Alpha Natural Resources opens ‘Running Right Leadership Academy’

JULIAN – Alpha Natural Resources officially opened a new mine safety facility in Julian on Thursday that is the first of its kind to offer extensive mining curriculum, along with hands-on training with the most modern and latest state-of-the-art technologies.

The “Running Right Leadership Academy” is a comprehensive education and training facility for mine safety and operations. “The success of our company and industry starts with safety,” said Kevin Crutchfield, chairman and CEO of Alpha Natural Resources.

“The Running Right Leadership Academy is the culmination of years of planning and hard work, and we are proud to have brought this concept to reality. The scale and scope of the facility is the first of its kind in the industry, demonstrating our leadership and commitment to the well-being of our employees.”

Crutchfield says the new academy offers hands-on learning for those in the mining industry like nowhere in the world.

“This is a manifestation of Alpha’s Running Right Way Policy,” he said.

“This is a historic beginning for the future on mine safety, health and training.”

Alpha has invested approximately $23 million into the facility and development of the curriculum which is extensive and integrates a broad range of subject areas including technical, safety and leadership skills. It will be a resource for miners who work underground, as well as surface miners and office support personnel. The Alpha Academy is a 136,000 square foot campus that includes classroom space for up to 300 people; a 96,000 square foot lab that can simulate mine situations and conditions; labs for electrical, welding and maintenance skills training; the latest mine safety technologies, including air flow sensors and multi-gas hand held detectors; a command center for mine rescue and emergency preparedness training; and facilities and equipment for supervisory leadership skill training.

“Virtual reality simulators will allow participants to operate continuous mining machines, roof bolters, scoop and haul trucks and receive real-time feedback on their performance,” said Keith Hainer, senior vice president of Alpha’s Operations Performance Group.

Hainer gave members of the media a tour of the new facility on Thursday. Hainer said available classes at the new academy will include certified examiner, emergency medical technician training and certification, annual retraining, incident investigation and root cause analysis, risk management, apprentice electrician, electrical and mechanical skills training and understanding mining – day in the life of a miner. Crutchfield said that all employees in the Alpha organization will eventually go through the Academy, which will supplement the company’s existing mine safety training programs.

“The Alpha Academy is an extension of Alpha’s employee-driven Running Right safety philosophy, which focuses on eliminating at-risk behavior through employee observation and reporting,” Crutchfield said.

“Our ultimate aim is to further improve employee safety and regulatory performance so that we move closer to zero safety related incidents.” Joe Main, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, and head of the United States Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), also spoke at the event.

“After the Upper Big Branch mining disaster a change of culture in mine safety was necessary,” he said.

Mine safety training was part of an agreement between the company and the federal government, and Main said the new academy is a move in the right direction for the future of mine safety and health.

“This is a good thing for miners,” he said.

Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito was not at the event, but released a statement in support of the Running Right Leadership Academy, which she said will provide training opportunities for miners and rescue teams in an effort to prevent future tragedies.

“West Virginians remember the heartbreak that so many of our families and communities experienced in the wake of mine disasters; including those at Sago, Aracoma, and Upper Big Branch,” Capito said. “

“Our state has committed itself to preventing future tragedies in our mines, and tomorrow’s opening of the Running Right Leadership Academy is a critical step forward in improving mine safety. The Running Right Leadership Academy will provide training opportunities for miners and rescue teams, and will help spur the use and development of new safety technologies. I commend Alpha for its investment in the facility and hope that the Running Right Leadership Academy will serve as an industry-wide reminder that the safety of miners is a top priority.” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin also released a statement.

“Coal runs deep in West Virginia. It employs thousands of our people and contributes to the economic development of our communities,” said Tomblin.

“We need to ensure that miners return home safely after every shift. The Running Right Leadership Academy marks a major advance in that goal. We are proud to host this world-class facility in our state and believe that it will become a beacon for safety throughout the industry.” The event was also attended by state and local elected officials, community leaders, employees and other business partners.

“They have been a great corporate neighbor and partner,” said Boone County Economic and Development Director Larry Lodato.

“They are an important part of our community and have been heavily involved in community service in our area. This facility is a great benefit not only to the coal mining industry, but also to the local community as well.”

“This is a great day for Boone County,” said Boone County Commission President Mickey Brown.

“To have this type of facility here is only going help boost the local economy as well as help our local fire departments and other first responders with training as well.” Alpha officials said in addition to training its own employees, its new academy would also be used by local fire departments and other in the mining industry.

Alpha Natural Resources is one of the largest and most regionally diversified coal suppliers in the United States. With mining operations in West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Wyoming, Alpha supplies metallurgical coal to the steel industry and thermal coal to generate power to customers on five continents, company officials said.

Hospital Constructing and Expanding ICU

TEAYS VALLEY, W.Va. (WSAZ) — A major expansion is underway at a hospital that was at one time just a tiny medical center. CAMC Teays Valley Hospital is spending $3.7 million to add a brand new, state-of-the-art intensive care unit. Hospital President and CEO Randy Hodges tells there will be eight private rooms for patients, up to 10 new beds and even expanded office space.

“The number of patients we’re treating continues to grow,” Randy Hodges said.

“We have an excellent clinical staff here at this hospital. We have excellent physicians. The people that use us are starting to see that, and they’re starting to use us more and more.”

Since 2006, when CAMC Teays Valley bought the medical center, officials pledged to make the necessary repairs, upgrades and expansions based on the need. Most all of the electronic equipment and monitoring has been upgraded or replaced with the latest digital and technologically advances tools. There was a recent overhaul to the electric in the building, including the addition of a back-up generator after summer storms knocked out the power for several days in 2012. The bricks and mortar are being laid, with hopes of completion by early fall. Hodges says the transition should be complete and the new ICU will be fully functional by the end of October.

“It’s exciting because I actually grew up in Putnam County,” Hodges said.

“I was born in Putnam County, lived here all my life and to me it’s very exciting to have a hospital that provides the caliber of services that we offer here to my friends, family, neighbors that live in this community.”

The existing ICU would then provide more space for surgery rooms. Additional operating equipment also may be added. Hodges says the patients will receive the same care they get from hospitals in Huntington or Charleston, except it’s in their backyard. Keep clicking on for the latest information.

NGK plans expansion at Kanawha County factory

NGK Sparkplugs in Sissonville is set to expand for a fifth time. The Japanese company will soon begin construction on an 11,000-square foot facility that will house the manufacturing of high-tech oxygen sensors. “As our vehicles move toward higher fuel efficiency as mandated by the government, this kind of technology becomes very important,” said Bob Pepper, senior vice president of manufacturing and operations at NGK.

The federal government is pushing automakers to design cars and trucks with more fuel-efficient engines.

Pepper said consumers shouldn’t see much of a change, but automakers will definitely note a difference.

“The customer will see a small amount of change,” he said.

“The automaker will obviously gain from it. The spark plug meets the tech of the engine design we’re moving toward — smaller, higher compression, more flexible design.”

NGK first built its manufacturing plant off Interstate 77 in 1994. It was one of the first Japanese companies to locate in West Virginia, joining the likes of Nisshin and Toyota. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., was instrumental in bringing Japanese-based companies to the Mountain State, and he said he’s excited to see NGK expanding.

“This new expansion reaffirms what I know to be true: West Virginia has the best workers in the world,” Rockefeller said in a statement.

“I know that the team members at NGK will be able to handle anything sent their way and I thank the company for continually putting their faith in us.”

Along with the expansion comes 34 new jobs. Pepper said some of those positions will be filled immediately, while some hiring will take place throughout the year. Jobs at NGK start at $11.50 an hour and include a benefits package. Potential job seekers can contact NGK’s human resources department for information. Pepper said NGK officials are meeting with construction companies and have begun the bidding process. A final decision is expected in January. Construction should begin in February and should be completed in September. That’s when the assembly line will arrive from Japan. Pepper said the company will work closely with new employees to properly train them to manufacture the new products.

“Our focus is always on quality,” Pepper said.

“We don’t launch a product unless we’re 100 percent ready.” NGK makes about 36 million spark plugs and 16 million sensors per year. Pepper said the expansion will give the company added capacity.

Teays Valley Construction Company to Build Edgewood Elementary

KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) –A Teays Valley construction company will build Edgewood Elementary. Thursday the Kanawha County Board of Education awarded the construction contract bid to G&G Builders. The bid is just over six point eight million dollars. The new elementary school is being called “the school for the future”. The entire project will cost 21 million dollars. Construction will take about a year and a half. The project is expected to be finished winter of 2014.

Construction continues on new Winfield Middle School

WINFIELD, W.Va. — Students at Winfield Middle School won’t have to endure another winter in portable classrooms. Of course, that depends on construction of the new school building staying on schedule.

“Any time you’re building on the same site and trying to have school at the same time, there’s got to be a lot of flexibility,” Putnam County Schools Superintendent Chuck Hatfield said.

The new school building is going up in front of the existing building, which will eventually be demolished, so construction has to be carefully orchestrated in phases.

A nearly complete three-story classroom wing sits on the far right of the school site along W.Va. 34, and to the far left of the site of a new kitchen has already been constructed. Yet to be built is the central portion of the building that will house the library, science labs and administrative offices. Before that can be completed, parts of the old building have to be demolished. Hatfield told the school board Monday night the plan is for the entire school to move into the new classroom wing over winter break. Two-thirds of the students at Winfield Middle are currently in portable classrooms on the back lot behind the old school building. The Winfield Middle project was part of the 2009 voter-approved bond sale. It was the only project in that group that also got funding from the state school building authority because it met the authority’s student population guidelines. It’s one of the most dire facility needs in the county. Hatfield also told the board that construction has begun on an addition and complete renovation of Winfield Elementary School and a six-classroom classroom addition at Conner Street Elementary School. When those projects are complete, the county will have eliminated all of its portable classrooms. The Putnam County board of education meets at 7 p.m. the first and third Monday of each month. The next meeting has been moved to the fourth Monday, Nov. 26, because of a scheduled school break for Thanksgiving.