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Local officials say Army facility an economic plus

by Jennifer Biller

STAFF WRITER

Identifying people by their fingerprints, the nerves in their eye or the veins is their wrist may seem like a strange phenomenon, but these techniques are part of the science of biometrics that will soon be coming to Bridgeport.

The announcement that the U.S. Army will be opening a Biometrics Fusion Center near the Benedum Airport complex has officials and residents in Harrison County looking toward the future.

Clarksburg City Councilman Jim Hunt said he recalled U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd mentioning biometrics at the FBI dedication. That was the first time he remembers hearing anything about the science.

Although the facility is being located in Bridgeport, it is a positive step for Clarksburg and the surrounding areas, Hunt said.

"The more we become a center for this kind of activity, the better it is for Clarksburg," he said. "It's a tremendous addition for this region."

Many believe that the venture will bring more jobs and spur economic development.

"This is one more thing for the county that will hopefully procure jobs for the area. And when one agency like this comes, there will be other types of businesses that follow it to support it," said Roger Diaz, president of the Harrison County Commission.

Increased traffic and property values are on the minds of some residents as what they see will inevitably be the results of the new development.

"We have planned new infrastructure to help with any new traffic, so that doesn't concern me," said Mary Lou Jones, one of the owners of HomeFinders Plus Real Estate in Bridgeport.

"We have to be progressive and grow. We can't stay stagnant, or we will get passed by," she said.

Bridgeport City Manager Kim Haws isn't sure yet how the move will affect Harrison County.

"I don't think we have enough information yet to determine what the long-term impact will be," he said.

The announcement came as a surprise to many residents in Bridgeport and Clarksburg, but left some excited for the future.

"I think it will be great for the local economy," said Christopher Knotts, manager of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter in Bridgeport. "It will be another addition to the city of Bridgeport."

Staff writer Jennifer Biller can be reached at 626-1443.

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