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Mountaineer State Sees Growth at River Level

   Spurred in part by incremental state business climate improvements like workers' comp reform and streamlined economic development, West Virginia has seen a spate of industrial projects in the river valley that defines its northwestern boundary, highlighted by the chemicals and petrochemicals industries that have always been concentrated there.
   In Newell, the paraffinic-base oil refinery owned by Jackson, Miss.-based Ergon Inc. will see renewed investment.
   "Over the next two years, Ergon will make significant investments to build state-of-the-art equipment for removing sulfur from diesel fuel," said Ergon Inc. Chairman Leslie Lampton in March 2005. "Recent legislation reforming workers' compensation and civil justice reform initiatives serve to further reinforce Ergon's confidence in West Virginia's approach to businesses in the state."
   The facility, positioned at the very northern apex of the state in Hancock Co., was originally constructed by Quaker State in 1972, and purchased by Ergon in 1997. It processes the majority of crude oil in the state and in the larger Appalachian Basin. Even before the recent oil shocks, Penn Grade crude was seeing the highest prices it had seen since its discovery some 150 years ago.
   Companies whose end products use some of that diesel also are eyeing the state more favorably. In July 2005, halfway between Wayne Co. and Hancock Co., the Jackson Co. city of Ravenswood welcomed a $10-million, 100-job metal stamping investment from a new all-Japanese joint venture between K.S. of West Virginia Co. Ltd. and ASKA Corp. called A.K. of West Virginia. K.S. made its original investment in Ravenswood, where it now employs 95, in 1995, and has expanded there four times in the past decade.

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