Buckhannon's Innovation Center hopes to create jobs

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UPSHUR COUNTY, W.Va. (WDTV) -- The Buckhannon Innovation Center is a $3.7 million project designed to create jobs downtown.

According to Rob Hinton, Executive Director of the Upshur County Development Authority, the first floor of the building will be used as a retail center with street access for businesses.

The second floor will offer flex office space for people to rent and the third floor is open space available to businesses to lease.

The development authority partnered with CityNet to help provide high-speed fiber-optic internet to the building.

"If we wouldn't have been able to have CityNet come here with Fiber. We never would have built the building. Because it doesn't make sense to build an innovation center without fiber-gig connectivity," Hinton said.

Hinton says the project is a step towards job growth in Buckhannon.

"West Virginia Weslyen College, which is basically eight hundred yards up the road. They turn out two-hundred and fifty graduates. I think, half a dozen stay. We've got to figure out a solution to that problem," Hinton said.

Hinton said industries will be encouraged to come to Buckhannon due to the talent pool that West Virginia Weslyen College offers. The businesses will also help West Virginia Weslyen College students through local internship opportunities the might be offered.

According to Buckhannon Mayor David McCauley, the land that the project is built on was owned by the town of Buckhannon and was donated to the development authority.

"For so long, that lot was sort of like a missing tooth in the heart of downtown. Now to have this three story exciting space to be one of the center pieces of our downtown is really a cool kind of development," McCauley said.

While the project did come with a $3.7 million price tag, officials believe it will be paid off quickly.

"We'll get some tenets in there that will help that will help pay the freight for some the bills that have been occurred while realizing the building," McCauley said.

Hinton says interest is high in leasing a space in the building. One retail business has already signed a letter of intent.

The building is expected to open in late July, but Hinton says that may be pushed to August 1, 2019.