Bridgeport Development Authority: Direct flights, strip mall & minor league baseball
By Julie Perine on June 04, 2012
The final minutes were spent discussing recommendations for incentive policies – i.e. how the board could better identify and meet needs of Bridgeport businesses – and how the development authority could be more aggressive in developing the community.
Director of Economic Development Randy Spellman reported on a trio of projects underway at Charles Pointe. With regard to the strip mall, steel is completed with plans to start the concrete floor this coming week. A late-fall completion is still projected.
“There have been three commitments, but no names for tenants yet,” Spellman said. “It’s moving along real well.”
The earth moving project for the new minor league field will begin in late-summer, Spellman said, and if the project progresses as planned, the facility will be ready for 2014 play.
Spellman further reported that active housing projects within the city in addition to Charles Pointe include Worthington Village and Heritage Farms. With regard to the new Courtyard by Mariott in White Oaks, initial grading has begun, but a building permit has not been issued.
Bridgeport’s downtown improvement project was discussed, Spellman reporting that there has been no word from the state regarding Phase 5 and City Manager Kim Haws confirming that the project would not move forward until that word was received.
A bid has been awarded, however, regarding the stoplight at Main and Third Streets and that project will move forward. The stoplight at the intersection of Lodgeville Road and Johnson Ave., however, has not yet gone out to bid.
The next order of business was connect-bridgeport.com. Drew Pomeroy, development authority member and president of connect-bridgeport.com, reported that he could not be more pleased with the project.
Talk about town, Pomeroy said, includes how hotels and other businesses are utilizing the site with regard to job postings and general information of events taking place in the area.
“This is good not only from a business standpoint, but also a community standpoint,” Pomeroy said.
After providing a detailed report on statistics, he estimated that about 20,000 unique visitors had been on the site and the majority of the dozen title sponsorships filled. The next phase of the project is underway through Pikewood Creative, including new site features and development of cell phone interaction, such as accessibility to money-savings coupons.
Conversation turned to the success of this past weekend’s Bridgeport Bracket Bash at Bridgeport Recreation Complex. With the exception of some miscommunication with regard to first aid availability, the tournament went off without a hitch, Mayor James Christie said.
“Everyone I had the opportunity to talk with said they would be coming back,” he said.
The facility is scheduled to host a Triple Crown tournament beginning June 21, and Little League post-season tournament play to follow.
North Central West Virginia Airport activity includes ongoing development of a direct flight to Myrtle Beach, Mayor Christie said, the initial plan having fallen through. A new hangar is also in progress with plans to be presented to the city in the near future, Spellman said.
Haws provided an update on the Harrison County Development Authority, that the current movement is to consider a multi-county development authority.
“This seems to move in cycles – and this was discussed four or five years ago,” Haws said, “but there’s been nothing said of the area it would encompass, its structure or how it would be operated.”
The development authority authorized Haws to transfer $10,000 for the purpose of an economic development grant for Embellishments Too. That request had been made at last month’s meeting and since approved by City Council.
That formality opened the door for discussion on just how the development authority could better serve Bridgeport’s businesses.
In the past, incentives were designed with downtown businesses in mind. The city has changed drastically in the past decade and incentive programs need to be revamped, Haws said.
City Attorney Dean Ramsey made some recommendations, which will be discussed by an appointed committee and revisited at a future meeting, as suggested by member, Bridget Furbee. Possibilities include loans to businesses with balance percentages forgiven based on maintenance of business and/or employment of a fixed number of individuals.
Bridgeport is a growing city and full engagement by the Bridgeport Development Authority could support existing economic development with regard to industry, agriculture and recreation - and create new economic development. Both are equally important, Mayor Christie said.
Tonight's Bridgeport Development Authority meeting was held in the council conference room at City Hall. The next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 6.
1. The relocation of Bridgeport Farmers Market to Charles Pointe. As per Pomeroy, it was a “rock star” move, the market generating even more foot traffic than before;
2. The proposed construction of a chain-operated grocery store at the corner of Rt. 131 and Main Street is not progressing due to utility line placement and other infrastructure issues;
3. The possibility of Bridgeport eventually becoming a “hot spot” in terms of city-wide Wi-Fi service with a blanket charge to residents was brought up by board member, Jeff Smell. Pomeroy estimates that such project would cost upwards of $1.2 million and would not be conducive to Bridgeport because present technology requires line-of-sight propagation. The project will be revisited in the future.
4. The growing trend of sustainable farming and the economic and health benefits which result.