Officials optimistic about Public Debt’s future in region

PARKERSBURG – While the relocation of nearly 450 jobs to the U.S. Bureau of the Public Debt in Parkersburg may now take longer than originally planned, local officials believe the situation will remain positive for the federal agency, which employs more than 1,800 local residents.

In August, Public Debt announced more than 400 federal jobs would be relocated from the Washington, D.C., area to Parkersburg as part of a proposed consolidation of the bureau and the Financial Management Service announced last February.

Under the plan, the jobs will be mostly accounting and information technology jobs with some management functions and related support departments.

This week, it was reported that the shift in jobs may be delayed until 2019 after congressional representatives from Maryland – the positions are part of a FMS facility in Hyattsville, Md. – approached the Treasury Department and General Services Administration.

Cam Huffman, president and CEO of the Area Roundtable, said he has not been involved in the most recent discussions involving Public Debt due to the holidays and family issues, but he has been following the situation and knows about the jobs coming to Parkersburg through Public Debt.

When asked about fears that the loss of Sen. Robert Byrd’s influence might negatively impact the bureau in Parkersburg down the road, Huffman said he is not concerned about losing Public Debt jobs in the future.

“I’m getting a lot of calls from other agencies because of the local workforce,” Huffman said.

Other agencies have noted the work done by Public Debt’s local workforce and there have been inquiries about bringing other operations into the Mid-Ohio Valley, he said.

“I think Parkersburg has proven itself,” Huffman said.

Wood County Commissioner Blair Couch said county officials have been monitoring the situation over the last year. The county commission last summer sent letters to West Virginia officials and representatives expressing support for the relocation of the jobs to Parkersburg.

Couch said the main reason the new jobs are coming to Parkersburg is because the costs to do the work are less locally, with lower costs for rent and services and the high productivity of the local workforce. That workforce has a positive reputation, which is one of the reasons Public Debt has been consolidating jobs to the Parkersburg area over the last several years, he said.

Couch is not too concerned about Public Debt jobs leaving the Parkersburg area at this time because of the economic factors in the situation. Until an argument can be made that costs will be less elsewhere, Couch thinks the jobs will stay in Parkersburg.

“It’s a dollars and cents issue, and I think there’s a real cost savings” to operating in Parkersburg, he said.

Couch believes local officials should stay on top of the current issue regarding the transfers of jobs from Maryland and get in touch with West Virginia’s administration and congressional representatives to do the same.

Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell said he believes the transfer of jobs previously announced by Public Debt to Parkersburg will remain on track, despite the change in the deadline to 2019.

“The project is still a go, it’s just going to be a slower process,” he said Friday.

Knowing all of the work Byrd did for Public Debt in Parkersburg- and in West Virginia as a whole- Newell said there has been speculation since his 2010 death about possible negative impacts to the many and varied programs and services he brought to West Virginia during his years in the Senate.

Over the past several years, the local Public Debt office has been handling more and more accounting services for a growing number of other federal departments and agencies. Newell said he expects that trend to continue due to the quality of work being done locally.

“I feel confident that Public Debt will continue to grow here in Parkersburg, W.Va.,” he said.