In October 2020, Virgin Hyperloop announced that it will build its Hyperloop Certification Center on nearly 800 acres of land in West Virginia’s Tucker and Grant counties. The innovative facility will be used to test a new high-speed transportation form that can transport passengers and cargo at airline speeds at a fraction of the cost of air travel using pressurized pods that move through a vacuum tube at speeds exceeding 600-miles-per-hour. This groundbreaking technology could one day enable travel from Pittsburgh to Chicago in 41 minutes or New York City to Washington, D.C. in only 30 minutes, drastically changing the way people and goods are transported in the United States.
How and why did Virgin Hyperloop, a company that is paving the way for an entirely new industry, say #YesWV? The answer is simple – West Virginia’s people, the opportunities that exist in this beautiful state, and the collaboration and cooperation of state leadership.
When Virgin Hyperloop started their search for a Certification Center location, the West Virginia Department of Economic Development team got to work immediately. Talks between the West Virginia Department of Economic Development and Virgin Hyperloop advanced quickly. The first meeting took place in October 2019, following a letter of interest passed on by Gov. Jim Justice. As the West Virginia Department of Economic Development worked diligently to identify sites and plan the company’s initial visit to the state, Virgin Hyperloop, which will fall under a newly emerging group of transportation technologies within the United States, informed the West Virginia Department of Economic Development that West Virginia had made the first cut, from an initial group of 21 other states.
After the initial visit, the Mountain State became a serious option for Virgin Hyperloop. The state checked all the right boxes for the company, and the fact that it is a short distance from Washington D.C. and other major cities made it even more attractive. Virgin Hyperloop was pleased with how professional and cohesive each proposal was. Additionally, the land they were interested in was owned by one entity, which made communication between the two parties easier. Another driving factor behind the company’s interest was a loyal workforce and strong work ethic in West Virginia.
“This Certification Center is a really big deal for the people of West Virginia. I think a big pull for Virgin Hyperloop is that they found West Virginia and our citizens to be charming,” said West Virginia Department of Economic Development Director Mike Graney. “They recognized our work ethic and that we could provide them access to advanced materials, which would be very beneficial to them.”
Communication and collaboration with the Governor’s Office, State Government Agencies, West Virginia University, Marshall University and the stakeholders within this initiative allowed many entities to be present during conversations with the Virgin Hyperloop developers. This showed Virgin Hyperloop that not only would they be interacting with our excellent West Virginia Department of Economic Development employees, but they’d get to know other organizations around the state, displaying an impressive collaborative effort amongst key players.
In addition to bringing approximately 200 direct jobs over the course of three years to the state, it is anticipated that this partnership with Virgin Hyperloop will create thousands of construction and indirect jobs, In addition, it will allow student engineers to become educated in these new technologies and see an increase in future job prospects within their home state. Because Virgin Hyperloop said #YesWV, students in our state have a once in a lifetime opportunity for hands on experiences with one of the world’s most innovative companies.
The West Virginia Department of Economic Development never let the dust settle and pursued the Virgin Hyperloop initiative with vigor. Continuous work is underway with Virgin Hyperloop on plans for the site, a future visitor center and increasing their network of support from existing West Virginia companies.
“We’re showing the nation that we have so much more to offer, proving that West Virginia is, and can, compete on a national scale and in a global market,” said Director Graney. “The Hyperloop Certification Center is so significant for West Virginia, and it is hard to fathom the impact this will have on the state economy and education system for years to come. The dedication the entire West Virginia Department of Economic Development demonstrated through this process, in addition to the collaboration of various state entities, is what makes this project all the more special. Everyone is involved and committed to making West Virginia the best it can be.”
The addition of the Virgin Hyperloop Certification Center allows West Virginia to prove that we are growing and accelerating into the future. Virgin Hyperloop ultimately said #YesWV because of the state’s strong work ethic, advanced materials, the collaboration amongst various state entities, and the dedication the West Virginia Department of Economic Development demonstrated throughout this process.