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Kindred Communications has new Huntington home

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HUNTINGTON — "We couldn't have ended up with a better building if we had designed and built it from the ground up."

That's Mike Kirtner, the president and CEO of Kindred Communications, talking about the company's new home. In a partnership with real estate developers Philip Nelson and Jim Weiler of Capital Venture Corp., Kindred Communications bought the building at 555 5th Ave. that was largely vacated when WOWK-TV consolidated most of its operations in Charleston.

WOWK-TV is owned by West Virginia Media Holdings, the parent company of The State Journal.
Kindred spent nearly $1 million to remodel and equip the starkly modern building as the new location of its half dozen radio stations and its other business ventures. Previously some of the stations broadcast from studios in the Coal Exchange Building and others from the Huntington Bank Building.

Trifecta Productions has moved into the new building as a tenant. WOWK's former studio is now a large soundstage for Trifecta, a media production company. WOWK's news and advertising operations in Huntington continue to occupy space in the building. And Kirtner says there's still space available for lease. "It's our hope we can attract another media tenant," he said.
Kindred is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The company is a partnership between Kirtner, who's spent his whole career in broadcasting, and Huntington entrepreneur Tom Wolf, the franchise operator of several local McDonald's restaurants.

Kirtner remembers making radio tapes and pretending to be a disc jockey when he was in elementary school. While a student at Marshall University, he held down a full-time job at WKEE. By the time he was 27 he was general manager at WTCR. He later worked at stations in Pennsylvania and Kentucky.

Deciding he didn't want to wake up one day as a 50-year-old DJ, Kirtner set out to buy a radio station. He approached Wolf, who owned a station in Huntington. Just one catch: Wolf didn't want to sell. For the next two years the two men talked. Ultimately, they decided to form a new company and Kirtner would come back to Huntington to run it. The two considered themselves kindred spirits — hence the name they gave their company.

The company began acquiring local stations. It now owns 93.7-FM The Dawg; 92.7-FM The Planet; 94.1-FM Super Talk (also heard on 930 AM as WRVC); Magic 97.9-FM; Big Buck Country 101.5-FM; and 1340 AM.

"Our stations draw a total of more than 250,000 listeners every week," Kirtner says.

In addition, the company publishes "Herd Insider," a Marshall sports magazine, operates restaurants in Ashland and Lexington, Ky., and has launched a new sideline, Kindred Konnect, which offers web development, print marketing and digital media. The company has 44 employees.

Kirtner said something he's especially proud of is the company's extensive community involvement. The company teamed up with Huntington Mayor Steve Williams for a June 20 West Virginia sesquicentennial party at Pullman Square. On July 3 it will sponsor a Fourth of July country concert and fireworks show at Harris Riverfront Park. Singer Craig Morgan will headline the concert.

Looking ahead, he sees lots of things happening on the Trifecta soundstage, which as the Kindred-Capital Theater will seat 200 people and is "a perfect setting for a broad variety of live performances."