CHARLESTON, WV (STL.News) Gov. Jim Justice announced today that West Virginia, birthplace of Chuck Yeager – the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound – will now be at the center of developing the next innovation in barrier-breaking transportation.
Virgin Hyperloop announced Thursday, Oct. 8, that it will locate its new Hyperloop Certification Center (HCC) on nearly 800 acres of land, spanning Tucker and Grant counties, where it will leverage intellectual capital and resources from West Virginia University, Marshall University, and from across the state.
“West Virginia is well-positioned to provide a fully-integrated solution that advances the nationwide opportunity for hyperloop,” said Jay Walder, CEO of Virgin Hyperloop. “The engineering and scientific talent, combined with the skilled workforce and collaborative spirit we know is critical to this project, is all right here.”
Hyperloop moves people and goods in pods through a vacuum tube at speeds exceeding 600 mph, enabling travel from Pittsburgh to Chicago in 41 minutes or New York City to Washington, D.C. in just 30 minutes.
Walder noted that the Hyperloop Certification Center’s role is critical, a necessary next step in taking proven technology and demonstrating to regulators and certifiers that it works and is safe for passengers.
Work on the HCC is expected to begin in 2021 with a planned Welcome Center, Certification Track and Operations Center, Pod Final Assembly Facility, Production Development Test Center, and Operations, Maintenance and Safety Training Center.
With this development, the HCC will pave the way for an entirely new ecosystem, creating thousands of new jobs across construction, manufacturing, operations, and high-tech sectors—many of which Virgin Hyperloop plans to source locally.
WVU’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research predicts the total economic impact of the center’s ongoing operation on the West Virginia economy to be $48 million annually.
“Today is a fantastic day for the state of West Virginia, and I’d like to be the first to officially welcome the folks from Virgin Hyperloop to their new home,” Gov. Jim Justice said. “For years, I have been saying that West Virginia is the best kept secret on the East Coast, and it’s true. Just look at this announcement and all it will bring to our state – investment, jobs, and tremendous growth. It’s a true honor and privilege to be selected as the site for the Hyperloop Certification Center and lead the nation in this next step forward for transportation.
“When we approached Virgin Hyperloop, I told them that we would do everything we could to bring this opportunity to West Virginia,” Gov. Justice continued. “We look forward to working with the Virgin Hyperloop team to create a lasting partnership for years to come.”
The land, owned by Western Pocahontas Properties and located near Mt. Storm is being donated to the WVU Foundation in partnership with Virgin Hyperloop.
“As part of this process, Western Pocahontas Properties employed some of the world’s best environmental planners, including SWCA Environmental Consultants, Planned Environments Inc., and others; to ensure this new development would complement the area’s uniqueness and beauty,” said Corby Robertson, owner of Western Pocahontas Properties “This thorough planning and commitment to our community and environment make this site very attractive to Virgin Hyperloop because they share our values for sustainable growth.”
The anticipated reach of HCC extends far beyond the state’s borders.
“I am committed to building a consortium of universities from around the country, which will lend their expertise to further develop the vision of hyperloop,” WVU President Gordon Gee said. “We will also create educational and institutional opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to be a part of this program. There is no greater learning lab than what we will build here in West Virginia.”
Marshall University has worked closely with WVU and others throughout the process.
“Higher Education institutions are hubs for research, innovation, and talent,” Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert said. “Colleges and universities help build and strengthen our communities and, in this partnership with Virgin Hyperloop, the awesome opportunity to build the communities of the future is now at our doorstep.”
The West Virginia Community and Technical College System will also play a key role in helping to create education and job training programs.
“This is another example that proves we actually can attract investors, attract the talent, and really reframe the conversation for our future,” Biller said.
Several members of the state’s congressional delegation expressed their support and excitement for this opportunity in West Virginia.
“The Hyperloop Certification Center will put West Virginia on the map as a hub of innovation. The project will help further diversify our economy, attract jobs and investment, and shine a spotlight on what makes our state great,” Congressman David McKinley said.
“There is no better place than West Virginia for high-tech, innovative transportation solutions. The Hyperloop Certification Center will create thousands of new jobs in the region, and American-made technology will be produced right here in the Mountain State,” Congressman Alex Mooney said.
“I am excited to welcome Virgin Hyperloop to West Virginia. This partnership will create modern jobs, establish our state as a hub for innovation, and unlock new opportunities in the 21st century economy. Working together, we will develop cutting-edge American transportation technology that we will export throughout the world,” Congresswoman Carol Miller said.