2017-09-20 / Front Page

P&G lab opens at The Pines Opportunity Center

by Trish Rudder


Grand opening with a ribbon cutting for the new P&G External Lab at Blue Ridge CTC campus at The Pines on Tuesday, September 12 are front row from left, State Senator Charles Trump; Delegate Daryl Cowles; Morgan County Commissioner Ken Reed; Dr. Ann Shipway, Blue Ridge CTC; Lisa Horwich, P&G; Francisco Lanza, P&G and Gordon Ramsey, P&G. Back row from left: Ruth Gladden, P&G; Joel Tuttle, Morgan County Commission President; Dr. Peter Checkovich, Blue Ridge CTC President; Ananthanarayan Venkateswaran, P&G and Don Langworthy, P&G. Grand opening with a ribbon cutting for the new P&G External Lab at Blue Ridge CTC campus at The Pines on Tuesday, September 12 are front row from left, State Senator Charles Trump; Delegate Daryl Cowles; Morgan County Commissioner Ken Reed; Dr. Ann Shipway, Blue Ridge CTC; Lisa Horwich, P&G; Francisco Lanza, P&G and Gordon Ramsey, P&G. Back row from left: Ruth Gladden, P&G; Joel Tuttle, Morgan County Commission President; Dr. Peter Checkovich, Blue Ridge CTC President; Ananthanarayan Venkateswaran, P&G and Don Langworthy, P&G. The Procter & Gamble quality control laboratory called the Pines External Lab held a grand opening event at The Pines in Berkeley Springs last Tuesday, September 12. A ribbon cutting, open house and guided tour showed state and local officials the new laboratory where its products are tested for quality assurance.

The lab opened on August 1 with about 10 P&G employees in training, said P&G spokesperson Jeff LeRoy. Eventually there will be about 60 to 65 employees at its peak, he said.


Visitors gather in a common area during a September 12 tour of the P&G labs. photos courtesy of Procter & Gamble Visitors gather in a common area during a September 12 tour of the P&G labs. photos courtesy of Procter & Gamble The Pines External Lab is a joint venture with Morgan County, Blue Ridge Community and Technical College and Procter & Gamble. It is the P&G quality control lab that will support the Tabler Station manufacturing site during the site construction period. The lab is critical in developing quality control capability testing of incoming raw materials as well as in-process and finished product samples, LeRoy said.

P&G partnered with Blue Ridge CTC to design and provide training programs for those who will work at the new P&G plant, which is to open in December of 2019.

Blue Ridge also rents space at The Pines Opportunity Center -- the former War Memorial Hospital site.


A P&G testing lab at The Pines. A P&G testing lab at The Pines. “This is an awesome, awesome project,” said Dr. Peter Checkovich, president of Blue Ridge.

“Blue Ridge is very tailored to P&G,” said Dr. Ann Shipway, vice president of economic and workforce development at Blue Ridge. “We help them develop curriculum.”

Blue Ridge offers two types of training, she said. One is customized training for P&G where Blue Ridge provides lab training for workers hired by P&G.

The training is in Inwood at Blue Ridge’s technical center and at The Pines, LeRoy said.

A second avenue of training is open to the public and there is no need to be a P&G employee, said Cynthia Hull, associate dean of career advancement education at Blue Ridge.

The quality assurance technician training will be offered at The Pines beginning in January. It can be obtained as an applied lab technician either by completing 30 credit hours to receive certification or completing 60 credit hours with an applied science degree, she said.

“Students are encouraged to apply now so they will have time to arrange their financial aid,” Hull said.

P&G director of quality assurance Ananthanarayan Venkateswaran, who goes by “Ven” said “this is a terrific partnership between P&G and West Virginia,” and he hoped this is the first one of many partnerships here. He said this quality assurance lab will perform analytical chemistry, microbiology and packaging testing for all activities at the plant site.

“The workers will test for the safety of our consumers. The standards are high at P&G. Our consumers trust and buy our products again and again,” he said.

Don Langworthy, quality assurance leader who oversees the lab for P&G and guided the lab tour, said the lab space of about 11,000 square feet has $1.8 million of equipment, and is a $3 million investment.

The lab is now in “Wing B” of the former hospital and the samples that will be tested come in where the old second floor nurses’ station used to be.

P&G uses 300 raw materials for its products with 10 to 15 tests performed on each before they are released to the public, he said.

For example, the “Bounce” dryer sheets are tested in the analytical chemistry labs, and the sensory lab has pass through windows from the other side where the technicians ensure the “smell is correct,” he said. The microbiology lab tests the raw materials to ensure they are not contaminated, he said.

The technicians will be working two shifts with about 16 hours of coverage, and the lab will eventually be operating around the clock. He said Blue Ridge is partnering with P&G to deliver a two-year lab technician program with a class of 30 every year.

Options are being considered for the external lab’s future use. It could become a training ground for company technicians who could then be transferred to other P&G sites.

“Berkeley Springs could be a regional hub in the United States,” Langworthy said, since the P&G plant in Greensboro, N.C. is only three and a half hours away and New York is less than five hours away. “This is a great location for the future.”

Another option being considered, Langworthy said, is to develop partnerships with other companies. P&G is leaving all the permanent mounted material, which can be used for another use.

The 18-month lease agreement between Procter & Gamble and Morgan County that began on July 1 includes the option to extend the lease for two six-month terms, said county administrator Jody McClintock.

In lieu of rent, P&G will pay for its share of utility costs. The lease specifies the company will reimburse the county for any gas, electric, sewer or water bills over $2,000 per month, according to the lease.

State Senator Charles Trump suggested since the West Virginia forensic lab in Charleston is backlogged, perhaps this facility could be considered as a backup site to improve efficiency.

Michael Standiford of Inwood and Joseph Hegedisich of Shepherdstown are training operators at the new lab. Standiford joined P&G in November 2016 and has worked on the quality assurance side in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries. Hegedisich received his training experience in the U.S. Navy and he joined P&G in late March.

Both said they liked working at the lab. “So far I love it,” Hegedisich said. “It’s a gorgeous area,” said Standiford. He said when they move to the new plant, it will only take about 10 minutes to get to work. “I like it,” he said.

LeRoy said both are good candidates “with attitude and aptitude.” A vision for Morgan County

Region 9 Executive Director Bill Clark was the Morgan County EDA director when Blue Ridge opened a campus at The Pines about five years ago. He said he worked with Delegate Daryl Cowles and former Morgan County Commission president Brad Close to come up with the idea to use the old hospital for a Morgan County campus of Blue Ridge.

Cowles said the three of them had discussions over time about how to get workforce training here. He said Blue Ridge president Dr. Peter Checkovich was interested in coming to Berkeley Springs.

“It was a joint effort,” Close said. A branch campus of Blue Ridge was needed in Morgan County and needed to be developed.

Close said in early 2012 War Memorial Hospital moved from Fairfax Street into its new building on Fairview Drive and the old building was empty with “a quarter of a million dollars a year just to keep the pipes from freezing.”

To develop space at The Pines, Close moved the county services such as the health department, office of emergency services and the EDA offices into the building, Cowles said.

The Blue Ridge branch opened at The Pines in 2012, Close said. “They were on a shoestring budget, and made very little improvements to the space of about 15,000 square feet,” Cowles said.

In early 2016, discussions about Procter & Gamble possibly coming to The Pines began. Close as commission president said he told the commissioners that the county needed to put about “$2 to 2.5 million in that building.”

Close told the commissioners they had to invest in themselves. “They will come because we believe in ourselves,” he said. At the same time the Morgan County Commission was faced with a dark decision, Close said. Blue Ridge’s five-year lease would expire in 2017, and the commission wanted to get Blue Ridge more rooted in the community.

Blue Ridge was receiving the least amount of appropriations to colleges from the state, Cowles said. In June 2016 the W.Va. Legislature increased the college’s funding with an additional $500,000, which allowed them to grow, he said.

“Daryl was amazing in getting an increase to a more equitable distribution for Blue Ridge,” Close said.

“Blue Ridge talked Procter & Gamble into looking at this old hospital,” said Morgan County Commission President Joel Tuttle. “It took five years to get to this point,” he said at the grand opening ceremony.

Close said he hoped the commission “sees what we have and takes advantage of it” to provide education and jobs.

“It’s a great opportunity for us,” Cowles said.

“It’s all about community,” Clark said.

Return to top