www.charlestondailymail.com Business http://www.charlestondailymail.com Daily Mail feed en-us Copyright 2014, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers Business people, Oct. 31 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141030/DM05/141039922 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141030/DM05/141039922 Thu, 30 Oct 2014 19:07:08 -0400 DEVELOPMENT

n Lisha Conny has joined the West Virginia Small Business Development Center as a business coach, serving small businesses in Calhoun, Jackson, Pleasants, Ritchie, Wirt and Wood counties from her office in Parkersburg.

Conny is co-owner of several companies in the cellular and fiber optics, agriculture, real estate and apparel sectors. She is scheduled to receive her master's degree in strategic leadership from the University of Charleston in December.

HEALTH CARE

n Matthew Keefer has been hired as executive director at Bellaire at Devonshire in Scott Depot.

Keefer has worked in health care administration for more than 20 years, in roles including executive director and administrator, human resources management and program manager of West Virginia's licensing and regulatory agency for nursing facilities. Prior to being hired at Bellaire at Devonshire, Keefer was employed by Regency Place in Scott Depot.

n Veronica Neale has been promoted to professional relations manager at HealthNet Aeromedical Services. Her responsibilities include working with flight team leaders and teams at each HealthNet Aeromedical Services base, and to coordinate and maintain social media outlets and communications with EMS, fire, dispatch, hospitals, community groups and the public.

Neale has served as a paramedic since 2000 and began working with HealthNet in October 2006. In June 2012 Neale was named Flight Team Leader of HealthNet Aeromedical Services Base 4/MedFlight 7.

n Greg Elliot has been elected as an at-large representative on the board of governors of the American Health Care Association.

Elliot currently serves as the second generation owner/operator at American Medical Facilities Management LLC in Charleston, which operates 15 skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers in the state. In addition to the new national board position, Elliot is a member of the West Virginia Health Care Association Board of Directors.

LAW

n Dale Steager, an attorney at Spilman Thomas & Battle, served as editor for the 2015 edition of the "Guidebook to West Virginia Taxes," published annually by the West Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants. He has served as the publication's editor since 2010 and is also author of this year's severance tax and unclaimed property chapters.

The guidebook is the most comprehensive reference publication available for West Virginia tax professionals, businesses and interested individuals.

n Rebecca Hardy, an associate at Spilman Thomas & Battle, was recently selected as chairwoman of the Young Lawyers Division of the West Virginia Bar Association. As chairwoman, Hardy will also be a member of the bar association's executive council.

Hardy's primary area of practice is general litigation, including toxic torts, product liability and medical monitoring.

n Marc Rigsby has joined Flaherty Sensabaugh Bonasso's Charleston office, focusing on business formation, regulatory compliance and corporate transactions.

Rigsby joins the firm from Pullin Fowler Flanahan Brown and Poe and has a background in civil litigation. After receiving his bachelor's degree from Vanderbilt University, Rigsby graduated from Wake Forest University School of Law in 2012.

n Justin Pritt has joined Steptoe & Johnson as an of counsel attorney in the firm's Charleston office.

Pritt has experience in contract law and the formation of business organizations, including those in the energy and medical industries. Before joining Steptoe & Johnson, Pritt practiced with Escue and Pritt Law office where he specialized in property and oil and gas law. He was also a law clerk for Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellot.

NATURAL RESOURCES

n Charleston attorney Larry George has been elected president of Lawson Heirs Inc., which owns and leases coal, oil and gas, timber and other real estate holdings in Logan County. George was elected president at the company's annual meeting last week in Roanoke, Va. He previously served as counsel to the company.

George will continue his Charleston law practice, the Law Office of Larry W. George PLLC, which focuses on corporate, energy, mineral and water law.

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United third-quarter profit jumps 50 percent http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141030/DM05/141039923 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141030/DM05/141039923 Thu, 30 Oct 2014 19:06:31 -0400 By Jared Hunt United Bankshares Inc., parent company of United Bank, reported this week its third-quarter earnings increased 50 percent compared to last year.

The company, which has headquarters in Charleston and Washington, D.C., reported Wednesday it earned $33.3 million, or 48 cents a share, during the third quarter. That was up $11.1 million from the $22.2 million, or 44 cents a share, it earned during the third quarter of 2013.

For the first nine months of the year, the company earned $96.6 million, or $1.44 a share, up 46 percent from the $66 million, or $1.31 a share, the company earned during the first nine months of 2013.

United CEO Richard Adams said the earnings were boosted by the company's acquisition of Virginia Commerce Bancorp, which was completed Jan. 31.

"We are pleased with our financial performance for the third quarter and first nine months of 2014," Adams said in a press release.

"Our merger with Virginia Commerce has been accretive to earnings per share and has positioned United Bank as the largest headquartered bank in the nation's capital metropolitan statistical area with assets of $7.2 billion," Adams said. "Total assets for United Bankshares are now over $12 billion."

The company said its asset quality continues to outperform other banks in its Federal Reserve peer group. It also said it remains well-capitalized based on U.S. regulatory guidelines.

The company declared a 32 cent a share cash dividend during the third quarter. Its current annual dividend payout of $1.28 equates to a yield of about 4 percent, based on the company's recent stock price.

United maintains 131 full-service offices in West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

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

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Airline to offer Beckley-to-Charlotte flights http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141030/ARTICLE/141039973 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141030/ARTICLE/141039973 Thu, 30 Oct 2014 11:00:48 -0400 BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) - Airport officials in Beckley have announced new nonstop flights to Charlotte, N.C.

According to media outlets, Florida-based ViaAir will begin the flights out of Raleigh County Municipal Airport by early December. The airline plans two flights on weekdays and one flight on Saturday and Sunday. Its 30-passenger Embraer turboprop planes will have two pilots and a flight attendant.

In addition, airport manager Tom Cochran said the airline will move its maintenance operation to the Beckley airfield. That maintenance hub will be housed in a 56,000-square-foot building at the airport and will service the planes of ViaAir and its parent company. It will employ about 50 people.

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Jared Hunt column: Century still has year-end target for Ravenswood http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141029/DM05/141029019 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141029/DM05/141029019 Thu, 30 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0400 Century Aluminum's chief executive reiterated Wednesday that he still hopes to have news regarding the company's shuttered Ravenswood plant by the end of the year.

Chicago-based Century reported third-quarter earnings Wednesday and executives discussed the company's outlook with analysts during an evening conference call.

On that call, CEO Michael Bless said he and other executives are continuing to negotiate with Appalachian Power to come up with a power agreement for the Ravenswood smelter. Bless reiterated a comment he made in July, when he said he hoped to have news regarding the Ravenswood plant by the end of the year.

"We've continued in an active dialogue with the power company," Bless said, adding they have a "very active goal" for unveiling a potential power arrangement for the plant sometime in the fourth quarter of this year.

While the company has said many times before it is interested in restarting the Ravenswood facility, which closed in 2009, the timing does appear more favorable now than in the past.

Aluminum markets have rebounded this year, as users work off a glut of supply. The recent global commodity sell-off that helped push crude oil and gas prices lower did cut aluminum prices too, but they have come back somewhat in recent days.

Century has also swung to profitability of late. After posting consistent quarterly losses since 2011, the company earned $20.3 million in the second quarter and reported a $50.4 million third-quarter profit Wednesday. Executives continue earnings to grow in the coming quarters.

When asked for more details about what and when analysts would see something pertaining to the Ravenswood plant, Bless indicated the first move would be to file a power rate proposal with the state Public Service Commission.

"At some point in time we would hope to make a filing with the West Virginia Public Service Commission," Bless told analysts. "That's something that you would see, which I said we're hoping to do by the end of the year."

Century still has at its disposal a $20 million annual tax credit package passed by state lawmakers in 2012 which was designed to help bring down the plant's power bill. The special rate plan crafted by the Public Service Commission later that year - which Century originally rejected - is also still out there as a framework for a new power contract.

n n n

Meanwhile, as mentioned before, there has been a global commodity sell-off of late that's helped push gas prices less than $3 a gallon. No matter how often we report about the factors driving this - increased domestic crude production, slack demand, etc. - many Facebook commenters still insist the decline is nothing more than a political attempt to reduce gas prices ahead of the election. They say the prices will simply go back up after the election.

Sorry.

The truth is, gas prices typically start going down this time of year as drivers drive less and refineries switch to the cheaper-to-produce winter blend of gasoline. Prices tend to bottom around somewhere between December and February before ramping back up in the spring.

Chris Khan at Bankrate.com reported Wednesday that in six out of the last 10 elections, gas prices were actually higher before election day than after.

"Bottom line: Global oil markets are too vast and complex to be manipulated by one person - even if it's the leader of the free world," Khan wrote.

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Realtors look to develop Ferry Street property http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141029/DM05/141029016 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141029/DM05/141029016 Wed, 29 Oct 2014 21:21:04 -0400 By Jared Hunt TCi Tire Centers, located just off the South Side Bridge between Ferry Street and MacCorkle Avenue, plans to close at the end of the week as real estate executives look to develop the tract of land across the river from downtown Charleston.

The company has four stores in West Virginia. The other three are in Champanville, Nitro and Jane Lew.

Tyler Kennedy, manager of the Charleston location, said the company made the decision to close the store last week. He described it as "just a business decision."

The store employs about 10 people, and those employees will transfer to other locations. Kennedy said he and most others would be transferring to the Chapmanville store, which focuses on supporting coal mine operations.

"We're moving to our other store in Chapmanville to just do mining sector (work)," Kennedy said.

The closure comes as agents from separate real estate firms work to sell off not only the TCi property, but the adjacent lot where the former Steak and Ale restaurant was located.

Mike Callaghan of Great Expectations Realty has been working to sell the Steak and Ale site, which is about 1.13 acres. David Durbin of CBRE is advertising the 1.19-acre TCi property.

Located directly across the river from Haddad Riverfront Park, both men said the combined property is a prime piece of real estate for commercial development.

"I think it's one of the greatest opportunities for development of our waterfront that we've seen in our lifetime," Callaghan said. "Combined, it's just a little over two acres, which would be fantastic for development."

While there are several commercial options, Durbin said the spot would be ideal for a new hotel.

"The parcels together would be about the right size for a small hotel," Durbin said. "That to me would be an ideal location for something like that.

"Singularly they're not large enough for a hotel," he said, "but together they just about meet that threshold."

Callaghan is listing the Steak and Ale site with an asking price of $1.35 million. The TCi property is listed at $1.2 million.

In 2013, physicians with South Charleston Pediatrics received initial approval from the Charleston Planning Commission to rezone the Steak and Ale site to allow for professional offices. Callaghan said the doctors had initially wanted to build a medical office building on the site, but later decided to abandon that project.

Durbin said both he and Callaghan had potential hotel prospects they were talking to about the site, but have so far not had any formal offers on either property.

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

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Charleston resident is first woman to be chancellor of Episcopal Diocese http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141029/DM01/141029017 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141029/DM01/141029017 Wed, 29 Oct 2014 20:35:33 -0400 By Charlotte Ferrell Smith Karen Klein has worn many hats, from journalist and musician to attorney.

When she was recently named chancellor to the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia, she made history by becoming the first woman to hold the position.

She was nominated for the role by the Rt. Rev. Michie Klusmeyer, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia, and unanimously elected to the post last weekend by the Diocesan Convention. Klein, who previously served as vice chancellor, will serve a five-year term as chancellor.

"Karen has served faithfully," Klusmeyer said. "She has good legal expertise and a passion for the church. I am honored, pleased and thankful she has accepted the position. I am looking forward to having her serve with me."

Klein will serve as a lawyer to the bishop and legal reference for the diocese with 68 congregations throughout the state and about 10,000 members.

Klein, an attorney with Moore & Biser in South Charleston, holds bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from Marshall University and a doctorate from the Indiana University School of Law. She worked as a journalist for 12 years including stints with the Charleston Daily Mail, Burlington (Mass.) Union and The Detroit News.

She grew up in Huntington in a medical family. Her father was a gynecologist/obstetrician and her mother a nurse who became a stay-at-home mother. The family did not attend church regularly. Her parents divorced when she was 10 years old and she began attending an Episcopal church with her mother.

A self-described "band geek," she said she did not fit with any of the high school groups. However, as a teenager she attended a church camp where she finally felt she truly belonged and realized "we are all equal under God."

While the years ahead would hold many challenges, she found she could always depend upon her faith.

Klein, who is adopted, was married and considering children of her own when she set out to find her birth mother. After much research she was successful and in 1997 found her mother living in Florida. It was an emotional experience for both of them. When her mother became pregnant, she was in a difficult marriage and wanted a good life for her daughter. Klein is thankful for the unselfish act of allowing a stable family to adopt her and give her so many opportunities in life with such a strong emphasis on education.

Klein's adoptive parents are now both gone. Her father died in 2006 and her mother in 2008.

She is grateful for frequent conversations with her biological mother and the way her family has expanded as a result with step-siblings and many other relatives. Klein's marriage ended in divorce and she had no children.

Klein, 49, is grateful for every experience that has enriched her life.

She was 18 years old and part of the Marshall University Jazz Ensemble when the group traveled to the Soviet Union and Romania. With all she had been taught about communism, she was anxious about the trip and then pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of the residents.

During her senior year at Marshall, she was selected to participate in a Disney college program. She left in the spring of 1987 for Florida where she worked, operated some attractions and lived in a double wide trailer in an area known as Snow White Village. She attended various classes on topics such as the history of Disney or how to read a profit and loss statement.

"It was really a neat opportunity," she said. "It taught me to meet people from everywhere and how important it is to be aware of good customer service."

She worked for other firms before becoming an associate with Moore & Biser, small firm of two partners and three associates. In addition to her regular job, her additional volunteer position as chancellor could take a lot of time or a little depending upon what is happening at the moment. She is grateful that the firm is willing to make the sacrifice when her time is needed by the diocese.

She believes faith can play a role in any job.

"Faith plays a role in everything I do," she said. "If you live your faith, decisions about right and wrong are easier. Repercussions are not necessarily easier."

Klein is an active member of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, a member of the Charleston Civic Chorus, an avid reader and a tennis enthusiast. She enjoys contemporary Christian music and makes prayer a part of her daily life. She lives in Belle with a Lab named Rosie and two cats.

She looks forward to her new position as chancellor.

"It's humbling," she said. "It's an honor to be the first female."

Klein is also excited to see what other plans God may have in store. She is now going through a discernment process in consideration of becoming a priest.

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

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Statewide Amtrak ridership down http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141029/DM01/141029018 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141029/DM01/141029018 Wed, 29 Oct 2014 20:34:59 -0400 By Matt Murphy Four of West Virginia's 10 Amtrak stations saw an increase in passengers during the latest federal fiscal year, while the other six saw fewer, according to figures released this week.

Statewide, 55,712 people boarded or left Amtrak trains in fiscal year 2014, which runs from Oct. 1, 2013 to Sept. 30, 2014.

Last year, the state saw 56,114 passengers.

Huntington, on the Cardinal line, remains the busiest passenger station in West Virginia with 11,515 boardings and alightings - an increase of about 3 percent over the 2013 fiscal year's figure of 11,186.

Martinsburg, on the Capitol Limited line, saw the biggest percentage increase this year at 9,824 passengers up from 9,331 in 2013.

Harpers Ferry on the same line saw a small bump to 6,313 passengers this year from 6,287 last year, and Montgomery on the Cardinal line was the fourth Mountain State city to see an increase, from 614 passengers last year to 641 this year.

Charleston, which in 2013 had its best performance in recent years with 10,038 passengers, dropped to 9,675 passengers in 2014.

Thurmond, the least-used station in West Virginia, saw a 30 percent drop in passengers, from 563 in 2013 to 390 in 2014.

However, Thurmond is one of two Amtrak stations closest to The Summit: Bechtel Family Scout Reserve. In 2013, which was the first National Scout Jamboree at the site, Thurmond reported a 113 percent increase over 2012. This year's figure is still higher than Thurmond's performance pre-Jamboree.

Prince, the other Amtrak station close to The Summit, saw a drop of about 2.6 percent in 2014 to 3,316 passengers from 3,406 the previous year.

Other stations saw drops as well.

Hinton went from 8,897 passengers in 2013 to 8,502 in 2014; Alderson went from 586 to 551; and White Sulphur Springs went from 5,204 to 5,165.

Nationally, more than 30.9 million passengers used Amtrak trains in fiscal year 2014, which the railroad said was a 0.2 percent bump over adjusted FY2013 numbers..

Two Amtrak routes run through West Virginia - the Cardinal in the southern half of the state and the Capitol Limited in the Eastern Panhandle.

The Cardinal, which runs three days per week between New York City and Chicago, carried 109,154 passengers, a 3.5 percent drop from last year. However, the route brought in more than $7.76 million, a 0.4 percent increase from the previous year.

The Capitol Limited, meanwhile, carried 235,926 passengers - a 2.7 percent increase. Revenues on that route were 3.7 percent lower to just under $20.6 million.

The Capitol Limited runs daily between Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

Contact writer Matt Murphy at 304-348-4817 or matt.murphy@dailymailwv.com. Follow him at twitter.com/DMLocalGov.

- - -

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Prince's passenger numbers declined by 8 percent.

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WVU index points to economic growth http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141029/DM05/141029020 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141029/DM05/141029020 Wed, 29 Oct 2014 20:33:47 -0400 By Jared Hunt West Virginia should experience economic growth well into the first quarter of 2015, according to the latest statewide economic indicator from West Virginia University's Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

The October Mountain State Business Index, designed to be an up-to-date measure of the state's business performance, increased 0.2 percent from September. The index is up 2.1 percent since last October, but has shown strong growth in the last six months, logging a 4.5 percent annualized growth rate since April.

The index is designed to forecast future growth or contractions in the state economy. Researchers said the increase in the index since April suggests the state could see it's overall rate of economic growth improve over the next six months.

"The outlook for the West Virginia economy continues to be positive, as evidenced by healthy growth in the Mountain State Business Index," said John Deskins, director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research. "We are becoming increasingly confident that the economy will continue to grow at a healthy pace through early 2015."

He said chances of a recession in the coming months appear to be 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.

Four of the seven components - building permits, unemployment claims, natural gas production and interest rates - made positive contributions during the last month. Stock prices, coal production and the value of the dollar weighed on the index results during the month.

While the state's unemployment rate fell heading into the year, it has increased to 6.6 percent in recent months. However, at the same time, the rate of people filing unemployment claims with Workforce West Virginia has declined to multi-year lows, which is generally a positive sign for the state's labor market.

"Initial unemployment insurance claims continue to fall and the most recent seasonally-adjusted reading marked the lowest level for this indicator since mid-2006," said research assistant professor Brian Lego. "This suggests further improvements in the state's labor market are likely."

Natural gas has helped provide a boost to the index all year.

"Natural gas output has climbed at rates well into the double digits in the past year, thanks to highly productive Marcellus Shale wells in the Northern Panhandle and North Central regions of West Virginia," Lego said.

While coal production improved early this year, Lego said production has leveled off in recent months.

"Preliminary data show coal production has improved by nearly 15 percent since the early spring, but growth has slowed markedly in recent months and even slightly declined on a month-to-month basis in September," he said.

"The uptick in production related to power plants replenishing lean stockpiles of coal has generally waned and we anticipate coal production will weigh on the overall index just as it typically has for most of the past few years," Lego said. "Coal demand is expected to weaken over the next several years due to a combination of shifting fuel uses for electricity generation and environmental regulatory changes."

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

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Negotiations underway on FirstEnergy rate hike http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141029/ARTICLE/141029080 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141029/ARTICLE/141029080 Wed, 29 Oct 2014 14:14:18 -0400 CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (AP) - Negotiations are underway to resolve FirstEnergy's proposed $151.5 million rate increase for two West Virginia subsidiaries.

The West Virginia Public Service Commission had planned to hold evidentiary hearings on the company's request this week. The hearings are in recess as negotiations continue, Jackie Roberts, executive director of the PSC's Consumer Advocate Division, told The Exponent Telegram.

"We've recessed because we may have a settlement," Roberts said. "I think we've got an agreement in principle, but as you know, it's never done until it's signed and filed."

FirstEnergy subsidiaries Mon Power and Potomac Edison submitted the request to the PSC in April.

The proposed increase includes $103 million in base rate charges and $48.5 million for vegetation management. If the full rate hike sought by FirstEnergy is approved, the monthly bill for a typical residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours would increase from$92.62 to $107.98, FirstEnergy spokesman Todd Meyers said.

Meyers said the company has been working with all parties to reach a settlement agreement.

"We do have an agreement in principle," he told the newspaper.

A number of hurdles remain before any agreement is finalized, including putting the agreement in writing, Roberts said.

"That's always tricky, because that's when you find out that people have differing understandings," she said.

Any agreement must be approved by the PSC.

"It doesn't matter whether all the parties agree to a resolution to the case unless the commission agrees to the resolution reached by the parties," Roberts said.

Meyers said he expected a settlement agreement to be filed with the PSC either this week or early next week.

Neither Meyers nor Roberts would disclose terms of a tentative settlement.

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US gasoline declines to lowest since 2010, survey says http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141028/ARTICLE/141029203 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141028/ARTICLE/141029203 Tue, 28 Oct 2014 06:20:49 -0400

Jessica Summers and Dan Murtaugh

Bloomberg News

The average price of regular gasoline at U.S. pumps slid to the lowest level in almost four years, dropping 18.18 cents in the two weeks ended Friday, Oct. 24 to $3.0759 a gallon, according to Lundberg Survey Inc.

Prices are 28.69 cents lower than a year ago, according to the survey, which is based on information obtained at about 2,500 filling stations by the Camarillo, Calif.-based company.

The average is the lowest since Dec. 17, 2010, as oil, which makes up 64 percent of the pump price, has fallen by 24 percent from this year's peak in June.

"The crude oil price crash has been passed through by refiners," Trilby Lundberg, the president of Lundberg Survey said in a telephone interview. "Retailers will probably be pressed to pass through at the pump a few more pennies of price- cutting sometime soon."

The highest price for gasoline in the lower 48 states among the markets surveyed was in San Francisco, at $3.45 a gallon, Lundberg said. The lowest price was in Memphis, Tenn., where customers paid an average $2.73 a gallon. Regular gasoline averaged $3.33 a gallon on Long Island, N.Y., and $3.39 in Los Angeles.

West Texas Intermediate crude, the U.S. benchmark priced in Cushing, Okla., declined $4.81, or 5.6 percent, to $81.01 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange in the two weeks to Friday, Oct. 24. It dipped below $80 on Oct. 16 for the first time since June 2012.

U.S. oil output was 8.95 million barrels a day the week of Oct. 10, the most since 1985. U.S. production has increased about 66 percent in the past five years as companies have used horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to tap into hydrocarbon-rich layers of underground shale rock.

Gasoline stockpiles fell 1.3 million barrels, or 0.6 percent, in the seven days ended Oct. 17 to 204.4 million, Energy Information Administration data show. Gasoline futures on the Nymex fell 7.58 cents, or 3.4 percent, to $2.1817 a gallon in the two weeks ended Friday, Oct. 24.

bc-gasoline

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Arnett Foster Toothman merges with Pa. company http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141027/DM05/141029223 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141027/DM05/141029223 Mon, 27 Oct 2014 21:11:33 -0400 West Virginia accounting firm Arnett Foster Toothman PLLC has merged with Pennsylvania-based Carbis Walker LLP, the companies announced last week.

The combined firm, now called Arnett Carbis Toothman LLP, will likely be one of the 100 largest accounting firms in the U.S., the company estimated. Arnett Foster Toothman employed 160 people, while Carbis Walker employed 105.

"This is a welcome merger of two highly diverse and well-managed firms who share similar corporate cultures and philosophies," said Steve Robey, CEO of the new firm.

The management teams of both firms will remain intact and continue their roles with the new firm. No cutbacks or layoffs are anticipated. Executives said the merger will give the firm expanded capabilities, more specialization and the ability to provide greater technical support to clients.

"The new firm immediately enhances our existing niche sectors and strengthens new-business opportunities," said James Hunt, chairman of the firm's executive committee. "Our combined expertise and experience in sectors such as health care, construction, financial institutions, oil and gas/natural resources and manufacturing, among others, will certainly be an asset to clients requiring world-class service over a regional footprint."

The merger is Arnett Foster Toothman's second in 28 months. In July 2012, Arnett & Foster PLLC merged with Bridgeport-based Toothman Rice LLP.

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Wal-Mart apologizes for "Fat Girl Costumes" http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141027/ARTICLE/141029224 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141027/ARTICLE/141029224 Mon, 27 Oct 2014 21:11:02 -0400

By LAUREN COLEMAN-LOCHNER

BLOOMBERG NEWS

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. apologized Monday for labeling some Halloween outfits on its website as "Fat Girl Costumes" after it drew criticism on social media.

The web address now redirects customers to a page listing "Women's Plus Size Halloween Costumes." Wal-Mart removed the original page, and teams are working to make sure the title is fully scrubbed from its site, Ravi Jariwala, a spokesman for the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer, said in an interview.

"This never should have been on our site in the first place," Jariwala said. "It's unacceptable that it appeared, and we apologize."

The company also said it has taken additional steps to make sure this never happens again.

Outrage over Wal-Mart's misstep spread throughout Twitter today, prompting the company to reply with apologies to individual users on the micro blogging site.

"This could be 1 reason Walmart's sale are down," one user wrote, while another commented, "Not sure a 'Fat Girl Costume' section is going to win you any repeat customers."

The incident comes as Wal-Mart's online store tries to play catch-up with Amazon.com Inc. Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, redesigned its website this year to be more compatible with tablets and mobile devices.

The company is also contending with discount rival Target Corp., which is offering free shipping for all online orders through Dec. 20.

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Jacobs, BridgeValley introduce piping degree http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141027/DM05/141029225 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141027/DM05/141029225 Mon, 27 Oct 2014 21:10:38 -0400 Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. has partnered with BridgeValley Community & Technical College to establish a two-year degree program to prepare individuals for careers in the piping industry.

The Industrial Piping Design Technology AAS degree is designed to address the local need for skilled piping designers. Piping designers are members of engineering project teams and are responsible for plot plans, equipment locations, pipe routing, and the overall layout of piping in all types of buildings and facilities. Local entry-level piping designers with 3-D design training typically earn up to $25 an hour.

"This new educational program is a collaborative effort that benefits area students as well as the clients we support," said Jacobs Group vice president Chris Nagel. "We are delighted to partner with BridgeValley to help provide the training for these high-demand technical jobs."

Jacobs provides technical, professional and construction services. Its Charleston office specializes in small project delivery, particularly for the chemical, petrochemical, power and aluminum industries.

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Toyota tops reliability rankings http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141027/ARTICLE/141029228 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141027/ARTICLE/141029228 Mon, 27 Oct 2014 20:33:58 -0400

By DEE-ANN DURBIN

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

DETROIT - Toyota continues its winning streak atop Consumer Reports' annual reliability rankings.

The company's Toyota and Lexus brands top the survey, while its Scion brand is in the top ten. It's the eighth year in a row that a Toyota brand has led the rankings.

"Toyota has a strategy that emphasizes reliability over excitement," says Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports' head of auto testing. "They take a conservative approach to redesign and roll out new features slowly. The risk is they may not have the latest bells and whistles, but the reward is world class reliability."

Toyota said the ranking is evidence of the company's commitment to quality and of the hard work of the employees at its plants, including its engine and transmission facility in Buffalo, West Virginia.

"These latest findings by Consumer Reports are among many third party surveys that confirm Toyota and Lexus quality, durability, dependability and value, year after year," said Toyota spokesman Mike Michels. "Toyota's West Virginia team members can be proud of their engines and transmissions that are the foundations of vehicle reliability."

lso Monday, Toyota released sales numbers that showed it is on track to be the world's top-selling automaker this year. Toyota beat out General Motors and Volkswagen in sales for the first nine months.

Japanese brands generally fared well in Consumer Reports' survey, which predicts the reliability of 2015 model year cars and trucks based on a survey of subscribers who own 1.1 million vehicles from current or prior model years.

Mazda, Honda and Subaru joined Toyota in the top ten. Audi was the highest scoring non-Japanese brand, while Buick was the only domestic brand in the top ten.

Infotainment systems generated the most complaints from Consumer Reports' readers and hurt many brands with new models, including Infiniti, Fiat and Cadillac. The most common problems were unresponsive touch screens and trouble with pairing up phones.

Younger car owners tended to be the most impatient with glitchy electronics.

"They expect the same connectivity level when they're in the car," says Doug Love, a spokesman for the magazine.

Ford's luxury Lincoln brand moved up 12 spots in the survey, the most of any brand, after fixing bugs in its touch-screen dashboard. Hyundai gained eight spots, mostly because it had few new vehicles. New cars and trucks tend to have more problems, and the magazine recommends waiting a year or two after a new model comes out before buying it.

Truck buyers complained about new full-size pickups from Chevrolet and GMC, which were plagued by squeaks and rattles. Mercedes-Benz fell the hardest, by 11 spots in the rankings, because of quality issues with its new lower-priced CLA sedan and complaints about the electronics in the higher-end S Class.

The recently merged Fiat Chrysler Automobiles fared worst in the rankings, with its Dodge, Ram, Jeep and Fiat brands in the bottom four spots. The new nine-speed transmission in the Jeep Cherokee was among the company's headaches.

Toyota vehicles were also the most highly recommended in 10 of the 18 model categories, including hybrids (the Lexus CT 200h), compact cars (the Scion xB), midsize SUVs (the Toyota Highlander) and small and large pickup trucks (the Toyota Tacoma and Toyota Tundra).

But Japanese brands don't have a complete lock on quality. The magazine isn't recommending the 2015 Honda Fit subcompact, for example, since it will be the first produced in Mexico and its quality may not match those previously made in Japan.

Consumer Reports' annual survey is closely watched by the auto industry, since many potential buyers follow the Yonkers, N.Y.-based company's recommendations.

Business editor Jared Hunt contributed.

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Frontier enhances broadband access http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141027/DM05/141029248 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141027/DM05/141029248 Mon, 27 Oct 2014 17:18:33 -0400 Frontier Communications has enhanced its broadband speeds in several Kanawha Valley communities and also extended its broadband service to the Kenna area of Jackson County for the first time.

"Frontier continues to make major investments in the network that serves our customers in the Kanawha Valley," said general manager Ryan Bailey. "We are expanding and enhancing broadband service, and local residents and businesses are realizing the benefits from our ongoing investments."

The enhanced broadband speeds - up to 24 megabits per second for residents and 40 megabits per second for businesses - were extended to the following areas in Charleston: Kanawha Boulevard East, Lee Street East, Summers Street, Virginia Street East, Ruffner Avenue, Elizabeth Street, Bigley Avenue, Central Avenue and Washington Street West.

In Dunbar, Wilson Street, Dutch Hollow Road, Upper Midway Drive now have enhanced speeds, as do Springdale Road, Cambridge Drive, Southbrooke Drive, Cambridge Drive, Callingwood Road and Crestmont Road in Hurricane. Spring Branch Road, Jim Ridge Road, Sulug Road and Bowles Ridge Road in the Leon and Liberty areas along with Liberty Lane, Woodrum Lane, Washington Street West, Victoria Road, Forbes Drive and Cow Creek Road in Tyler Mountan also have enhanced speeds.

Residents of Cunningham Road, Charleston Road, Dog Fork Road and surrounding areas in Kenna now have access to Frontier broadband for the first time.

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Firefighters raise $2,886 for muscular dystrophy http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141026/DM01/141029316 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141026/DM01/141029316 Sun, 26 Oct 2014 19:52:51 -0400 Charleston firefighters raised more than $2,800 in their annual boot drive for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Firefighters ran a "Fill the Boot" drive Oct. 18 and 19 at three Kroger stores in Charleston to benefit children and adults affected by muscle diseases, according to a statement issued by the Muscular Dystrophy Association, known as the MDA. The local firefighters raised $2,886.44 in the drive.

The money raised in the 2014 fundraiser will help support the MDA's research programs, health care services and day-to-day activities, Jessica Mickle, MDA fundraising coordinator, said in a statement. The funds also go toward sending children affected by muscular diseases to a week-long MDA camp at Cedar Lakes Campground in Ripley.

"For six decades, firefighters have fueled MDA's mission to find treatments and cures for life-threatening muscle diseases, and this year's Charleston Fill the Boot results are a perfect example of the true dedication Charleston Fire Department Local #317 has toward supporting the families we serve," Mickle said. "We're grateful for the support of these inspiring, selfless individuals who provide life-saving help that will fund research, advocate for children and adults affected by muscle disease, and rally our community to fight back."

The MDA's long standing partnership with the International Association of Fire Fighters began in 1954. Firefighters across the country raised more than $26 million for the MDA in 2013. The firefighters group has raised more than $530 million for the MDA since 1954.

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Jared Hunt column: Insurer moves out of office tower http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141026/DM05/141029345 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141026/DM05/141029345 Sun, 26 Oct 2014 18:17:32 -0400 Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia is no longer a resident of the West Virginia Lottery building, formerly known as City Center West.

The company announced Friday that effective today, it has relocated its Charleston operations from the Pennsylvania Avenue building to a 15,000-square-foot section of office space in the NorthGate Business Park.

"The decision to move Highmark West Virginia's Charleston operations to NorthGate Business Park was based solely on the complex's size, cost and property layout," the company said in a Friday press release. "Through this move, the Charleston operations will now be located on a single floor plan similar in design to the other locations within the state that Highmark West Virginia occupies."

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and its predecessor companies have had a long history in the City Center West building, which was bought by the Lottery in 2010.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of West Virginia occupied the first six floors of the building from 1981 to 1986, when the company spent nearly $8 million to buy and renovate the old Sears building along Kanawha Boulevard. But that company hit the skids and collapsed in 1990, its remnants taken over by the new Mountain State Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

The new company then moved back into City Center West in 1992, where it has stayed ever since.

When the Lottery bought the building for $21.5 million in 2010, Mountain State Blue Cross and Blue Shield occupied space on the first, second, seventh, eighth and ninth floors of the 130,000-square-foot building.

The company's contract was already signed through 2014 when the Lottery bought the building, and remained in effect following the purchase. The company did agree to vacate the offices on the first and second floors and move staff to the upper floor areas.

In addition to the Lottery, the state's Real Estate Division, Alcohol Beverage Control Administration, Racing Commission, Division of Financial Institutions, Municipal Bond Commission also moved into the building. The Charleston office of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is also located in the 13-story tower.

With Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield out of the building, Lottery officials have started the process of getting a new tenant to the company's space.

Lottery spokeswoman Nikki Orcutt said the building with soon house offices of another Department of Revenue agency, the state Offices of the Insurance Commissioner.

Orcutt said the Lottery is currently working out an arrangement for the commission offices to occupy the seventh through ninth floors of the Lottery building.

The Insurance Commission currently occupies the Albert T. Summers Center along Smith Street in Charleston's warehouse district along with offices at Players Club Drive. Only the employees at the Smith Street location would move to new offices at the Lottery building.

Employees at the Players Club Drive location will remain at those offices.

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W.Va. grist mill featured on stamp http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141023/DM01/141029535 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141023/DM01/141029535 Thu, 23 Oct 2014 19:30:34 -0400 By Andrea Lannom An iconic West Virginia structure is now featured on a U.S. Postal Service priority mail stamp.

The stamp, which was issued at the end of last month, features an illustrated autumn scene of the Glade Creek Grist Mill at Babcock State Park, standing out against rushing water and vibrant yellow and orange trees.

"It's a gorgeous, gorgeous stamp," said Tad Kelley, spokesperson for the Appalachian and Western Pennsylvania districts of the U.S. Postal Service. "It's one of many that we offer to commemorate photogenic sites around the country. Obviously, the Glade Creek Grist Mill is capturing the historic beauty of the mill."

The Grist Mill, which is located in Fayette County, is a 1976 re-creation of an old mill that once was nearby, according to a news release from the West Virginia State Parks. The mill was built from parts of three West Virginia mills.

"Our staff at Babcock was aware the mill was being considered as a stamp image, and we're delighted to learn it is a reality," Babcock Superintendent Clinton Cochran said in the news release. "The postmaster in Fayetteville called and told us it was being issued and we are honored. The stamp is beautiful."

Kelley noted that last year, the postal service offered the West Virginia statehood stamp, which celebrated the state's 150th birthday. This stamp featured a photograph by Roger Spencer, showing a morning view of mountains from Route 150 in Pocahontas County.

How was the Grist Mill chosen? Kelley explained the postal service has a stamp advisory committee that meets a number of times each year to vote on ideas and it sends more than 1,000 submissions to the postmaster general.

"We only release a certain number of commemorative stamps each year, but we also have series like legends of sports. In this case, it's 'beautiful areas of the U.S.,'" he said.

This stamp in particular is special because the committee voted for it to be priority mail rate of $5.75 instead of the general rate, he said. People can pick up the stamp individually or in a pane of 10 either at the post office or by visiting the U.S. Postal Service's website.

Generally, these stamps are available for one year, he said.

"Some collectors like to purchase in the sheet or pane and save it that way," he said. "Some like to frame them that way."

The postal service has printed 5 million of this stamp, Kelley said.

"Certain stamps like this, we believe will be popular," he said. "If you look at a stamp, it's a little window of American history. It's a piece of art. That's why for ages, people loved the beauty of a postage stamp. It elicits a reaction whether you're holding it in your hand or affixing it to an envelope. It's a piece of art that travels to a destination, to a loved one."

Contact writer Andrea Lannom at Andrea.Lannom@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-5148. Follow her at www.twitter.com/AndreaLannom.

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Amazon expecting weaker holiday season http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141023/ARTICLE/141029536 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141023/ARTICLE/141029536 Thu, 23 Oct 2014 19:29:08 -0400

By MAE ANDERSON

the associated press

NEW YORK - It might be a blue Christmas for Amazon.

The world's largest retailer gave a disappointing forecast for the crucial holiday quarter. The company also reported a wider loss than analysts expected for the third quarter.

Thursday's financial results could end investors' patience with Amazon's slim profit and its strategy of investing heavily in new products and services to spur revenue growth. The stock price tumbled 11 percent in after-market trading. That's on top of the 22 percent decline the stock has already suffered this year.

Amazon has long focused on spending the money it makes to grow and expand into new areas. It launched a smartphone, the Fire, earlier this year, and has been offering a set-top video streaming device, a streaming video service and several tablets and e-book readers.

The company has also been investing in services for its $99-a-year loyalty program, Prime. It has added a grocery delivery services and music streaming for Prime members as well as offering original TV shows such as the critically acclaimed "Transparent" starring Jeffrey Tambor.

But it is increasingly clear that what investors want more than revenue growth is a solid profit.

"The market was looking for more in terms of revenue and operating income and the fourth-quarter outlook," said Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy. "It's going to be a competitive landscape for retailers this holiday season and retailers will compete aggressively for consumers."

In a conference call with analysts, Chief Financial Officer Thomas Szkutak defended its strategy and said the company is focused on "using its capital wisely so that over time we get good returns on invested capital."

But he agreed the company needed to be "selective" on new projects after years of a seemingly endless array of ventures.

Amazon said it expects holiday quarter revenue of $27.3 billion and $30.3 billion, below analyst expectations of $30.86 billion. That's an increase of 7 percent to 18 percent - slower growth than the prior-year holiday quarter when sales rose 20 percent.

Szkutak said the stronger dollar will hurt fourth quarter revenue by about 2.5 percentage points.

The holiday period is crucial because retailers make a chunk of their annual profit, about 20 percent, during the November and December period. Overall, the National Retail Federation expects sales during the period to be up 4 percent to $617 billion.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said the company was focused on making the holidays "easier and more stress free" than ever. The company has hired 40,000 seasonal workers and has expanded its Sunday shipping service. It now has more than 50 distribution centers in the U.S., up from 40 last year. And in July it announced it was opening eight smaller sorting centers for a total of 15 by the end of the year.

Speed of shipping is going to be a key for any retailer this holiday season, Hottovy said. Amazon offers free two-day shipping on many products through the $99-a-year Prime membership. But competition is heating up: Target said Tuesday that it would offer free shipping on all items this holiday season.

"Last year, retailers figured out price matching wasn't enough," Hottovy said. "You have to get products to consumers quickly and cheaply as well."

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Lottery to introduce $5 Monopoly-themed game http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141023/DM05/141029554 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141023/DM05/141029554 Thu, 23 Oct 2014 17:30:32 -0400 By Jared Hunt The West Virginia Lottery plans to introduce a new $5 Monopoly-themed multi-state lottery game in January, the latest edition to the Lottery's electronic gaming portfolio, which currently includes Powerball, Mega Millions and Hot Lotto.

Lottery director John Musgrave told members of the state Lottery Commission Thursday the game, called Monopoly Millionaires Club, would launch Jan. 10 in West Virginia. It already launched in 23 other states Oct. 19. Nine other states, including West Virginia, plan to launch the game in the coming months.

"We think it's going to be an exciting game," Musgrave said. "It's been well accepted in other jurisdictions."

It will be the latest edition to what the Lottery refers to as its online gaming portfolio. That includes the existing games - Daily 3, Daily 4, Cash 25, Keno, Hot Lotto, Powerball and Mega Millions - for which consumers buy tickets through a networked electronic lottery terminal at retailers across the state.

The new game is based on the popular Monopoly board game.

Lottery marketing director Nikki Orcutt attended a launch event for the game Monday in New York City's Times Square.

She said the Monopoly game is differs from the other games that build large jackpots over time which are typically won by a single winner. Instead, this game is set to produce more million-dollar winners per drawing.

"The game is designed to create up to hundreds of millionaires per draw," Orcutt said.

Prizes for the game range from $5 to $25 million. The odds of winning on a given ticket are 1 in 10. By comparison, the overall odds of winning on a $2 Powerball ticket are 1 in 31.85.

To play, customers pick (or have the option of letting the retail machine pick) five numbers between 1 and 52. The computer will then randomly select a sixth "Property" number between 1 and 28, which will correspond with a matching property on a Monopoly board.

In addition, the computer will also create a multi-digit "Millionaires Club Number" that will be printed on the ticket.

Each Friday at 11:15, there will be a live televised drawing for the five numbers and property number. If someone matches all five numbers and the property number, they'll win the top prize, which starts at $15 million and will go up each week until it tops out at $25 million.

If someone hits the top prize, there will be an additional drawing for a pre-selected number of "Millionaires Club" numbers and those winners will win $1 million each. The number of potential "Millionaires Club" winners will start at 10 for the initial $15 million top prize level and continue increasing each week until someone wins the top prize. That leaves the potential for hundreds of people to win $1 million if several weeks go by without a top prize winner.

In addition to the weekly drawing, the game will also be tied to a Monopoly Millionaires Club television game show filmed in Las Vegas. Each ticket will feature a web code that can be used to enter an online drawing to appear on the TV show.

Those selected in this second-chance drawing will win a trip for two to Las Vegas where they will have a chance to participate in the game show. Game show contestants will have a chance to win $1 million during their appearance.

Online game sales provided $83 million out of the $1.2 billion in revenue generated by Lottery games last year. Orcutt said she hoped the introduction of a new game with promises of creating more $1 million winners could help boost sales in that category.

"Hopefully with the launch of this game we will see our online portfolio improve," Orcutt said.

For the month of September, the Lottery reported total revenue of $93.5 million, about 3 percent ahead of expectations of $90.5 million for the month. Revenue from video lottery at the state's four racetrack casinos, which has not declined as much as officials had forecast this year, was the main reason sales figures beat expectations. The casinos, which had been hobbled by increasing out-of-state competition, brought in $44.3 million in video lottery revenue, up from the $41.3 million that had been projected.

Since the fiscal year began July 1, Lottery revenues are running about $20 million ahead of expectations thanks to racetrack video lottery. The total revenue of $299.3 million is running 7.2 percent better than the forecast of $279.1 million due to better-than-expected racetrack video lottery sales of $149.6 million, compared to a forecast of $128.2 million for that category.

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

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