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South Charleston tech park CEO to resign

By Megan Workman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The first chief executive officer and executive director of the West Virginia Regional Technology Park is resigning, a year and a half after he accepted the job.

Phil Halstead's last day at the South Charleston tech park will be Feb. 25.

Halstead, who is leaving to "pursue other interests," will stay long enough to see the completion of several project reports, according to a news release. The state Higher Education Policy Commission, which oversees the park, will help with operations while the park's board of directors searches for a permanent replacement.

In the meantime, James King will serve as an interim replacement and will manage the tech park's day-to-day operations.

King is the HEPC's director of design and planning, and was the commission's liaison with the tech park. The HEPC acquired the 258-acre park through a donation of land and facilities from Dow Chemical.

Halstead said in the news release that he is optimistic about the tech park's future.

"During my time leading the tech park, it has been very clear to me that the residents of the Kanawha Valley and the state of West Virginia understand the importance and role of the tech park in revitalizing the chemical industry that once flourished this area," Halstead said in the release. "[I] will be forever grateful for the opportunity to play a vital role in the beginning stages of the tech park's rebirth."

Halstead would not comment when contacted by the Gazette Wednesday evening.

He started at the tech park on Sept. 1, 2011. At the time, he told the Gazette he felt lucky to be part of what he called "one of the top economic development projects in the whole United States, not just West Virginia."

South Charleston Mayor Frank Mullens said Wednesday he was surprised to hear Halstead was resigning, but he is certain the tech park's employees "will keep it running."

"I got to know Phil very well and I was shocked to hear he was resigning. I'm sorry to see him leave, but I wish him well," Mullens said. "I have all the confidence in the world in [HEPC] Chancellor Paul Hill. I know he's still committed to making the tech park succeed."

Halstead thanked Hill, chairman of the tech park corporation's board of directors, and the board's members, in the release. In return, Hill thanked Halstead for his "dedicated service."

"His tenure has been marked by significant achievements including the establishment of an operational structure as well as the beginning stages of renovation and redevelopment efforts, which remain ongoing," Hill said in the release.

Since Halstead has served as CEO and executive officer, a number of buildings at the tech park have been renovated and occupied with businesses, including MATRIC and the Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College.

The college opened Aug. 15 in Building 2000 at the tech park. The X-shaped building that once housed Union Carbide scientists and engineers had $26 million in renovations to become a regional education and research center.

Halstead told the Gazette last month, "At the height of Union Carbide there were between 3,000 and 4,000 employees and now we have 2,500 people utilizing tech park buildings."

Employment at the tech park increased more than 13 percent last year. There are now more than 678 employees, compared to 597 at the end of 2011 on campus and 550 employees at the end of 2010, Halstead said in January.

Despite its first CEO leaving, Hill said the tech park has big plans going forward.

"At this time, the tech park is entering a new phase to diversify the tenant base with a focus on the recruitment of business and industry that will advance the research and development capabilities of the tech park, the Kanawha Valley, and the state of West Virginia," Hill said, "ultimately creating new jobs through innovation, high-tech, high-wage industries that hold great promise for the state's economy."

Halstead came to South Charleston from Tallahassee, Fla., where he directed Florida LambdaRail, a nonprofit group that links public and private universities with a high-speed fiber optic network. He's also served as the vice president of Piedmont Triad Partnership in North Carolina and director of the Kansas Polymer Research Center in Pittsburg, Kan.

Reach Megan Workman at megan.workman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.

 


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