Business year in review: New developments and acquisitions highlight 2018

December 23, 2018

HUNTINGTON — The past year has brought several significant business developments, ranging from completion of Cabell Huntington Hospital’s acquisition of St. Mary’s Medical Center to the recent openings of a new shopping center in Barboursville.

In addition, plans for other major developments, such as a resort in Milton and a huge aluminum plant in Ashland, portend big things in the years ahead.

Even an institution aimed at training business leaders of the future received a large injection of money to expand its capabilities.

Here’s a roundup of major business news in 2018.

MU’s Lewis College of Business receives $25 million gift

In November, Marshall University announced that alumnus and Intuit CEO Brad Smith and his wife Alys made a $25 million gift to benefit the Lewis College of Business, one of the largest gifts in the history of the university. Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert called the gift “transformational.”

Brad Smith, who graduated from Marshall in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, said he and his wife are enthusiastic about aiding the school and its students through continued education and academic expansion.

Marshall officials said the gift will allow Marshall to rework its business curriculum and build new facilities.

Its new business building will be named the Brad D. Smith Center for Business and Innovation. The location of the new business building will be announced at a later date. Gilbert said the cost of the new building is estimated at $50 million, with a goal of starting construction within the next five years.

“The Lewis College of Business will keep its name, but in recognition of the Smiths’ gift, the College of Business will name its undergraduate and graduate schools the Brad D. Smith Undergraduate School of Business and the Brad D. Smith Graduate School of Business, respectively,” Gilbert added.

Hospitals finalize transaction

After a nearly four-year quest, Cabell Huntington Hospital announced in May it had completed the final steps to complete the acquisition of St. Mary’s Medical Center.

The acquisition between two of West Virginia’s largest hospitals - as well as two of the Tri-State’s largest employers - made headlines since it was announced.

“Uniting for a common purpose is really powerful,” said Dr. Kevin Yingling, chairman of the Cabell Huntington Hospital board of directors. “Today is a historic day that we will reflect on for decades.”

Sister Mary Grace Barile, the provincial of the Pallottine Missionary Sisters at St. Mary’s Medical Center, said due to the declining number of sisters in the community, St. Mary’s was no longer able to continue its health care ministry.

The agreement allows St. Mary’s to remain a Catholic-affiliated hospital. It will also keep its name.

Officials said both hospitals will carry out plans outlined four years ago, which include adopting uniform best practices and common protocols, integrating electronic medical records, avoiding costly equipment duplication, recruiting highly trained physician specialists, and coordinating and implementing wellness and population health measures.

Braidy Industries announces progress on aluminum mill

Braidy Industries said at the end of 2018 that its $1.68 billion aluminum mill project in Eastern Kentucky near Ashland is moving forward.

Braidy broke ground on the mill in June. Officials said the planned mill, which is expected to begin producing aluminum sheet and plate in 2020, will create hundreds of jobs in an economically depressed region.

Additionally, Braidy has completed engineering and architectural plans for the mill and has substantially completed negotiations on its engineering, procurement and construction contract.

The state of Kentucky owns a portion of the company by way of an unusual direct state investment of $15 million of taxpayer money.

However, Braidy is still working to raise money for the mill. In recent Securities and Exchange Commission filings, the company said it anticipated needing to raise $400 million to $500 million in equity capital before it can borrow enough money to build.

Grand hotel, resort planned

Early in 2018, renovations began on the old Morris Memorial Hospital site in Milton. The Hoops family, led by Jeff and Patricia Hoops, in conjunction with the city of Milton, said they would turn the site into a resort called the Grand Patrician.

The preliminary plans included a 100-room hotel with additional extended-stay suites, indoor/outdoor pool facilities, grand ballroom and conference center, a 250-seat wedding chapel, a gym and workout facility, a medical clinic and physical rehab center, a restaurant, a grand fountain in front of the hotel, youth and adult baseball fields, youth and adult softball fields, soccer fields, an activity complex and trails, an amphitheater, a nine-hole par-3 golf course, stables and horse trails, residential townhomes and public access to all facilities.

In March, plans changed slightly because of the hospital’s historic status. The hospital itself will no longer become the hotel because the number of changes needed is not possible due to the building being on the National Register of Historic Places. Instead, the hospital will be converted into a 50-unit retirement home. The hotel will be built on the other side of the property and will be able to be exactly as the Hoops family imagined, including a pool, fitness center, conference rooms and an outdoor wedding chapel.

Also included in the updated master plan is a 3-par golf course, a clubhouse, an indoor sports complex, the ballfields and an amphitheater. There will be about 80 condo units, 22 single-family home lots and 26 duplex units, along with office space. The updated master plan also includes space for future developments.

The resort is still in its early stages, with the hospital undergoing asbestos abatement and cleanup of the site.

Businesses begin to open at Tanyard Station

On Dec. 20, the first two businesses opened at the new Tanyard Station retail development in Barboursville.

Both Aldi and Sheetz opened, while Verizon Wireless delayed its planned opening that was planned for around the same time. Aspen Dental also was scheduled to open in late December, while Longhorn Steakhouse is scheduled to open Jan. 22, 2019.

In August, Brent Roswall, a native of Barboursville and co-owner of Interstate Realty of Bristol, Tennessee, said eight businesses would open by the end of the year, but said site work had been slowed by an unusual amount of rain causing some delays.

Other businesses scheduled to open in 2019 at Tanyard Station are Hwy 55 Burgers Shakes and Fries and Sport Clips and Zen Nails, but those businesses have yet to release opening dates. Menards will begin construction in the spring of 2019.

According to the Tanyard Station website, the site plan shows the 200,000-square-foot retail development on the 51.73-acre site of the former CSX railroad yard, off Exit 18 of Interstate 64, along the Mud River and Tanyard Branch Creek in Barboursville. It includes room for several other businesses, including two hotels.

HD Media purchases Charleston Gazette-Mail

In March, HD Media and Charleston Newspapers closed the sale of the Charleston Gazette-Mail, a few hours after a federal bankruptcy judge ruled the former owners of the Charleston Daily Mail wouldn’t receive a cut of the proceeds from the $11.487 million sale.

It took about two hours for officials from both companies to sign all of the paperwork to close the sale, said Doug Reynolds, managing partner of HD Media. With its acquisition of the Gazette-Mail, HD Media now owns seven newspapers throughout Southern West Virginia, including The Herald-Dispatch.

“I think there’s a great opportunity here,” Reynolds said following the purchase. “We’ve got everyone in place. It’s a great paper, and we’re going to make it even better.”

For the first time in more than a century, the Charleston newspaper went to press without a member of the Chilton family at the helm.

The Market in downtown continues growth

The Market, an open-space retail market in the 800 block of downtown Huntington, continued to grow in 2018.

The unique development features an eclectic mix of stores, shops, restaurants and other businesses. Wildflower Gift Gallery was the first business to open at the site. It was followed by Navarino Bay, a modern Greek restaurant; Butter It Up, a farm-to-table cafe; Tulsi, a natural grocery and wellness store; Fuel Counter, a fresh fast-food eatery; Bottled Up, a craft beer and wine business; Hip Eagle, an urban boutique; and Austin’s at The Market, an iconic local homemade ice cream shop.

In December, developer Phil Nelson said the last tenant space at The Market was being renovated and would be the home to Dang Good Cinnamon Rolls and Waffles.

The Market also features a pedestrian pass-through on the east side to create more convenient access between 3rd Avenue and the parking lot on 4th Avenue. The crossing features overhead lights and sails for illumination at night and shade during the day, a fire pit, games, and a space for outdoor dining and live music.

Heartland Intermodal Gateway sees new activity

The Heartland Intermodal Gateway (HIG), a rail-to-truck container trans-loading facility for the Norfolk Southern Railway in Prichard, saw an increase in container traffic in 2018.

In May, DARCO International, working with XPO Logistics and Thunder Logistics, became the first local company since Toyota Motor Manufacturing to utilize the facility for the continuous shipment of its in-bound freight containers.

The successful execution of these shipments provide a model for companies throughout the region that want to utilize the facility, officials said. All of the recent successes are a small portion of the potential benefits the HIG facility can have for the region, officials added. In addition to providing cost-savings opportunities for area businesses, the facility can help to stimulate new investment in the region.

Owned by the West Virginia Port Authority, the $32 million HIG is situated on 100 acres of land - 76 of which were donated by Norfolk Southern - along the Big Sandy River about 10 miles south of the Interstate 64 interchange in Kenova. The facility provides businesses with a truck-to-rail transfer option along the Heartland Corridor, a 530-mile stretch of railway from the Port of Virginia in Hampton Roads through West Virginia to Chicago.

Huntington’s first co-working space opens

New businesses, new ideas and new opportunities for entrepreneurs is the goal for CoWorks, Huntington’s first co-working space that opened in June. CoWorks is located in the JP Morgan Chase Building at 1000 5th Ave.

Through a collaborative effort led by Jeremy Turner, managing director of EPIC Mission, and Bryan Shaw, president of Scaleable Ventures, the coworking space is designed to generate revenue from the rental of flexible term office space and to increase traffic into the Chase building for potential leasing of existing office space outside of the coworking sections.

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said CoWorks will create the opportunity for establishing an entrepreneurial culture in the city.

“Entrepreneurship is what Huntington is all about,” he said.

“CoWorks is going to be a place where people can dream big dreams and turn those dreams into something,” Turner said.

Fat Patty’s restaurants sold

In August, a Florida-based restaurant company acquired the Tri-State region’s four Fat Patty’s restaurants for $12.3 million, with plans to expand the brand, according to Fat Patty’s owner Clint Artrip.

Purchasing Fat Patty’s was the ARC Group Inc., parent company of the Dick’s Wings & Grill casual dining brand in several locations in Florida and Georgia. The company is based in Jacksonville, Florida.

Artrip said the sale presented the opportunity to expand on the Fat Patty’s concept, and added that there would be no changes to the four units in Huntington, Barboursville, Teays Valley and Ashland.

“I am staying on to manage these four units and we will still have the same wonderful managers and employees, so nothing’s changed here,” he said. “It will remain exactly the same.”

Fat Patty’s offers specialty burgers and sandwiches, wings, appetizers, salads, wraps, and steak and chicken dinners in a casual dining environment. Each restaurant has a full bar and several large flat-screen televisions.

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