James Estep, president and chief executive officer of the High Technology Foundation in Fairmont, West Virginia, talked with Jim Matuga, host of The Positively West Virginia Podcast, about how Estep got started in the technology business, his advice to young entrepreneurs and the one thing he does that contributes to his success.
Estep has been president of High Technology Foundation since June 2000. The High Technology Foundation’s mission is to facilitate economic diversification. Through the High Technology Foundation, Estep has positioned the I-79 Technology Park as the premiere economic diversification effort in the state. It has since expanded to more than 350 acres and 750,00 square feet of space due to Estep’s leadership.
How did you [Estep] get started in the technology business?
“When I graduated from West Virginia University with my master’s degree, I went to work for the Unisys Corporation, based out of Northern Virginia. It was by chance that I ended up coming back to North Central West Virginia. Unisys was participating on an air force contract that Senator Byrd had helped move. I came here with Unisys to work on that project, and I became aware of the work being done here to try to build all of this. A lot of the companies in the community were helping to try to build this sector,” Estep said. “As a result, I was exposed to the effort, and there came a time in the mid-90s where I had an opportunity with Unisys to go work in other parts of the country, and I chose to stay because I wanted to help.”
“As a native of West Virginia who pursued a STEM degree, I was painfully aware of the fact that there were very little opportunities for me to stay in the state,” Estep said. “Of course, I love the state. If I could make a contribution so that future generations wouldn’t have to leave the state, that was my motivation.”
What is one piece of advice you would give a young entrepreneur?
“Be patient. Understand that growing a business in our state/region that you are not submerged in the pool that has the kind of density of opportunities that you might have in Northern Virginia, but that’s okay because there are enough opportunities that you can get a hold of,” advised Estep. “Try to define yourself so that you are filling the need that these customers have.”
What is one thing you do every day that contributes to your success?
“I make sure that I take time every single day to research the latest trends in the sector,” Estep said.
Estep was a guest on The Positively West Virginia Podcast. Listen to his full podcast here.
PWV QUICK BITS
- RECOMMENDED RESOURCE: “My assistant, Lori, and our people.”
- PIECE OF ADVICE: “Try to define yourself so that you are filling the need that these customers have.”