West Virginia Department of Commerce Chris Kroger

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Chris Kroger



Chris Kroger

Building a Career Away; Coming Home to Give Back

by Kim Harbour

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. -- Ask Chris Kroger to tell you about his favorite place in West Virginia and he doesn’t hesitate.

“Ah! Let me paint you a picture. It’s mid-October… a Saturday afternoon at Mountaineer Field. I love to go to the stadium well before the game, when it’s quiet, and walk around before the crowd gets there,” Kroger said.

Chris Kroger

“Not only do I have this great job with a Fortune 500 company, but one of the advantages to returning to West Virginia is that it’s a lot easier to be a part of Mountaineer Nation.”

Kroger is the general counsel for Pratt & Whitney Engine Services, which employs about 140 people at its Bridgeport, W.Va., location to repair and overhaul engines for corporate and military aircraft. The division is part of United Technologies Corporation, which has more than 220,000 employees worldwide. Even though he reports to work at the Bridgeport office, Kroger enjoys a national and international legal practice. He is responsible for 10 other Pratt & Whitney locations throughout the country and is part of the corporation’s 240-member premiere legal team.

“This past week, I’ve been on the phone with people from Texas, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., and Canada. I have been dealing with high-level issues from the location where I want to be.”

Kroger and his family like living in Morgantown because it is central and accessible. Since returning to West Virginia, Kroger and his wife Andrea are using it as a base to introduce their two children to areas of the country the children had previously not visited – like Washington, DC and Boston.

From a local standpoint, “We really need to get the kids out on the rail tails,” he said. “We like Cheat Lake and the vibrancy of Morgantown. We like to take advantage of cultural events and the shows that West Virginia University brings to town. Also, it has become a family tradition to go to Stonewall Resort for Thanksgiving,” he said.

Kroger’s father lives in the Charleston area, where his wife was also born. When he visits Charleston, if it’s the holiday season, he makes a point to take in some of his other favorite places in the state including Charleston’s Capitol Market and Capitol Street shops, such as the Peanut Shoppe.

Building a career away, coming home to give back:
Kroger grew up in South Charleston, W.Va., in a big family with seven sisters and one brother. It was the heyday of Union Carbide – in fact, he worked for Carbide, early on in his career. He went to Marshall University, then West Virginia University for law school. He practiced at Steptoe & Johnson LLP for three years following graduation.

Because he had a desire to expand his horizons as a business attorney, Kroger moved to North Carolina and built his law career.

Kroger said prior to leaving West Virginia, he always thought there were two types of former residents of the state: those who leave and long to be home and those who never want to look back. Kroger soon realized he didn’t fall into either camp. His family liked living in Winston-Salem, N.C., and while he often thought of his home state, it was really the professional opportunity to become an in-house attorney for Pratt & Whitney that convinced him he should come home.

“In North Carolina, I was involved in activities—like the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary. Certainly, I wanted to be involved and help my community, there, but gradually I thought to myself, ‘I’m a West Virginian and my community is West Virginia. While I’m doing this community-building in North Carolina, who’s helping West Virginia?’

“I wanted to come home and help my state succeed. My heart is in community work, now; it’s not just something I do to help me advance in my job.”

Some things change, others don’t
After being away, Kroger says he notices the tremendous growth in North Central West Virginia.

“There are some things that we can’t change about the Mountain State, such as not having flat land. While I love the mountains, the terrain is not always a positive from a business perspective. So, we need to focus on what we can change: the things needed to have a successful business climate. Then, along with that growth, there needs to be good planning, too,” he said.

Kroger enjoys his job with Pratt & Whitney. He said the company has great benefits, including an on-premises gym, a cafeteria and full tuition reimbursement to study any subject, not necessarily related to work. Upon the completion of their degrees, employees receive stock options as an acknowledgement of their work. Kroger thinks he may use this, himself, to pursue an MBA some day.

“Pratt & Whitney gives its employees the accountability and the tools they need to get the job done,” he said. “And there is no doubt that our workforce gets the job done!”

The reason for this, he says, is the people. “The basic West Virginia qualities—the people and the things we stand for—remain the same. Those things don’t change.”