BRIDGEPORT -- More than a third of the Charles Pointe development's bid to obtain $32 million in state economic development grant money will be tied to Salem International University.
Salem International President Dr. Richard Ferrin told The Exponent Telegram that the school was working to develop a $12 million bioscience technology center as part of the Charles Pointe project in Bridgeport.
According to an SIU press release, the bioscience center would include an expansion of Salem International's bioscience and bioinformatics programs. The center also would serve as the hub for Salem International's adult and corporate learning operations, the press release said. And the center would be the headquarters for SIU Online, which the press release said would be the university's new domestic and international e-learning division.
While Salem International has been in a "tight cash flow situation" due to a past decline in enrollment, Ferrin sees the bioscience center as an opportunity for growth and expansion.
"This certainly is a component of the strategy that we think enhances our ability to have an impact on the growth of Harrison County and this region," he said.
"When you're in a turnaround situation, as SIU clearly is, you look at ways that you need to consolidate. But in any turnaround business, you're always looking for new growth opportunities," Ferrin said. "And the opportunity to establish an education center in the heart of West Virginia's high tech corridor in the Charles Pointe development is an exciting possibility."
The Charles Pointe proposal, which was presented to the grant committee on Monday, also was expected to include $7 million for a destination recreation center and $13 million for infrastructure.
Charles Pointe had received a $6 million grant for a hotel and conference center previously. The initial grants were nullified in May when the state Supreme Court of Appeals identified a problem with the appointment of the committee that made them.
Since then, the committee has been reassembled and is readdressing the nearly 200 original applications. Some of them, such as Bridgeport's, have been modified to reflect activity that has occurred since their original presentation.
Bridgeport City Manager Kim Haws said on Tuesday that Bridgeport "is thrilled at the prospect of Salem International being part of the community and participating" in the Charles Pointe development.
Bridgeport is working with Genesis Partners, the developer of Charles Pointe. Jamie Corton is managing partner of Genesis Partners.
"I think this is a real significant development for our region. Salem International University, I think, is a real important economic development tool for North Central West Virginia," Corton said.
Corton added that an "educational component" was always envisioned for Charles Pointe, "so this can be a part of that."
Chris Morris is special assistant to Brian Kastick, economic development committee chair and West Virginia secretary for tax and revenue. Morris declined to predict how SIU's link with the Charles Pointe project would affect whether the project receives committee approval.
The committee that will dole out the economic development grant money plans to meet at 8 a.m. Aug. 15 at the Capitol to generate a list of approved projects, Morris said.
"I think we have a really great project, and hopefully the committee sees there's a benefit to supporting the additional amendments we made," Corton said.
Managing Editor John G. Miller, Assistant Managing Editor Matt Harvey and Assistant City Editor Pam Kendall contributed to this story.