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Rockefeller, Wise tout high-tech future

by Shawn Gainer

STAFF WRITER

FAIRMONT -- Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bob Wise attended a presentation Friday by the president of a high-tech Fairmont company they cite as an example of how the information industry can transform the area's economy.

Pro Logic, headed by president, J. Reddy, has operated for five years at the Allan B. Mollohan Innovation Center in Fairmont and has 35 employees. Pro Logic had $2.4 million in sales last fiscal year, and works on command and control systems for the U.S. Army and Air Force. Pro Logic also performs work for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, as well as work related to Tomahawk missiles, Reddy said.

Reddy, who was to give Rockefeller and Wise a presentation about a potential contract, said the technology industry and those who work in it are very mobile, which gives the region some advantages in seeking high-tech growth.

"If you look at Silicon Valley, people have to pay $480,000 to $600,000 for a home. A lot of people have to travel two hours to work and the crime rate is high," Reddy said. "Here I think we can have quality of life without losing the professional edge 'tekkies' look for. With the Internet, you can conduct business from anywhere."

Wise added he agrees West Virginia can become a magnet for the information industry.

"People like J. Reddy can go anywhere in the world, but they're looking for quality of life," Wise said. "They want to locate in places with strong families and strong communities and recreation like whitewater rafting. In the information industry, you don't have the economy vs. jobs. The environment can create jobs."

Reddy added education and training are necessary for the technology sector to continue to grow in the area.

The FBI Criminal Justice Information Center and the subcontractors that have come with it have brought the technology sector to a "critical mass" that will enable growth, Wise said. However, he added it cannot happen without a pool of people with technical knowledge.

"In West Virginia, we've got to do an even better job of workforce development ... I think in the new wave of economic development coming to the state, jobs are worker based; based on skill. We need to educate and train people here, so they'll be here for the J. Reddys in the area."

Wise said he is committed to strengthening workforce training in community colleges. He added that it may be worthwhile to consider vouchers for workers who want to upgrade their skills.

Rockefeller also said training needs to be built into the community college system throughout the state. He added he has worked to get the nation's classrooms connected to the Internet.

"There's even a question if that's going to be fast enough -- K-12 is like four generations on the Internet," he said.

However, Rockefeller added he believes a strong technology industry in the state is an attainable goal.

"There was a time when the assumption was that Toyota and Amazon.Com would not come to West Virginia," he said.

Staff writer Shawn Gainer can be reached at 626-1442 or by e-mail at sgainer@exponent-telegram.com.

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