West Virginia has what it takes to attract high-caliber corporations
by Catherine Zacchi
PRICHARD, W.Va. — Pursuit of a career in manufacturing led Troy Thomas away from his native West Virginia. Now that same career has brought him back home.
Thomas manages the Allevard Sogefi USA, Inc. plant in Prichard, W.Va., that produces automotive suspension and filtration products. It is the first facility in North America for Sogefi S.p.A, an Italian company with plants in 13 countries worldwide.
He grew up near Cross Lanes in Kanawha County, where his parents, sister and most of his extended family still live. In 1988, Thomas graduated from Nitro High School and left the state to study engineering at Virginia Tech's College of Engineering. For 10 years, he continued to live, work and study in Virginia. While earning his Masters of Business Administration, he built and managed a new brake pad plant for Carlisle Companies Inc.
“No matter where I’ve been,” said Thomas, “when I’ve had the opportunity to meet other West Virginians, we shared a sense of pride in where we came from. While it seems the world is becoming smaller, more homogenous and more transient, West Virginians still have roots.”
While living in Northern Virginia near Washington, D.C., Thomas often returned to those roots for short weekend visits. Friends would join him for a lazy summer float down the Potomac River and lunch in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.
“My strong desire to live closer to my family and an excellent opportunity to work for the international company Sogefi brought me home,” he said.
In 2004, Thomas moved to Huntington as plant manager for the $27 million Allevard Springs USA plant, a subsidiary of Sogefi. In 2008, the Italian-based company began a $7 million expansion and promoted Thomas to general manager.
Allevard Sogefi is one of seven Italian companies in West Virginia. Thomas is one of more than 22,000 West Virginians working for companies from 23 countries.
Thomas believes West Virginia has what it takes to attract other high-caliber corporations and entrepreneurs.
“Jobs are important to attract young professionals but not the only necessity,” he said.
“Culture, social and recreational opportunities are big considerations when deciding to relocate. Huntington’s Pullman Square, the Clay Center and baseball park in Charleston, and the Hatfield-McCoy trail system are good examples. West Virginia is more diverse and more welcoming to people from other places than many outside our border may perceive.”