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Bluefield State Plan a Big Step

The city of Wheeling couldn’t have received much better news to start 2021 than the announcement Tuesday that Bluefield State College is looking to use a portion of the former Ohio Valley Medical Center property to bring a proposed Engineering and Manufacturing Center to Wheeling.

Yes, that’s right, Bluefield State College. Located in Bluefield, West Virginia. About five hours from Wheeling.

Bluefield State and the city entered into a memorandum of understanding that allows the two parties to begin negotiations on the possible use of the former Education and Administration Building on the OVMC campus for the new venture.

What Bluefield State hopes to do is offer engineering classes at the campus for several hundred students. Those students would study in areas of interest to local companies, and then have potential future job opportunities after graduation.

So how did this interesting development come about? The first link is Robin Capehart, current president of Bluefield State College. Capehart, a Moundsville native and former president of West Liberty University, sees this as not only an opportunity to attract new students and expand his college’s brand, but also to provide local companies with potential future employees in fields that they need.

But it’s not just about Capehart; Bluefield State’s marketing department in 2019 conducted surveys throughout West Virginia to find areas of interest for engineering technology programs. Capehart said the results showed “extremely high demand” for such programs in the Upper Ohio Valley.

To further that survey, Bluefield State representatives met with more than a dozen manufacturing firms in the region and received their support. Those companies also have agreed to provide expertise and adjunct professors for the programs.

There are still hurdles — Bluefield State needs approval from the state Higher Education Policy Commission and also the Higher Learning Commission ­– but the steps taken this week are a positive sign for the city.

Wheeling leaders last year took a calculated risk in purchasing the former OVMC campus, and if the Bluefield State proposal comes through, that risk will move closer to paying off. Keep up the efforts to get that property back on the tax rolls.

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