Morgantown’s burgeoning high-tech industry got a lot more burgeoning Monday.
Leidos, a Fortune 500 company that handles everything from biometrics to business support services, announced it is expanding its operations here in the WestRidge business and retail complex.
WestRidge is a mixed-use enterprise running along Interstate 79 from Granville to Westover.
The announcement was made in the midst of nothing but enterprise.
A host of local lawmakers and governmental officials from Charleston gathered at the Courtyard Marriott in University Town Centre — which is right across from Monongalia County Ballpark and a bustling passel of car dealerships, restaurants and big-box stores.
Leidos will consolidate its two Morgantown offices into one location near Morgantown Mall on Lawless Road, site manager Drew Formica said.
Formica — “Just like the countertop,” he said by way of introduction — is a software engineer by training.
After earning degrees from Wheeling Jesuit University and WVU, the Bridgeport native worked for a time at a firm in Pittsburgh before he got an opportunity to come home.
“Opportunity,” was the watch-word for the day, he said.
As Leidos expands in the University City, so too will jobs, he said.
The new Morgantown facility has space for about 250 people, he said.
And yes, the company is hiring.
“Spread the word,” he said. “Especially if you know high-tech people who have left the state.”
The company, which is coming up on its 50th year, employs 32,000 worldwide.
Locally, up to 80 percent of its hires in Morgantown are either West Virginia natives, WVU graduates or both.
The Morgantown operation went from 12 engineers to 80 engineers in an 18-month period through Monday, he said.
Most of the offerings in Morgantown are for entry-level engineers, he said, with a median pay of around $76,000 a year.
In recent months, Leidos locally landed a $364 million engineering contract with Morgantown’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.
Earlier this month, it netted another $100 million project with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s operation at the I-79 Technology Park in neighboring Marion County.
There’s no reason the endeavor couldn’t turn north-central West Virginia into an Almost Heaven version of Silicon Valley, Formica said.
The facility Leidos will occupy at WestRidge is a pre-fabricated structure with its own pad already set in the park.
WestRidge’s business development director Holly Childs didn’t divulge the price, but Formica said the company will put a hipster-aesthetic to every inch of its 30,000 square feet.
Features include expansive windows, exposed steel beams, polished concrete floors, a pool table — and even a caffeine bar.
“You need those things when you recruit,” he said.
Formica said there’s reason to stop singing “Country Roads” now.
“I did not think,” he said, “that I would be able to be in this state in a high-tech field when I was in college.”