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Warner to Mountain State 100-year companies: ‘You’re the true backbone of West Virginia’

MORGANTOWN — The Morgantown area businesses recognized by West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner on the day after Labor Day have lots of stories to tell – and never mind that two of them happen to be newspapers.

In a Tuesday morning ceremony at WVU’s Erickson Alumni Center, Warner honored 11 such enterprises which have been around 100 years or better.

“You’re the true backbone of West Virginia,” the secretary said.

“Thank you for what you do,” he continued. “You’ve prospered and provided paychecks.”

Lest one needed a history refresher, Warner added, a lot of that prosperity and paycheck-providing ensued through two World Wars, one Great Depression and two pandemics (one past, one present).

Not the mention all the other fiscal and societal potholes on the road to getting it done, he said.

The Dominion Post, which has published in various incarnations since 1864, was the oldest among Warner’s honorees Tuesday.

Others recognized were West Virginia University, founded as the state’s land grant university in 1867, the Grand Lodge of Independent Order of Oddfellows (1879), and the Daily Athenaeum, WVU’s student-led newspaper (1887).

Telluric Company and Rock Camp Oil Co., two energy operations created by renowned West Virginia geologist I.C. While in 1891 and 1900, respectively, were recognized for still doing their work into the 21st century.

Rounding out the honorees were the Phi Sigma Chapter House Association on the campus of WVU (1906), Preston County Development Company (1911), and Greer Industries Inc. and the Morgantown Area Chamber of Commerce, both founded in 1921.

All of the above companies remain successful today, Warner said, because of vision, hard work and a simple hope for the future at the time of their founding.

That respectful nod to the past (and present) also carries a keen eye to the future, he said.

The first surge of the pandemic last year, the secretary reported, didn’t stop 16,154 new businesses from opening their doors or going online across the Mountain State.

“And 1,058 of them were in Mon County,” he said.

In August alone, nearly 1,490 such dreams were launched across West Virginia, he said, which he says is an easy vote for the next 100 years.

“We’re excited for the opportunity,” Warner said.

Opportunities in recent months have come knocking by way of Sir Richard Branson and John Chambers.

Branson, the British entertainment mogul who over the summer made history with his suborbital ride to the edges of outer space, chose an 800-acre swath in Tucker and Grant counties as a test facility for his “Virgin Hyper One” enterprise.

Hyper One could become country’s first high-speed rail line, he said, whisking passengers, say, from New York City to Washington, D.C., in 30 minutes.

DataRobot, which just opened an office in Morgantown, plans to make Artificial Intelligence a more accessible, workable component of everyday life.

It was founded in Boston, moved to northern California and made its latest foray to the Mountain State following a successful sales pitch from John Chambers – a Silicon Valley visionary and Charleston native who has never stopped being bullish his home state.

Whatever works for the next 100 years, Warner said.

“We have the lifestyle that will make people and companies want to come here.”

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