 as of 2:25 p.m. Eastern. It closed above 2,000 points for the first time the day before. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 14 points at 17,121. The Nasdaq composite rose one point at 4,572.

TAKING A BREATHER: One reason the indexes have been flat much of Wednesday may be that investors are catching their breath following the latest milestone for the S&P 500, said David Lebovitz, global market strategist at JPMorgan Chase.

"We've achieved this nice, even round number and it's time for investors to take stock of the current situation before things continue to move higher," Lebovitz said.

SECTOR VIEW: Five of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 index rose, led by utilities. Best Buy notched the biggest gain among companies in the S&P 500, adding $1.47, or 4.9 percent, to $31.28. Garmin declined most. The stock fell $2.10, or 3.7 percent, to $55.36.

ELEGANT RESULTS: Tiffany rose 92 cents to $101.66. The jewelry company's latest quarterly earnings beat Wall Street's forecasts.

EARNINGS BEAT: Express reported lower income and sales in its fiscal second quarter, but the clothing retailer's results trumped financial analysts' expectations. Its shares surged $2.04, or 14 percent, to $16.63.

PRESCRIPTION TO BUY: U.S. medical device maker Medtronic bought privately held Italian company NGC Medical S.p.A. for $350 million. NGC manages cardiovascular suites, operating rooms and intensive care units for hospitals. Medtronic already held a 30 percent stake in the business. Medtronic slipped 19 cents to $63.32.

LACKLUSTER FORECAST: The Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday it predicts the U.S. economy will grow by just 1.5 percent this year. The forecast reflects the severe winter weather that hurt growth in the first-quarter.

BONDS AND COMMODITIES: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.37 percent. Benchmark U.S. crude fell 11 cents to $93.75 a barrel in New York. In metals trading, gold fell $1.80 to $1,283.40 an ounce, silver rose 2 cents to $19.41 an ounce and copper fell a penny to $3.18 a pound.

W.Va. PSC chair steps down from chem spill probe http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140828/ARTICLE/140829256 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140828/ARTICLE/140829256 Thu, 28 Aug 2014 08:56:40 -0400

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The state Public Service Commission's chairman has removed himself from an investigation into a water company's response to a January chemical spill.

The Charleston Gazette reported PSC Chairman Mike Albert cited his previous work as an attorney representing West Virginia American Water in stepping down from the spill investigation.

Albert says he wants to avoid a disruption and distraction in the investigation.

The Jan. 9 spill at Freedom Industries contaminated 300,000 people's tap water for days.

Huntington Southern States store closes http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140828/ARTICLE/140829257 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140828/ARTICLE/140829257 Thu, 28 Aug 2014 08:54:44 -0400

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) - Farmers in the Huntington area will have to travel to other cities to buy supplies.

Members of the Huntington Southern States Cooperative voted this week to close the store due to declining sales and revenue.

Southern States corporate representatives had recommended the store's closure last year.

Southern States district manager Jim Briedwell told WSAZ-TV that the store didn't adjust to the area's changing demographics, industry and economy.

Some employees will be relocated to other Southern States stores in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio.

Changes can help WV embrace gas boom, speaker says http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140827/DM05/140829309 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140827/DM05/140829309 Wed, 27 Aug 2014 19:40:23 -0400 By Jared Hunt WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - The president of the nation's largest holder of natural gas reserves said Wednesday that if West Virginia wants to take full advantage of the Marcellus shale, it needs to enact sound policies and invest in its people.

Randy Cleveland, president of ExxonMobil Corp. subsidiary XTO Energy, was the keynote speaker Wednesday at the opening of the state Chamber of Commerce's Annual Meeting and Business Summit at The Greenbrier.

Cleveland opened his talk by saying it was fitting that the popular PBS series Antiques Roadshow visited The Greenbrier earlier this year.

Cleveland said the state is just like the people on that show who learn they've had an object of great value sitting right in their home.

"Sometimes, if you're lucky, you find yourself sitting on a treasure," he said. "West Virginia is sitting on a treasure with generational implications for decades to come."

Cleveland said XTO currently has about 170,000 acres of state land under lease and currently undeveloped. While the company only employs 50 people in the state right now, he said that will grow exponentially in the years to come.

"We're just getting started, our growth here will be tremendous," he said.

Cleveland said global natural gas demand is expected to increase 65 percent between now and 2040 - twice the rate of oil. Demand for ethylene, a petrochemical feedstock produced from natural gas, is expected to rise 150 percent over the same time period.

With the Marcellus shale being the largest shale gas formation, and most of its land contained in West Virginia, Cleveland said the state has a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on its natural gas resources.

He said the natural gas production jobs currently pay an average of about $90,000 a year, and increasing production has a muliplier effect on the rest of the economy.

"Nationwide it's estimated for every one job created in oil and gas industry, three more are created elsewhere," Cleveland said. "We can expand that multiplier effect in West Virginia, but need things to happen."

He said it all boils down to two things: policies and people.

Cleveland said West Virginia has already made great strides with cutting its corporate income and business franchise taxes. He encouraged state leaders to stay the course and keep the state's tax policies competitive with those of surrounding states.

"We also need policies based on facts and sound science and we need policies that balance environmental protection with business development," he said.

Cleveland also said the state should create pooling laws for horizontal wells. Under these laws, natural gas companies can drill for gas in an area with the consent of a large majority of the area's mineral rights owners.

The proposal has drawn sharp opposition from some mineral rights owners, which were successful in lobbying to strip the provision from natural gas development laws passed by the Legislature in 2011.

With regard to people, Cleveland said the state needs to invest in education programs that enhance science, technology, engineering and mathematics learning. He said students need these skills to engineer the future of natural gas and petrochemical development.

But while the industry is demanding those kinds of skills, they're in short supply among today's graduates.

"The fact is today there's a growing gap between the jobs being created and the availability of skilled workers," Cleveland said.

He said it's not just an issue with attracting college engineering graduates. He said it also applies to jobs like pipefitters and welders.

Cleveland said even these workers in the natural gas field need to be well-educated in science, math and engineering to do their jobs in the natural gas field.

"The point is clear, as we grow West Virginia jobs, we must also be sure to grow opportunities to keep your students right here at home," he said. "By creating a stronger workforce, West Virginia can help more citizens achieve more well-paying careers."

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

Wood County cracker could be built by 2019 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140827/DM05/140829314 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140827/DM05/140829314 Wed, 27 Aug 2014 18:51:08 -0400 By Jared Hunt WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. - Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht is about a year away from making its final decision on whether to build a massive petrochemical complex in Wood County.

Should the company give the project the green light next fall, the facility could be built and fully operational as early as late 2019.

The multinational company announced Project ASCENT, which stands for Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise, last November. With the project, the company hopes to build an ethylene cracker plant, three separate polyethylene plastic resin plants and additional facilities for water treatment and energy generation in the Washington Bottom area of Wood County.

David Peebles, the company's vice president for business development, was a guest speaker at the state Chamber of Commerce's Annual Meeting and Business Summit Wednesday at The Greenbrier. He also spoke with the Daily Mail about the current status of the project.

Peebles said there are about 100 people currently working on making the project a reality.

"We're going through the process of making sure that we're making the right decision," he said.

"Since last year, we've put in the permits, worked with a lot of consultants, chosen our technology and defined who and how we're going to build this . . . We've spent a lot of money."

The company has also negotiated contracts with regional natural gas providers to supply a good portion of the gas that is expected to be needed by the plant.

The company has also begun its permitting process with state and federal agencies. Earlier this week, the project was accepted into the state Department of Environmental Protection's Voluntary Remediation Program, which helps companies clean up former industrial sites.

Peebles also said the company expects to receive approval for its air quality permits in the spring.

"If you look at where we're going in the next 12 months, we've got all these pieces put together," he said. "We know what our supply is, we've got some schedules on how long it'll take to build, hired our engineering groups, now we move on to a cost assessment."

He said the next big milestone for the project should come at about this time next year when the company finalizes its cost estimates based on its final designs and expected production costs.

Then, he said, sometime in the fall the company and its investors can make the final investment decision to approve the project.

"From there it'll take 48 to 52 months to build," Peebles said. "So we're talking about this thing becoming fully operational by the end of 2019 or into 2020."

During that time, he said the company plans to work with regional manufacturers and educational institutions to evaluate the technologies and capabilities of existing plants.

The company wants to know if any improvements could be made that would increase the amount of products the manufacturers make with Odebrecht-produced materials.

While the Odebrecht facility itself will provide a significant number of jobs, Peebles said it will be the manufacturers using the company's products that will create the lion's share of new jobs.

"The big employment is the downstream, that's the big employment," Peebles said.

He said with U.S. energy costs a third of what they are in Brazil and feedstock costs a seventh of what you would find in international markets, the country should expect to see substantial growth in its manufacturing and chemical sectors in the coming years.

"This is going to be a tidal wave that we do not yet understand," Peebles said.

During his presentation to the Chamber, Peebles discussed the company's sustainable business philosophy.

Its corporate culture is based on five pillars: economic development, job creation, environmental balance, respect for the culture of the countries and communities in which it works, and civic participation in society.

He said the first two pillars are designed to create wealth, not just for the company, but in the communities in which it operates.

"When you talk about creating wealth . . . it's not just creating profits, we want to create jobs and a sustainable community," he said.

He also said the company looks forward to utilizing union labor in the state.

"We will work with unions," he said. "We will develop with them skilled labor. We want to develop a trained labor force."

With regard to environmental policy, Peebles said regulations aren't all bad and that the company plans to operate in an eco-friendly manner.

"We don't want to try to avoid regulations," he said. "We want to have a cooperative relationship because no one wants to breathe bad air and no one wants to drink bad water."

State Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Randy Huffman said his office has had a "very robust" line of communication with Odebrecht officials. "They're a great company to work with," Huffman said. "They don't do anything on the cheap."

He also said the company's sustainable business philosophy is one that other companies should strive to duplicate.

"That's the business model that everyone should be following if they want to be successful and sustainable in the long term - in this state or anywhere," he said.

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

Jared Hunt column: WVU brand weathers athletic doldrums http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140827/DM05/140829321 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140827/DM05/140829321 Wed, 27 Aug 2014 17:55:36 -0400 West Virginia University might not be in any of the major Top 25 football rankings right now, but the university has once again made the Top 25 of another lucrative list.

Collegiate Licensing Co., the trademark licensing company that represents nearly 200 schools and athletic conferences, ranked WVU 20th in its annual list of top-selling universities in the country for the 2013-2014 sales year.

The state's flagship university has consistently ranked well for sales in the college-licensed merchandise market, which CLC estimated to be at roughly $4.6 billion in 2013.

WVU is in its sixth year of an agreement allowing the CLC to manage its trademark licensing program. University officials have said the partnership has helped the school expand its merchandising options throughout the country.

"Since partnering with CLC, the average royalty generated over the six-year span has been approximately $2.4 million per year," said Marsha Malone, WVU director of trademark licensing.

The partnership helped set a school record of $3.5 million in trademark licensing royalties during the 2011-2012 sales year. Malone said the school reaped $2.8 million in royalties from the sale of officially licensed products in the 2013-2014 sales year.

"Royalties generated from licensed merchandise sales are important to WVU because they help fund university marketing initiatives and provide support for WVU athletic scholarships," she said.

There are about 470 companies and organizations that currently hold licenses to sell WVU-trademarked merchandise. The CLC partnership has expanded the university's reach to Victoria's Secret PINK brand, Old Navy, Justice, TOMS Shoes, Pillow Pets, Yankee Candle Company and the collegiate FTD rose program.

What's notable about the latest sales ranking is that it covers a not good (to put it nicely) season for Mountaineer sports: the football team went 4-8 and the men's basketball team couldn't even make the NIT.

Despite the performance (or lack thereof) of the school's highest profile teams, WVU only slipped three spots in the annual sales ranking, down from its ranking of 17th the year before.

Two of the schools to pass WVU in this year's ranking were in last year's BCS national title game: Florida State and Auburn. The third was Penn State, rebounding last year from the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Matt Wells, WVU's director of sports marketing, said the university's drop of only three spots over such a lackluster period was a testament to its dedicated fan base.

"I think it's a very encouraging sign about the overall strength of the WVU brand," he said. "I think it speaks volumes for the Mountaineer fanbase. It shows we have a very loyal and very proud following who support the program year-in and year-out regardless of the year-to-year ebb and flow of winning and losing."

But it's not all rainbows and butterflies.

Season ticket sales were recently reported to be at a nine-year low. While both football and basketball teams could be much improved this year, that shows the brand is susceptible to wear.

Despite that dropoff, Wells said the school is seeing enthusiasm from fans build in other ways as football season approaches.

Last Friday, the university and its multimedia rights partner IMG College debuted a new gameday app that allows users to tune in to live game broadcasts and access a trove of information related to the experience at Milan Puskar Stadium. Wells said more than 10,000 people had downloaded the app by Monday morning.

"The feedback we've had from IMG is that it's the most successful app launch they've had," Wells said. "Auburn had 18,000 downloads for the whole season, so we're very encouraged and excited we had 10,000 downloads in the first three days."

CAMC leading way for new cardiac procedure http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140827/DM01/140829272 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140827/DM01/140829272 Wed, 27 Aug 2014 22:58:24 -0400 By Charlotte Ferrell Smith More than 40 patients at Charleston Area Medical Center have undergone a procedure whereby the aortic valve is replaced without opening the chest, officials said.

Dr. Samuel Groves, cardiologist, went over the procedure on Wednesday morning during the regular meeting of the CAMC Board of Trustees.

Transcatheter aortic valve replacement is a non-invasive procedure for patients with severely restricted vessels in the aorta. A new valve is crimped on a balloon, passed through an artery, and positioned inside the narrowed valve. The balloon is inflated and a new valve is left to fully function.

"We can replace the aortic valve without cutting open a patient," Groves said.

Board members saw a video presentation explaining the basics of the complex medical procedure. Groves said CAMC is leading other facilities throughout the state in performing the state-of-the-art procedure for cardiac patients.

Meanwhile, University of Charleston President Ed Welch, who heads the quality committee, questioned the amount of time a patient spends in the emergency room before being evaluated for treatment. While the wait time is lower than a couple of years ago, it could be improved with the addition of more hospital beds because the emergency department is being "clogged" as patients wait to be admitted.

"We are trying to add beds at Memorial," he said.

The time frame between a patient's arrival and evaluation should fall within 90 minutes, he said. In one month's time, four patients waited longer than that, he said.

"They arrived by car," he said. "It's harder with no alert that they are coming."

In financial matters, Larry Hudson, chief financial officer, called July "a mixed bag." He reported the bottom line ahead of budget but the total down due to activity on Wall Street.

Bryan Cummings, of the CAMC Foundation, said the 2014 Golf Classic raised a record $216,000. Last year's tournament raised $170,000. Within the last 10 years, the event has raised $2.5 million and 3,000 golfers have participated, he said. Proceeds go to the children's endowment fund at Women and Children's Hospital.

In other business, it was announced that Tom Potter, who has served on the board for 19 years, will leave his position at the end of the year. The nominating committee is to meet over the next couple of months to seek a replacement.

It has been previously reported that Charleston Radiation Therapy Consultants will move into the new Cancer Center. CRTC is currently housed in the medical office building on the Memorial campus.

"Currently, radiation services are owned by a group of physicians," said David Ramsey, CAMC president and chief executive officer. "They own the doctor billing part and the equipment."

The physicians, working with an outside company, asked if CAMC would like to buy into ownership of the equipment, he said. An agreement was reached for CAMC to purchase 20 percent of the equipment at a cost of $6.5 million, Ramsey said.

At the beginning of each board meeting, a "Heart and Soul" award is given to an employee who goes beyond the call of duty to offer excellent care.

Ramsey presented the latest award to William Hovorka, a licensed practical nurse who has worked on 3 West at Memorial Hospital for 18 months. He was nominated by co-workers as well as patients for his self-motivation, positive attitude, and professionalism, Ramsey said. He is noted for his expertise in educating patients about medications and discharge instructions.

Hovorka said he wanted to dedicate the award to his co-workers as well as his parents who taught him the values of morals and hard work.

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

West Virginia sees shortage of truck drivers http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140827/DM05/140829325 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140827/DM05/140829325 Wed, 27 Aug 2014 17:25:40 -0400 By Whitney Burdette The trucking industry is facing a driver shortage that is expected to worsen over the coming years.

Jeff Foster, who runs the Boone County Truck Driving Academy in Chapmanville, said the root cause of that shortage is trucker retirement.

"Right now America is short about 30,000 truck drivers," Foster said. "That number will go up to about 100,000 in the next seven years. The reason is, No. 1, driver retirement is probably the biggest cause of that. Back when drivers like myself started in the industry there was no such thing as a (Commercial Driver's License). If you wanted to drive, you hopped in the truck and drove it."

Before 1986, drivers weren't required to hold CDLs, but a federal law aimed at making sure truckers, bus drivers and other big vehicle operators were qualified to do so changed that. Students at the Boone County Trucking Academy take part in a six-week program aimed at teaching them how to drive just about any big rig, including school buses, and then graduate with their CDLs.

"We take students, most of them have never driven anything bigger than a pickup truck, and when they leave here they're licensed to drive anything but a motorcycle," Foster said. "They're not just limited to driving a truck. I don't think there's a county in the whole state not begging for school bus drivers."

According to WorkForce West Virginia, about 5,100 jobseekers with CDLs Class A through D are looking for work. Of those, 1,300 are collecting unemployment, compared to about 13,000 total jobseekers seeking unemployment over the past two months.

Students in the trucking academy include laid-off coal miners. Foster said many of them aren't necessarily looking for a career change, but they need more stability than the volatile mine industry can provide right now.

"Right now we are actually covered with laid-off coal miners," Foster said. "The (National Emergency Grant) instituted by the federal government has really helped with that."

About 80 percent of Foster's students take advantage of that grant, which provides $5,000 to retrain laid-off workers in new career fields. Many of those students could have returned to the mines, Foster said, but choose not to out of fear of losing their jobs.

"Fortunately my business is booming because of the coal industry layoffs," he said. "I hate that part, but I'm glad we're here to at least offer them something to keep them in the state."

WorkForce West Virginia administers the grant statewide, which helps dislocated coal miners and their immediate family members affected by mine closures or layoffs find alternate work. As of Wednesday, 132 participants in West Virginia have completed CDL training and gained employment, earning $19.29 an hour.

One misconception among the public is truckers are tied to long hauls that may keep them from their families from weeks at a time.

While long haul trucking is an option, Foster said drivers can find jobs locally that pay well and allow them to go home every night.

"I will admit right now in West Virginia, the local market is pretty dim," he said. "But the trucking industry is like any other industry, you start at the bottom and work your way up. Conway pays pretty well. They require about a year's experience.

"It's like any other industry. You have to get your foot in the door, pay your dues and work your way up."

And even those local companies pay well. Foster said a new driver can expect to earn $16 to $27 an hour. It's an industry, he said, where drivers can decide their incomes.

"The trucking industry is one of the few in the world you can write your own paycheck," he said. "You can make as much as you want or as little as you want. It all depends on what you want to get into. Especially once you gets a year's experience, a lot of opportunities are open that wouldn't be open to a student driver hauling Hazmat or explosives, where the really big money is."

In West Virginia, truckers earned an average of $17.48 an hour, according to WorkForce West Virginia, compared to $18.39 for all occupations combined.

Marcellus Shale is contributing to the need for licensed truckers, too. According to WorkForce, the database currently shows 140 job orders requiring a CDL comprising slightly more than 300 job openings. Within the past year, more than 760 job orders have been posted to WorkForce West Virginia's website, with nearly 1,800 openings for CDL drivers.

Foster said no matter which way the economy goes, the trucking industry is stable because people and businesses still need their goods shipped.

"The trucking industry is the way to go," he said. "No matter what the economy does, the trucking industry will not decline. That's just a fact of life. I tell my students if you can touch it, feel it or see it, it's been in a truck at one time or another.

"The money is there, the jobs are there," he said. "If you have a CDL license, you will never ever have to worry about a layoff. If you have a CDL and you're not working, it's by choice."

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

DuPont, EPA reach settlement http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140827/DM05/140829341 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140827/DM05/140829341 Wed, 27 Aug 2014 16:22:28 -0400 By Whitney Burdette DuPont will pay a $1.275 million penalty stemming from releases of harmful substances over a four year period at its Belle facility.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice announced the settlement Wednesday. They allege the plant released "harmful levels of hazardous substances" eight separate times between May 2006 and January 2010. Several of those releases, according to the EPA posed risks to people in the surrounding area and the Kanawha River. A worker died in a January 2010 incident after he was exposed to phosgene, a toxic gas "released due to DuPont's failure to comply with industry accident prevention procedures," according to a news release from the EPA.

In addition to the fine, DuPont will take corrective action to prevent future releases of toxic chemicals and resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act and other federal policies.

"Producing toxic and hazardous substances can be dangerous and requires complying with environmental and safety laws," said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator of EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "Today's settlement with DuPont will ensure that the proper practices are in place to protect communities and nearby water bodies."

In January 2010, an employee died after being exposed to phosgene. Workers had discovered more than 2,000 pounds of methyl chloride had leaked into the atmosphere, but failed to respond to alarms triggered by the release. The next morning, they discovered a leak in a pipe containing oleum, a toxic gas. Later that day, a hose containing phosgene ruptured, killing the employee.

Later that year, in September, more than 160,000 pounds of methanol liquid was dumped into the Kanawha River over a 24-hour period. Officials initially reported the spill took place over several weeks, and media outlets reported only 5,000 pounds had leaked. However, that 5,000 pound figure reflected only the minimum regulatory requirement for reporting a leak.

In March 2010, the EPA had issued an administrative order to DuPont to implement corrective measures related to the release of chemicals. DuPont estimates it spent nearly $7 million to comply with the order.

"Failing to follow laws meant to prevent accidents can have fatal consequences, as was tragically the case here," said Sam Hirsch, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "Today's settlement holds DuPont accountable for its failure to prevent hazardous releases and requires improvements to its risk management operations and emergency response systems that could prevent future tragedies and damage to the environment."

Under the settlement, DuPont will have to implement enhanced risk management operating procedures to improve how it responds to alarms triggered by the release of hazardous chemicals; improve its management of change process, a best practice used to ensure safety, health and environmental risks are controlled when a company makes changes to its process; and improve procedures so federal, state and local responders are notified of emergency situations and will conduct training exercises to prepare employees to make those notifications.

DuPont estimates it will spend $2.2 million to make those improvements.

EPA inspections also identified five additional incidents that do not comply with the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. The EPA alleges DuPont released harmful quantities of dangerous material and did not report the releases to the National Response Center, State Emergency Response Commission and Local Planning Committee in a timely manner. The largest of the releases was the September 2010 release of methanol into the Kanawha River.

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

West Virginia gas prices dip 2 cents in past week http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140827/ARTICLE/140829363 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140827/ARTICLE/140829363 Wed, 27 Aug 2014 08:54:24 -0400

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Gasoline prices in West Virginia have dropped about 2 cents in the past week.

AAA East Central says the average price for a gallon of regular in the state is $3.48. That's about 6 cents less per gallon compared with the same week a year ago.

Prices range from $3.31 in Parkersburg to $3.52 in Weirton.

Nationally, gas prices average $3.43 this week, down about 2 cents from the previous week and the lowest average since Feb. 26.

Twitter users found less opinionated http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140827/ARTICLE/140829366 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140827/ARTICLE/140829366 Wed, 27 Aug 2014 08:10:13 -0400


THE Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Tired of that friend or relative who won't stop posting or tweeting political opinions? Online loudmouths may be annoying, but a new survey suggests they are in the minority.

In a report released Tuesday, the Pew Research Center found that most people who regularly use social media sites were actually less likely to share their opinions, even offline.

The findings run counter to how many people view social media. But a survey that asked some 1,800 adults about the case of leaker Edward Snowden found that people on Facebook and Twitter were more likely to clam up on whether widespread government surveillance is a good thing. Researchers also noted the "spiral of silence" phenomenon: Unless people know their audience agrees, they are likely to shy away from talking about hot-button issues.

In other words, most of us are more comfortable with ice-bucket challenges than political banter.

"People do not tend to be using social media for this type of important political discussion. And if anything, it may actually be removing conversation from the public sphere," said Keith Hampton, a communications professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey who helped conduct the study.

The survey focused on the willingness of adults to share their opinion on Snowden's 2013 revelation of widespread government surveillance of Americans' phone and email records. Hampton said the Snowden case provided a concrete example of a major national issue that divides Americans.

Among Pew's findings was that the typical Facebook user - someone who logs onto the site a few times per day - was half as likely to discuss the Snowden case at a public meeting as a non-Facebook user. Meanwhile, someone who goes on Twitter a few times per day is one-quarter as likely to share opinions in the workplace compared with those who never use Twitter.

Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center Internet Project, said it's possible that social media actually sensitizes people to different opinions.

"Because they use social media, they may know more about the depth of disagreement over the issue in their wide circle of contacts," he said. "This might make them hesitant to speak up either online or offline for fear of starting an argument, offending or even losing a friend."

Another finding was that social media didn't make it easier for people to share opinions they wouldn't otherwise voice. Of the 14 percent of Americans unwilling to discuss the Snowden case with others, fewer than one-half of 1 percent were willing to discuss it on social media.

While many people might be relieved and say keeping political debate off Facebook is a matter of tact, Hampton said there is a concern that fear of offending someone on social media is stifling debate, adding, "A society where people aren't able to share their opinions openly and gain from understanding alternative perspectives is a polarized society."

Pioneer selects new CEO http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140826/DM05/140829416 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140826/DM05/140829416 Tue, 26 Aug 2014 19:36:37 -0400 By Jared Hunt Dan McGowan has been chosen to succeed Dana Rawlings as new president and CEO at Pioneer West Virginia Federal Credit Union upon Rawlings' retirement at the end of September.

The credit union's board of directors announced the selection of McGowan, who currently serves as executive vice president and chief financial officer, earlier this week.

Rawlings announced his retirement after four years in the CEO position earlier this year, according to a company statement.

"The past four years have been the most fulfilling of my entire career," Rawlings said.

Under his tenure, Rawlings, a Nitro native, oversaw a rebranding and rapid expansion of the Charleston-based credit union. The credit union completed three mergers, built a new branch in Teays Valley and expanded its charter from six West Virginia counties to 10 counties in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio.

Over that time, the company saw record loan and membership growth and a 38 percent increase in total assets. The company was also named "2012 Federal Credit Union of the Year" by the National Association of Federal Credit Unions.

Pioneer board chairman Terry Richardson said Rawlings "brought a vision and high energy to the CEO role, which provided the spark that we needed."

Richardson said the company was fortunate to have McGowan at-hand to allow the board to promote from within.

"From the first time we ever talked about me coming to PWV, Dana and I shared the same vision of developing Pioneer into one of the finest credit unions to be found anywhere," McGowan said. "We've clearly moved toward that under Dana's leadership. It's a tradition I fully intend to continue."

With more than $181 million in assets, Pioneer serves 17,000 members through eight branches in Kanawha, Putnam, Fayette, Greenbrier, Clay, Roane, Wayne and Cabell counties in West Virginia, as well as Lawrence County, Ohio, and Boyd County, Ky.

Five businesses eying former Coldwater Creek site http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140826/DM05/140829431 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140826/DM05/140829431 Tue, 26 Aug 2014 18:11:04 -0400 By Jared Hunt Five businesses are currently looking at moving operations to the now-vacant Coldwater Creek distribution center in Mineral Wells, state Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette confirmed Tuesday.

"I'm confident we're going to find the right tenant for it," Burdette said.

The retailer went belly-up earlier this year, filing for bankruptcy in April and liquidating its assets in May and June. That included the company's 960,000-square-foot distribution center in Mineral Wells. The center's remaining 257 employees were laid off at the end of June.

Coldwater Creek didn't actually own the building; it's owned by the Wood County Development Authority. The company had been paying $344,292.10 a month to lease the building from the local authority.

Now local and state officials are looking for a new tenant to occupy the space.

Burdette said several businesses have stepped up to express interest in the facility.

"There's a lot of interest in that building," Burdette said. "It's just a rarity on the market."

With nearly a million square feet under roof and all the amenities of a fully equipped as a distribution facility - including nearly new racks, sorters and conveyor belts - Burdette said the building is "ready to go."

Burdette said development officials had heard from several prospects even before the building closed. They had four active prospects over the past three months, and Burdette said the total number of interested parties today stands at five.

He said the interest in the building is coming not just from businesses looking to use the building as a distribution hub, but also from potential manufacturers.

"This is a hard piece of property to find if you're in (the distribution) business," Burdette said. "But with nearly a million square feet, it's also a hard piece of property to find if you're looking to open a manufacturing operation."

The company opened the Mineral Wells distribution center in 1999. Originally about 600,000 square feet, the company expanded it by more than 350,000 square feet in 2006. At its height, the company employed more than 1,000 people at the site.

The state Economic Development Authority and local banks loaned tens of millions of dollars to the county development authority over the years to finance the construction and expansion at the site.

Burdette was in Wood County Tuesday to meet with local development officials and bank representatives.

There is nearly $27 million still owed on the property, he said, adding that the state Economic Development Authority is owed about 10 percent of that amount.

As of now, the banks are giving the local development authority leeway in its search for new tenants and not applying extra pressure to do something with the building immediately, Burdette said.

He said a key advantage is the fact that while $27 million is still owed on the facility, it was recently appraised for twice that amount.

"It's a great deal out there for someone who's in the market," he said. "I am very optimistic that we are going to find a new tenant that might even create more jobs than Coldwater Creek did."

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

Rahall airs concerns about bridge safety http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140826/DM0104/140829395 DM0104 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140826/DM0104/140829395 Tue, 26 Aug 2014 21:13:55 -0400 By Whitney Burdette The Obama administration isn't acting quickly enough to implement bridge safety reform, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Transportation..

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., took issue with the president Tuesday after receiving the report, which was issued in response to a request he made in 2013.

The report highlights "serious concerns" with the implementation of the reforms, as well as "a lack of adherence to (Inspector General) recommendations that have been made on bridge safety over the years."

"While I thank the Inspector General for his sobering and comprehensive assessment, it shouldn't take an IG investigation to spur the Department of Transportation to act on potentially life-saving recommendations for shoring up our nation's bridge safety," said Rahall, the top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

"Nearly 47 years after the collapse of the Silver Bridge in my home state of West Virginia, significant concerns about bridge safety remain, and I am continuing to press for the action and investment needed to address the long list of bridges in need of repair and replacement nationwide."

The Inspector General's report found the U.S. Department of Transportation, specifically the Federal Highway Administration, has not fully implemented safety reform highlighted in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, or MAP-21. Since 2006, the Inspector General's Office has issued three reports with 16 recommendations to improve states' bridge safety. At Rahall's request, the office conducted two audits to assess the Highway Trust Fund's actions in response to MAP-21 and bridge safety recommendations,

In 2013, Rahall wrote to then-Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, urging him to expedite the implementation of bridge safety reform contained in MAP-21 and previously issued recommendations from the Inspector General. A second letter to the Transportation Department's inspector general requested an update on compliance. That update was released Tuesday.

According to the report, the Federal Highway Administration is:

Addressing MAP-21's bridge safety provisions but has yet to fully implement all requirements.

Did not fully address one completed MAP-21 bridge funding eligibility action.

Is making progress on remaining MAP-21 actions, but critical performance and accountability requirements are behind schedule.

Has not finalized plans for a process to prioritize bridge projects or report bridge replacement costs.

Completed most prior IG bridge recommendations, but four remain open.

Made significant progress addressing IG recommendations to resolve national bridge inventory errors, but vulnerabilities persist.

"With thousands of highway bridges across the country carrying loads that they were not designed to accommodate and in use well beyond their life expectancy, we need to ensure that measures to ensure bridge safety are being properly administered," Rahall said.

"Unfortunately, this report once again highlights shortcomings in federal oversight and management of highway bridge safety, and it raises serious questions about the agency's ability to implement critical policies and programs."

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

RadioShack allegedly seeking rescue deal http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140826/ARTICLE/140829414 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140826/ARTICLE/140829414 Tue, 26 Aug 2014 19:37:11 -0400




Bloomberg News

RadioShack is talking with shareholder Standard General about getting a rescue financing package that could help the retailer stave off a bankruptcy filing, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

Standard General, a hedge fund that's also orchestrating a lifeline for American Apparel, is seeking to bolster RadioShack's cash by issuing debt or equity, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. The firm also is working with RadioShack's management to craft a plan that would avoid Chapter 11, the people said.

Without a capital infusion, the seller of phones, electronics and batteries will probably face a cash crunch next year, according to Moody's Investors Service. RadioShack, based in Fort Worth, Texas, lost $98.3 million in the three months ending May 3, while same-store sales tumbled 14 percent.

Standard General also is seeking to refinance RadioShack's $250 million second-lien term loan, which is held by Salus Capital Partners and Cerberus Capital Management, the people said. Paying down that debt may give the retailer enough leeway to close a larger number of underperforming stores, helping stem cash losses. RadioShack creditors had blocked a plan to shut 1,100 stores earlier this year, forcing the retailer to limit the closings to as many as 200 instead.

Merianne Roth, a spokeswoman for RadioShack, declined to comment, as did Salus's Emily Serafin and Standard General's John Dillard.

RadioShack shares rose as much as 14 percent after Bloomberg reported on the potential Standard General deal. As of 12:53 p.m., the stock traded at 80 cents in New York, up 11 percent. Before today, the company had lost almost three- quarters of its value this year.

Standard General, based in New York, owned more than 7 percent of RadioShack's shares as of June 30, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Credit traders have signaled mounting concern that the retailer is facing an imminent default.

The cost of protecting against default by the chain within six months had surged to as high as 60.5 percent upfront on Aug. 12, according to data provider CMA, which is owned by McGraw Hill Financial and compiles prices in the privately negotiated market. That means it cost $6.05 million initially to protect $10 million of debt for six months. It was 44.5 percent as of Aug. 26, data show.

Chief Executive Officer Joe Magnacca has been remodeling stores and revamping RadioShack's product lineup in a bid to shed its reputation as a throwback to 1980s shopping malls. Still, analysts have grown increasingly concerned that the company won't have enough time to execute the turnaround.

"We haven't seen any evidence of any positive impact from the turnaround plan yet," Mickey Chadha, a Moody's analyst in New York, said in an interview this month.

While Magnacca has cut cash needs by pruning inventory, the company is still in a tough spot because more than half of its sales come from mobile phones, Chadha said.

"That is a very, very competitive space, and the margins are very thin, and you have no pricing power," he said.

Burger King to buy Tim Hortons http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140826/ARTICLE/140829415 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140826/ARTICLE/140829415 Tue, 26 Aug 2014 19:37:00 -0400



Bloomberg News

Burger King Worldwide agreed to acquire Tim Hortons for about $11.4 billion in a deal that creates the third-largest fast-food company and moves its headquarters to Canada.

Tim Hortons investors will receive 65.50 Canadian dollars (C$) in cash and 0.8025 shares of the combined entity for each share they own, the companies said in a statement on Tuesday. The transaction, which is backed in part by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, values each Tim Hortons share at C$94.05, based on Burger King's closing price Monday.

The purchase brings Burger King the biggest seller of coffee and doughnuts in Canada, which it can use to grow internationally. The deal also lets the burger chain push into the grocery business by selling packaged coffees at supermarkets in North America. The combined business would create a fast-food network with $23 billion in sales, including franchisees, and more than 18,000 restaurants in 100 countries.

"There's value to be extracted and there are international growth opportunities," said Will Slabaugh, an analyst at Stephens Inc. in Little Rock, Ark. "I think it's going to be a well-received deal."

The acquisition also moves the merged entity's global headquarters to Canada, potentially taking advantage of lower corporate taxes. When the companies disclosed the talks on Aug. 24, it heightened debate over American businesses shifting to other countries in search of lower tax bills. President Barack Obama criticized the practice in July, and his aides said that the administration would take action to stop the trend.

The merger talks sent shares of both companies soaring Monday. Burger King rose 20 percent, the biggest jump since the stock debuted on the New York Stock Exchange two years ago. It retreated 3.5 percent to $31.28 as of 1:02 p.m. on Tuesday. Tim Hortons climbed 19 percent Monday and an additional 8.2 percent on Tuesday, rising to C$88.75 in Toronto. Based on the value of the shares last week, before reports of the deal surfaced, the transaction offers a 30 percent premium to Tim Hortons' shares.

Tim Hortons shares are trading below the deal price because investors see a risk that the government may move to blunt the tax savings, said Stephen Anderson, a New York-based analyst at Miller Tabak.

"It's a political concern; it's nothing that will derail the deal in my view," he said.

3G Capital, the investment firm that owns about 70 percent of Burger King, will convert that stake into roughly 51 percent of the new company. Berkshire Hathaway has committed $3 billion of preferred equity financing, according to the statement. Berkshire will earn 9 percent annual interest on its investment, which allows the company to deepen its relationship with 3G. Omaha, Neb.-based Berkshire won't participate in managing the restaurant business.

3G, which was co-founded by Brazilian billionaire Jorge Paulo Lemann, joined Buffett last year in a $23.3 billion takeover of HJ Heinz. Buffett bought half the ketchup maker's common stock for about $4.25 billion and invested $8 billion for preferred shares that pay a 9 percent annual dividend and gave Berkshire warrants to buy an additional 5 percent stake.

Lemann's firm is known for making cost cuts at the businesses it acquires, including Heinz. After 3G's takeover, the ketchup company embarked on a plan to fire more than 1,000 workers and close plants in North America, though a group of Ontario investors said in March that they would keep open a Canadian tomato-juice factory.

"3G does a magnificent job of running businesses," Buffett said in May at his company's annual meeting in Omaha. "We're very likely to partner with them, perhaps on some things that are very large."

Burger King, the second-largest U.S. burger chain, has struggled to boost North American same-store sales and compete with McDonald's breakfast fare. Buying Tim Hortons would give Burger King a coffee brand that's coveted by Canadians, as well as some Americans. There are no current plans to combine brands or sell Tim Hortons coffee at Burger King, the companies' executives said on Tuesday.

Burger King plans to help expand Tim Hortons restaurants in the 98 countries where it operates. There may be supply-chain, marketing and administrative cost savings as well.

Within the new parent company, the two chains will remain stand-alone businesses and maintain their current headquarters. Burger King is run from Miami, while Tim Hortons is based in the Toronto suburb of Oakville.

Daniel Schwartz, Burger King's chief executive officer, will become group CEO of the merged company, as well as remaining head of the fast-food chain. Tim Hortons CEO Marc Caira, meanwhile, will continue to run that chain, which has about 4,500 locations. Alex Behring, a managing partner at 3G who has served as Burger King's executive chairman, will continue in that role for the new global company.

The Canadian corporate tax rate is typically 26.5 percent, compared with 40 percent in the U.S., according to auditing and tax firm KPMG. Still, Burger King already pays a lower rate because it operates in a mix of tax jurisdictions. Its effective tax rate in 2013 was 27.5 percent.

Schwartz said on Tuesday on a conference call that the company didn't expect its tax rate to change materially.

"This transaction is not really about taxes," he said. "It's about growth."

Burger King has lined up $12.5 billion in financing to fund the cash portion of the deal, including $9.5 billion from a debt package led by JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo.

Lazard, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo served as Burger King's financial advisers, while Kirkland & Ellis, Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison provided legal counsel. Tim Hortons received financial advice from Citigroup and RBC Capital Markets. Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt served as legal counsel.

One challenge will be promoting the Tim Hortons brand outside of Canada. Only about 30 percent of Americans are familiar with it, according to YouGov BrandIndex.

If Burger King ultimately decides to sell Tim Hortons coffee in its U.S. restaurants, the company will have to find a way to make it resonate, said Peter Saleh, a New York-based analyst at Telsey Advisory Group.

"People here don't really know the Tim Hortons name," he said. "I'm not sure that it's really going to help them much."

Burger King said it was committed to Canada and wouldn't change the way Tim Hortons operates, aiming to reassure consumers that one of the country's most beloved brands wasn't in jeopardy. Tim Hortons, which claims to sell eight out of 10 cups of coffee in Canada, was founded by Hall of Fame Toronto Maple Leafs hockey defenseman Tim Horton in 1964.

Still, this isn't the company's first time being acquired by an American burger chain. Wendy's bought Tim Hortons in 1995 and then spun it off as a public company in 2006.

"Our customers, employees, franchisees and fellow Canadians can all rest assured that Tim Hortons will still be Tim Hortons following this transaction," Caira said in the statement.