8 Ideas for a WV Revival

Brew Sky Festival 2015 in West Virginia's Canaan Valley. Photo courtesy of Highland Outdoors.
Brew Sky Festival 2015 in West Virginia's Canaan Valley. Photo courtesy of Highland Outdoors.
Sometimes I get snarky. Like the other day, when I spotted Jim Justice’s gubernatorial campaign ideas for turning West Virginia into a tourism mecca. I tweeted, “Tourism, yes! Horse races, golf, & theme parks? It’s not 1980. See Charleston SC & Asheville 4 ideas.”

Without a 140 character limit and two bourbons under my belt, I swear I would have been more constructive. I would have said that successful tourism must be in lockstep with current trends and projects requiring big capital outlays must pay off for decades, making millennials and Gen Z central to their success.

In the little orange box, down and to the right, I critique each of Justice’s ideas mentioned in my tweet. To prove I’m not just being a Negative Nancy, though, I also want to share new ideas for reviving West Virginia’s economy.

Some are tourism-based. Others aren’t. And I’ll be the first to admit they all need pressure testing. I’ll leave that to Justice’s staff since mine consists of one eager but illiterate puggle. Here goes:

1) Give away a coal town.

Take your pick—Welch, Madison, Logan, Mullens—all are filled with great old buildings, left to rot. After remodeling a few into live/work and retail spaces, you could literally give them to qualifying artists and entrepreneurs. Can you imagine the media coverage? Can you imagine to deluge of applications from people ready to trade their $3,000/month Brooklyn studio apartments for free space in the inspiring Appalachian mountains? The second wave of spaces could go for a deeply reduced rate. By development’s third wave, there should be enough momentum for private investors to take over. Oh, and don’t worry about these towns being remote. Other artistic hubs like Homer, Alaska and Hot Springs, Arkansas prove that can be an asset.

On Jim’s Ideas

Horse Racing: Thoroughbred Daily News says the fanbase is aging, and living in the DC metro, the biggest city within three hours of West Virginia, I can assure you that high-disposable-income types of all ages aren’t flocking to the state’s existing track in Charlestown. I’d scrutinize the market potential for a second track, taking another big concern into account, animal welfare. Animal rights groups are targeting horse/dog tracks, citing wide-ranging animal abuses. Should West Virginia step into the middle of that controversy for an idea that may not have a market?

Golf: A better bet. According to Forbes, it has seen an upswing with young people. “Youth playing the game has increased by 20%…in 2015.” I bet you can guess my one concern—market saturation. Golf isn’t a blue collar activity, and mountain people are decidedly blue collar. Who will travel for hours to play golf in West Virginia, who isn’t already playing at one of Greenbrier’s four courses? I guess this isn’t an issue if Jim Justice’s golf aspirations are limited to landing the U.S. Open, which he mentions on his campaign site, but if he’s looking to grow the golf market, I worry that it’s tapped.

Theme Parks: You may have read the case against theme parks in the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Bottom line—the only successful one to open in the last 30 years was Dollywood. Three things to know about Dollywood: 1) It abuts the country’s most visited national park. 2) It has the corner on hillbilly kitsch. Nobody will do it better. 3) It is aligned with a globally-known brand, voice, and set of boobs. For all his assets, Jim Justice lacks those!

2) Beef up the eastern panhandle.

We should always lean into what’s working, and I can tell you that young professionals are visiting the eastern panhandle for tubing, kayaking, and hiking. Make it easier to get there, and give them more to do. I’m talking twice daily train service from DC, including the weekends, with stops in both Harper’s Ferry and Shepherdstown. In Harper’s Ferry, there is precious little in the town proper, aside from park exhibits. Get a beer garden in there and more restaurants, maybe even a tubing company within walking distance of the train station. In Shepherdstown, shops and restaurants abound, but lodging is a problem. While there are a few hotels, most look like they were decorated during the Reagan administration, and for some reason, there’s a dearth of AirBnBs. Oh, and for God’s sake, restrict sub-developments out that way. They are destroying the beauty that draws people to the area in the first place.

3) Be authentic along the New River.

Jim Justice wants to give New River visitors reasons to stay—great idea—but he cites a wildlife park as the solution. I don’t think that will work with the people who will be driving tourism over the next fifty years or more. Millennials and Gen Zers aren’t flocking to pre-packaged parks, whether they hold wildlife or roller coasters. They want authentic experiences that reflect the unique heritage of a place without being corny. So how about giving them an amazing walking and biking trail along the New River, a la the C&O Canal. The trail could connect cool river towns, breweries, or base camps with cabin camping. When you weave amenities into the fabric of the area, rather than plopping them down and surrounding them with a big fence, you retain that place’s essential character. You also spread the wealth, giving small businesses a much bigger role. Existing  state parks and national park land provide a good starting point. Developed carefully, they could become a regionwide draw.

4) Booze it up.

Asheville was named Beer City U.S.A. four years running and is now home to Sierra Nevada and New Belgium. Roanoke just landed Deschutes and Ballast Point. Plus distillery trails and cider festivals are popping up all over. Local booze is big, and West Virginia already has some great producers. The new governor could foster more with small business incentives, and connect them through trails and festivals. She or he could also court bigger distilleries that are looking for regional hubs. While some livers are getting saturated, the market for local booze isn’t even close.

5) Legalize pot…fast.

A few months ago in The Roanoke Times, I asked if legal pot will end Appalachia’s biggest cash crop. The short answer—it might if we don’t move quickly. The region produces a massive amount of marijuana, and as states legalize, they are starting to grow their own. Since my piece ran, a new report has estimated that legalized and taxed marijuana could pump $19 million to $70 million into West Virginia’s coffers plus it would decrease law enforcement costs. With most residents supporting legalization and the state in a financial free-fall, a visionary leader needs to push legalization before the market is gone for good.

6) Serve up Appalachian food.

Have you heard? Appalachian food is the “next big thing” in regional cooking. So says The Washington Post. Chefs inside and outside the region are taking a close look at our food traditions with attention being galvanized around the Appalachian Regional Commission’s Bon Appétit Appalachia! campaign. West Virginia can tap this growing movement by setting up a scholarship for Mountain State chefs to attend the Appalachian Food Summit, hosting morel-themed events, or publicizing the state’s ramp and pawpaw festivals. An incubator approach can translate to real dollars as adventure diners begin visiting the mountains for a taste of our culture. Charleston, South Carolina is the new model city for food tourism, having scooped up food and travel awards from Bon Appétit, Condé Nast, Travel & Leisure, and more. Mr. Justice should head down there and check things out.

7) Turn coal miners into tech grunts.

With their jobs being mechanized over time, miners have actually been tech grunts for a while. That skill set could serve them well as the mining industry dries up. The Revivalist and other pubs have focused on a new tech company in Pikeville, Kentucky that’s training former miners to code. With it’s work ethic and skilled labor force, West Virginia could take this model to scale, positioning itself as Silicon Holler (to borrow a term), a new home for coding, data centers, fulfillment and customer service facilities, and other tech services that could be situated anywhere and that benefit from affordable land and labor.

8) Don’t just market; rebrand.

Jim Justice refers to himself as the state’s “marketer in chief,” proposing an ad campaign to publicize all West Virginia has to offer. That’s the right direction, but he should push it further. I’m talking about a full rebranding. Think about it—when West Virginia gets national exposure, what’s it about? The death of coal, mountain top removal, meth, or backwoods antics like those on MTV’s Buckwild. None of it drives tourism or attracts investors, and the state has centuries of bad press working against it. Hillbilly stereotypes extend to the region’s first European settlers, so it will take a radical repositioning to change people’s hearts and minds, to convince them of what you and I know—that West Virginia is not just wild. It is also wonderful.

Which of these ideas do you think would work and which wouldn’t? What else could help turn things around in West Virginia? Please leave a comment below.

48 Comments

  • Suzi Phillips

    You have some really good ideas. I agree on more adventure style tourism in the New River Gorge- no theme park needed. It’s a great place, just needs a little good direction to help it grow sustainably. I also like the idea of an artist hub or two, with some reservations. The term “starving artist” tends to be an accurate one. Yes, the artists will have great spaces to create, but how will they keep the lights on? Turning coal miners into techies is another great idea, a long with commercial pot growing. There really needs to be some community urgency behind both ideas! As for Asheville, NC? I live in the Asheville metro area, so why am in WV every chance I get? I love mountains. I hate pretentiousness. I talk to a lot of fellow travelers that feel the same way. So let’s give Charleston and Huntington or maybe the Eastern Panhandle that Asheville vibe and leave the rest of WV open to a whole bunch of us who like to keep things real. Sounds like a plan!

  • Carol

    1. More and newer skiing lodges with super facilities i.e. children’s activities, spa packages etc….
    2. Fishing and hunting lodges similar to those in western states.
    3. Eastern Panhandle would be a perfect location for a top notch flea market that is open every weekend in good weather.
    4. Develop an artist’s colony.
    5. Off Broadway theater with ample hotels, shopping, great restaurants and pubs in Morgantown or Parkersburg.

  • Maxine Hodges

    Forget the pot and bringing NY artist in. WV has some of the most talented artist . Create an artist colony with several large classrooms so that people from anywhere could learn. Teach WV quilting I love the idea of wildlife safari park. Go Visit the Wilds or even the Virginia Safari park. These are both busy. Brewerys are always a hit. Hunting and fishing lodges are popular. Create Wild and Wonderful again.

  • Mark Lynn Ferguson

    Maxine, I love the idea of moving WV artists to the front of the line! And focusing on Appalachian crafts like quilting.

  • Ed Farthing

    Love this article – don’t forget hiking – outdoor folks are easy on the ecology – tourists are messy 🙂

  • Mark Lynn Ferguson

    Ed, outdoors stuff for sure! Any ideas for improving it?

  • Sharon Burrows

    I have been revisiting the Foxfire books lately and the daily life of those sturdy people is a revelation as to how life used to be lived. Would love to see a West Virginia center for demonstration of the tradition of self sufficiency as practiced by the real treasure of Appalachia, her people.

  • Kathy Bealmear

    I’ve been harboring a wish that the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative would invest in WV with an eye to making it the East Coast Silicon Valley. With improvements in schools, and tech and physical infrastructure, WV could begin to provide tech companies with new places to build and expand, with a body of trained potential employees. The companies would be drawn to all the recreational possibilities the state presents.

    Just my two cents worth.

  • Marilee Bowles-Carey

    I grew up in suburban Detroit during the 60s and 70s. My mother was born and raised in Welch WV (actually Welch was the big town–she was born and lived in Hensley Holler). Both communities have played a critical part in the history of our nation and the development of our American way of life. What should the future hold for them?

    Mark and commenters–all fabulous and provocative ideas. I’m sure there are thousands more. A powerful beginning. But what to do with them?

    How about a conversation about process? The question is how we explore and develop each idea (as this thread of commentary has begun to do) to its fullest potential and bring them to implementation—with the least amount of risk possible.

    How might that work?

    One way is to bring motivated, knowledgable folks (folks with skin in the game) together—face to face—to tease out exactly why each idea is valuable, whom each idea serves. Model how value is created by each idea and what would have to change in the current (economic, social, political, legal, environmental) system to realize it. Identify the strongest ideas to move along. Assess the risks involved in each idea. Conduct cheap, seat-of-the-pants micro-pilots (with real people who would be beneficiaries) of the riskiest parts of selected concepts to mitigate possible negative outcomes. Revise, revise, revise each idea, continually solving for each risk. Select ideas with the highest ratio-of-value-created to risk, for full-scale piloting and implementation.

    This is called human-centered design. It is ground-up, bootstrap hard work. It succeeds when motivated people affected by a problem or opportunity participate fully in the design process, guided by tools and frameworks for expanding how to think about the problem and for addressing the risks involved in driving change. it succeeds when participants are biased toward action (not our own perspectives) and responsive to real feedback from real people about whether an idea works or not.

    Now is a good time to think radically. The question is, how might people mobilize to act on those ideas while conditions for change remain favorable?

  • Mark Lynn Ferguson

    Grassroots, participatory ROI analysis with micro-pilots. Smart!

  • Spirit

    I’m glad to see so many comments advocating for gently using the Natural world in W Va. I live on an island in WA State that has been overrun by those who see “development” as the only way to prosperity. Because of this influx of “business interests” the rural character of the Island has changed and with it, the cohesiveness of a real community of people.
    I say, leave the “Wildlife in the Wild (what’s left of it). Encourage protective measures for the enjoyment of
    Nature and the Local Wildlife. When I traveled Appalachia I always treasured articles I bought that were Handmade by the locals! Regarding Racetracks: these do Not appeal to the younger generations who will be enjoying the Appalachians for the beauty and peace evoked by them. Many people don’t realize that horses are abused in many ways in the Racing World when greed takes over. Why encourage that? I believe that the younger generations abhor “mountaintop Removal” and could be encouraged to seek out W VA for vacationing if there is a concerted effort to restore and try to repair at least some of the destruction.

  • Paul Wilson

    Build incredible roads. So incredible that everyone will want to come here just to drive on the roads. Sports cars, motorcycles and everyone else will want to come here just to drive. Every aspect of tourism will thrive from there.

  • Horace Hellbilly

    Too much religion and not enough education in those cricks and hollers. The sort of culture that brings people in for tourism is one that embraces openness, intersectionality, and cosmopolitan attitudes.

    The rural residents of WV are almost the exact opposite. Trump is polling over 90% there and that reflects the local attitudes. That has to be completely reversed before you can even think of bringing in tourists from the cities.

  • Kurt Entsminger

    Building on the marketing of “wild wonderful WV” is also a good direction. My wife who grew up in the Midwest and vacationed in Colorado as a child is in awe of West Virginiia’s beauty and its relative lack of commercialized tourism. That why keeping the New Ricet authentic makes sense. . Thinki of it anothet way. WV is a naturally beautiful and rustic getaway located just s few hours drive from tens of millions of people livkmg on the.urban East Coast. How about a tourism theme like “Retrestt to West Virginia” with a corresponding investment in expanding the opportunities to promote retreat. Look at Thomas in Tucker County as an example of s small town that is building itself into an eclectic and attractive destination by promoting combination of local arts and music. More of that.

  • Traci Dolan-Priestley

    You forgot building solar parks on all of the old mountaintop removal sites so we can become a forerunner in innovative technology, reclaim the mountains, create permanent jobs, and sell electricity.

  • Mark Lynn Ferguson

    Hi Becky. Thank you so much! See that goofy guy on the far right? That’s me. Click the pic to learn more.

  • Gregory trainor

    Bring back things that we lost like Petersburgh white water weekend races on the north fork of the Potomac or the blackwater 100 motorcycle race. in Davis wv. We need to get virginia to connect our corridor H to rt I 66 and I 8, to make access to WV easier. Work with the core of engineers to release water for white water boatiing, every weekend from spring to late fall, to establish an industry there. Attract out of staters and people from other countries to Lodges here where they could hunt and fish.

  • Paul Dunham

    Some really good ideas. I grew up in Morgantown and have lived in Fort Lauderdale for the last twenty seven years. Now retired, I love to take my partner and dogs to the mountains every year to escape the Florida heat. I can tell you that we did WV 4 years ago, blackwater falls, Canaan valley, the greenbrier, and the new river gorge. I’m really proud of my home state and happy to take friends there, but I just came back from a month in Machester Vermont, and last year spent a month in Ashville, ( for the second time), and WV tourism could learn a lot from those places. Vermont has had laws regulating roadside advertising, for years. No huge billboards, and I don’t remember ever seeing any junk on the roadside. The thing that really struck me there though we’re the trails! We went to the Equinox mountain preserve, and the place had miles of trails of varying levels of difficulty, from “flat lander,” to one that went to the peak and took 11 hours. They have great, easy to follow maps that give you one, two or three hour hikes. Some were bike trails. We also played a fair amount of golf, and saw some wonderful local theater. The restaurants are also terrific and we always order the local beer. Nothing better for a transplanted Florida person, than a local caught trout, and some Vermont Mac and cheese. Things that wv can do as well if not better. Most of the people we met in Vermont were from New Jersey, so people will travel just to get out in the woods.
    As for Ashville, the main reason we didn’t want to go back there is, there are too many floridians. We know lots of people who have second homes there, mainly because there are some decent restaurants and the climate is better in the summer. There is a whole market of boomers who have come to south Florida to retire, and are finding it’s not what they want. They’re moving to the mountains in nc. I’ve said for years that wv’s main asset was the natural beauty. I couldn’t be happier to see that I’m not alone.
    Trails, trails, trails, restaurants and beer! Not so hard.

  • Kate Long

    People all over the state have pulled together in a network aimed at knocking West Virginia off the worst health lists, community by community, by creating local projects that get people moving and make it easier for them to get healthy food! It’s starting to work! See http://www.trythiswv.com. Join in and get info on minigrants for your community: http://www.trythiswv.com

  • Jon White

    Building on the idea to give away a coal town, let’s take the SW portion of the state (Mingo, McDowell, Logan, Boone and Wyoming), and make it a park like the Adirondack Park in New York, which is a public/private partnership that maintains wilderness and provides opportunities for recreation while strictly controlling development. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adirondack_Park to learn more about the Adirondack Park

  • Phil Rolleston

    Thank you for your vision. Charlotte Pritt has a comprehensive plan coming very soon that will include all this and much more. Vote for you hopes and values, not out of fear!

  • Faith D

    I am so impressed by the thoughtful commentary of your readers, Mark.

    As a West-Virginian-By-Choice, it is painful to see native West Virginians clinging to old values that really have not served them well. Coal is not, was not, and never will be the state’s savior. In a way, residents suffer from Stockholm Syndrome…held captive by the out-of-staters who own the assets and rape the land and its people. West Virginians are loyal to coal, but coal is not loyal to them. (I’ll stop here before I rant further.)

    Suzi, I am 100% with you on “Why am I always in West Virginia?” I lived in Metro DC for 20+ years, then in Roanoke (which I loved), but STILL found myself in the Mountain State at every opportunity. Our rail-trails are incredible!

    When I moved to the middle of the state in 2004, I was asked to join an economic development authority (EDC) in my community. The members were primarily local land-owners whose true interest was in seeing what they could get for themselves, not the community.

    A developer attempted to build a small shopping center that would have attracted commuters, travelers and served the local area for 20 miles in any direction. It could have added 50 local jobs! He was blocked at every turn, despite investing some $5 million!

    When I asked one of the EDC members if he’d eaten at the new Chinese restaurant that had replaced one of the 5 pizza joints in town, he replied, “Hell no! I ain’t eatin’ nothin’ I cain’t pronounce the name of.” How can the state progress when local leadership is so narrowminded? (To your point, Hellbilly.)

    I also served on the board of a regional community services organization. It was going down the tubes financially. Instead of vigorously searching for alternative ways to provide and fund its services, the directors spent their time complaining about the executive officer, back-stabbing each other, and safeguarding their positions as representatives of their hometowns. The organization went under.

    You cannot underestimate the negative value and suspicion attached to someone who is “not from here” trying to move the status quo from its fixed position.

    This state is amazingly diverse and heartbreakingly beautiful.

    Paul Wilson’s and Gregory Trainor’s recommendations on incredible roads is such a good idea. It is also critical to educate our workforce. Why CAN’T we be Silicon Holler?

    And tourism…a no-brainer! (BTW, skiers, bicyclists, hikers, climbers, white water fiends are good spenders and don’t create the environmental damage of some other sports.)

    Mark, you and your generation are the ones to lead this state out of its static mindset.

    Tell us how YOU are engaged so we can support you.

  • Tim Martin

    So much shallow thinking here. Where do we begin?

    Give away a town? Towns are not owned by a single entity and cannot be summarily given away. All of the property owners would have to agree to do this, and why would they?

    New River Gorge State Park? First, it’s a National Park. Second, it already has an amazing network of trails. How would commercializing them be “authentic”?

    As for re-branding, re-training coal miners and your other suggestions, why didn’t we think of that? It all sounds so easy and obvious!

    I’ve grown so tired of these kinds of fluffy, empty-headed “thought” pieces published only to gain a chorus of “amens” from like-minded abstractionists who dwell in fantasy worlds.

  • Mark Lynn Ferguson

    Tim, thanks for the feedback. There are several state parks abutting the river along with national park land. Just updated that section to better reflect that. By giving away a town, I meant the state could purchase several key structures and give away the first round of units, sell the second round at a reduced rate, and then support developers as they take the town’s revival from there.

  • Mark Lynn Ferguson

    Oh, and Detroit’s Write A House is giving away remodeled houses to writers.

  • David Winter

    Just gave it a cursory look, but didn’t see Appalachia’s music legacy represented here. What can you do to capitalize on WV’s already mighty musical traditions? Turn one of the coal towns into the next Nashville? More roots music festivals? A state-sponsored recording label? Just thinking out loud here…

  • Anonymous

    I would love to see all of these ideas enacted. People who live here need a reason to stay, and it’s not always a job, but a way of life that can do that.

  • Mark Lynn Ferguson

    Way of life means the world to businesses looking for new locations. Sierra Nevada says it was a big reason they chose Asheville. Deschutes Brewery says it was a big reason they chose Roanoke.

  • Anonymous

    We did have a great Flea Market in Harpers Ferry until the Park Service bought the property. We still have a smaller version…but, we no longer get the sellers from Maryland, Virginia & DC. It`s not great.

  • Patrick Fluty

    Not one mention of Agriculture in the state the possibilities are limitless. We spend 7 billion on food and only grow 650 million. Schools, institutions, prisons. Almost all of this food is purchased out of state. Thousands of WV citizens already own farms. Plus the thousands of strip mine acres. These could be used for a variety of farming ventures.

  • Chuck Ritter

    I’d like to see a network of roads improved for anyone interested in scenic trips, especially two lane roads (the more curvy and obscure the better) for motorcyclists. I know quite a few folks who like to travel to other states because they have a stretch of roads that are interesting to ride, have good roadside attractions that reflects the local culture and cuisine, and provide great views for the riders. Blue Ridge Parkway, the Dragons Tail, there are quite a few examples already out there.

  • Joan Harman

    I see a lot of discussion here regarding expanding tourism. Some nice ideas, but you are ignoring the fact that a great number of these outdoor activities cannot take place during our winter months. So, then what? And aren’t we making the same all-our-eggs-in-one-basket mistake if we concentrate only on tourism – just like we have with coal?
    West Virginia needs a diversified economy – so that the state can survive downturns in one or a few industries, which will always occur over a period of time. We’ve also got to grow a tax base that will allow us to build some of the fantastic road systems mentioned here. We aren’t going to do that with the anti-business climate our state still has (just look at the difference between Bluefield, VA and Bluefield WV), despite some promising changes in our laws. Currently, there is NO money to improve infrastructure – and there won’t be for the foreseeable future with the budget deficits we’re facing. We MUST have a business-friendly environment!
    Lastly, I see some suggestions about training, which is ok in the short run, but our citizens also need EDUCATION – so that they are prepared for a multitude of career choices, and have the flexibility to change careers if/when needed.

  • Scott Noble

    I have two questions; Who are you and why the f**k are you not running for office? AWESOME IDEAS!

  • Jim Steed

    The completion of corridor H will really help the ski areas. hopefully Virginia gets off its butt and finishes its very small section.

  • Andrea

    West Virginia is gorgeous, I think they need to reach out to their fellow Appalachian Mountain regions such as Vermont, New Hampshire, Upstate New York, the Berkshires, and the Smokies for economic support and cross-cultural inspirations for travel and commerce. I am from the mountains of New England and felt totally at home down in WV when I drove through. The hills are dramatic, the light is incredible, the air is delicious. The people are nice. I will definitely go back to explore again. I hear the folk music festivals are amazing. But tourism is pretty seasonal, as any mountain community can tell you — you need something to sustain you year round. I think West Virginia needs to invest in education (including for adults seeking new careers) big time — people with good educations know what’s best for their own region, without having to be told what people from everywhere else are doing, that might not work for them. Maybe build some intercollegiate relationships with other mountain schools around the country to attract teachers and professors to WV?

  • S.B

    I thought these ideas were good. I shook my head at some of the comments though. And you can’t just give away these towns. They are just old run down towns to you but to those of us who live here they are part of our heritage which means way more to us than money. Focusing on local Artisans and food is a good idea and we are already working on trails. The vast majority are Trump and coal supporters. But nearly half the state was behind Bernie Sanders as well. What’s being backed is disestablishmentarianism. They think Trump will fix the economy. Everyone where I live is very happy with the Millennial way of thinking. It’s what we’ve been saying for years. Leave the forests as you found them. Live naturally.No we do not want big strip malls etc built in WV. My family had to go to court four times just to keep our land. That is NOT okay. We are fine with moving forward as long as it doesn’t hurt our heritage. It is possible to step into the future without letting go of the past. By cherishing it and promoting it. Upgrading the roads that exist would be fine but keep your mitts off my mountain. Here in Tucker County we already have year round tourism. Brewskies Festival, Artspring, Alpine Festival, Leaf Peepers Festival,Purple Fiddle, 2 ski resorts, State Parks and National Forests, Thomas Education Center, East West Prining, Parsons water park, Blackwater Outdoor Adventures,Allegheny Holistic Health Care,PIMBY (who have installed solar panels on businesses here) Highland Market,Two local breweries, many good restaurants that people from other states make it a point to go to, farmers markets every Friday and two that stay open all summer,a Boulder Park coming soon, just to name a few. We also hast a vast array of hiking and biking trails.We are already on the track you’re proposing. The rest of the state just needs to follow our lead.

  • Anonymous

    Hyperloop.

    For real.

    Interstates from the east coast shipping cities are crumbling. A high-speed rail system that avoids the Appalachian mountains by going beneath them could be the default for goods transport. Simultaneously bringing in tourists and weekenders.

    And our history of mining means we already have a lot of the tools and skills to undertake such a project.

  • Betty Dotson-Lewis

    Hi Y’all, I like some of your suggestions. I live in Summersville, West Virginia and after living in Lake Nornan, NC and then, returning to Summersville, I want to hold on to the things that make WV different – slow-paced lifestyle, natural beauty of mountains and water – Gauley and New Rivers and a three acre lawn with deer grazing on the edges but I am retired.

    We need jobs desperately but I hope we don’t have to sacrifice our lifestyle in order to make a living. Having said that, I am most interested in creating jobs that revitalize our culture like Cabin Creek Quilts started by Sharon Rockefeller, creating self-sufficient communities with a concentration on agriculture (a little bit like what Eleanor Roosevelt did), drawing in more people to explore and enjoy our mountains, forests and waterways. A visit to Tamarack in Beckley, WV will give you an idea of what talents lie behind these remote mountains. The arts can be profitable but we don’t know how to do this. (my opinion)

    We need more health care services, preventive and actual care and affordable elderly care facilities. These entities offer both jobs and solutions.

    Reverting to the agriculture concept this state was founded on is an idea mountain folk can get excited about. Jim Justice told me last week in person while I was visiting the Greenbrier Resort there is a future for coal in West Virginia but I hear otherwise from others. The future or non-future of coal depends on what candidate you talk to.

    I feel like we can get younger mountaineers involved in jobs requiring higher levels of education because they want to stay here. Unemployed coal miners, reluctant to get out of his hard hat and steel toed boots and into a business suit can turn to farming and national park services and building roads and bridges and logging – they can do this. Civil Service projects instead of welfare payments.

    Also, the music trail can bring people here. Summersville, West Virginia hosts one of the biggest bluegrass festivals in the country annually – Music in the Mountains.

    I applaud anyone who comes up with solutions to put WV at the top of the “good” lists. This state has a unique group of people who are talented, hard-working and self-sufficient. The people here deserve an opportunity to earn and enjoy a lifestyle that promotes and protects their health and well-being and offers opportunities to young people to stay here. We don’t need a welfare state. We don’t need continuous handouts but opportunities and the tools to implement therm. Thank you. Take care.

  • Seth Allen

    I live near Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge and its honestly an ugly mess – strip malls, bad traffic, and chain restaurants. It’s like a mountain-themed version of Myrtle Beach, SC. Avoid that type of tourism at all costs!

    I love WV scenery – the rolling hills and the quaint towns and cities. Most of these cities have quaint, compact downtown with beautiful architecture – I could see them experiencing a revitalization like Asheville or Roanoke. I think a revitalization plan that focuses on small businesses, local culture, and revamping existing architecture would be ideal. Give people a unique experience – not a strip mall which they could visit in 1,000 other cities.

  • Greg Hairston

    Jim Justice campaign slogan bringing coal back reflects the backwardness that truly permeates the state. I’m third generation college educated African American from Beckley who’s Grandmother received her undergrad from Bluefield State and her masters fro
    Wvu in1952 when it was far from inclusive. What I remember most fondly was the campassion and empathy that was then the standard. Tourism cannot support a state who’s population in1950 was the same as S.C. Wind energy retraining coal miners to other blue collar jobs being receptive to business vs diversive I.e. B&O tax would be a start and the politics of the state reflect pure pessimism. BTW I just put to rest my son who passed away on his third day of college orientation but this topic is this important to me. Justice nor Trump reflect our values please pray for me

  • Mark Lynn Ferguson

    Greg, my deepest condolences. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  • Cherese Weaver

    I’m selling my Art Gallery on the Midland Trail Scenic Byway! It’s in Fayette County, near Babcock State Park, and in a beautiful location. It has a large Showroom, attached Apartment, Studio Space, 3 Kilns and other Pottery Equipment. A fantastic opportunity! The Midland Trail Gallery

  • Marilee Bowles-Carey

    Since first reading this post, I have been thinking a lot about how change happens in communities, particularly communities in which institutions and economies have been nearly decimated, like my native Detroit. My professional experience makes me believe that enduring, large-scale change only happens when individual top-down and bottom-up efforts align–when shared purpose gets a few visionary people onto the same page. I also know that you have to try a lot of things, and keep trying until you hit on the right mix of solutions. Look for high-leverage ideas (where a smaller effort yields an outsized impact). Find them and everything can accelerate—like a flywheel.

    There is something very simple and truly powerful in Betty Dotson-Lewis’s comments. An open mind, a critical eye, and faith in the future like Betty’s will get you somewhere.

    And I came across this in the WSJ this morning.

    (http://www.glasshousecollective.org/about/)

    The Glass House Collective is a group of residents from a troubled neighborhood of Chattanooga that has been bypassed by that city’s recent economic turnaround. This group has been working together to revitalize their community from the ground up, and they have explored a number of grass-roots ideas that deserve some attention.

    In particular, the Living History and Flea Market Pop Up projects seem like interesting ways to initiate community engagement and seed an entrepreneurial spirt. An AIA-sponsored Design Charrette featured community residents as key participants in a re-visioning of their community’s street scape, and the PPRWRK wheat paste mural project engaged youth in an experience of both creative expression and the real-life tactical challenge of installing public art in the community.

    It would be good to know more about how the GHC came into being. And how it sustains it’s mission.

    I’m sure there are other examples out there, of communities making their own change. What can we learn from therm?

  • Michael Barrick

    All great ideas, especially #s 1 & 5. Great evidence of a mind at work. Now, if we could find some of those in Charleston …

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