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House OKs $15M bill for project to bring 125-140 jobs to Morgantown

MORGANTOWN — The sixth and final bill the Legislature approved Tuesday during its two-day special session is expected to help bring 125 to 140 jobs to the Morgantown area.

SB 1006 appropriates $15 million of unspent general revenue to the Economic Development Department’s Economic Development Promotion and Closing Fund.

The details of what that will be used for await announcement by Gov. Jim Justice during his Wednesday State of the State Address.

But Justice’s Chief of Staff Brian Abraham described it broadly on Monday. A Fortune 500 medical equipment and supplier has entered into a relationship with WVU to establish a 250,000 square-foot facility, he said. The company will invest $60 million and create 125 to 140 jobs. The state has committed $15 million to the effort.

While the company was unnamed during the special session, WVU Medicine announced in December that it had entered a strategic partnership with Virginia-based Owens & Minor, to become WVUM’s supply chain distributor — for all of its supplies such as gowns, bandages, gauze and so on.

Owens & Minor incorporates product manufacturing, distribution support and technology services for its customers. WVU Medicine said in December that it and the company were working with the state on site selection for a new medical distribution and logistics facility for health care products preparedness and supply that will be managed by Owens & Minor.

The facility was expected to create more than 100 new jobs and support hospitals throughout the WVU Medicine network.

WVUM President and CEO Albert Wright said Tuesday that as part of the agreement, they asked Owens & Minor to place their warehouse in Morgantown, and the company agreed, reflecting the buying power of WVUM.

That keeps the supply chain close to WVU and creates jobs in this area, Wright said. “A big part of what we do is we want to be an economic engine for West Virginia.”

Wright said he took Owens & Minor leaders to meet with governor in the fall. The company is growing and told state leaders it would like to have discussions with the state about bringing even more jobs to West Virginia.

Wright said he’s not privy to the ongoing discussions, but knows the company is looking at sites with close access to the highway, since it will service all WVUM hospitals and Pittsburgh hospitals.

Wright said Justice will announce the details, which Justice’s staff confirmed in an email exchange.

Wright said, “I’m excited about this partnership with Owens & Minor. I’m excited about the way Gov. Justice’s team has stepped up to help. Any time we can bring more jobs and more people to any part of West Virginia — in this case the greater Morgantown area — I think that’s a win for all of us.”

The House passed the bill 83-9 with two Democrats and six Republicans voting no. All local delegates voted for it.

Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, questioned the need to transfer the money to the Economic Development Promotion and Closing Fund, which already has more than $20 million and, he said, and didn’t need to be immediately restocked. The Department could have issued the funds from its current balance.

After House passage the bill returned to the Senate for the final OK to complete its legislative process.

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