MONTGOMERY, W.Va. — WVU’s announcement on Monday of a proposal to close WVU Tech’s Montgomery campus and move the school to Beckley has local business owners wondering how the town on the Fayette-Kanawha County line can survive without the school.
“I see the future of Montgomery going way downhill. Being a ghost town,” said Chad Vickers, manager at Not Frank’s Pizza on Third Avenue, which sits right across from campus. “You get rid of school, there’s nothing left here. There’s going to be hundreds of people out of jobs, myself included probably.”
A few of the shops and stores around Not Frank’s are already out of business, including Bank Bar & Grill nearby. Student Eric Padilla was excited for the change of scenery.
“I think it’s a really good change. The whole thing is cozy and the community is so small and everything, and it’s really cool. But there’s always room for improvement,” said Padilla, a native of San Antonio.
Charles Webster, a resident who lived nearby, agreed that the end of Tech could spell financial ruin for the town.
“In the summer this place is a ghost town, and without Tech it’ll be even worse,” he predicted. “We all knew it was coming and it was just a matter of time.”
The decision is not a final one as the WVU Board of Governors will meet to decide on the proposal at noon on Tuesday in Morgantown. Jewel Connell, who has worked at the WVU Tech library for over 20 years, thought people were overreacting a bit.
“I’m not sure. There’s BridgeValley,” she said referring to Montgomery’s other school. “Perhaps this is an opportunity for other businesses in Montgomery to grow. Maybe BridgeValley could take the place of Tech.”
Vickers wasn’t convinced, knowing how much his relatively new pizzeria depends on customers from the school.
“We’ve only been here a year. The students are a big part of our business. The students and the faculty keeps us going; it keeps the whole town going,” Vickers said. “Without it I think we’re all going to be in trouble.”
The new campus would be called West Virginia University at Beckley, Home of WVU Tech. WVU has been in control of the Montgomery campus since 1996.