On Thursday, the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority and WVU co-hosted their annual Regional Development Summit. The Regional Development Authority covers four counties including, Raleigh, Fayette, Summers and Nicholas.
“The Summit is to help people understand what we’re doing to support businesses. We also have our four community development agents here who work on projects like recreation, beautification, things that are really more on the community development side,” said Lillian Graning, Chief Communications Officer for NRGRDA.
The summit began in 2014 and has grown each year. It is designed to engage local officials, community leaders and entrepreneurs by making them aware of the resources that are available to them, as well as new businesses that are opening in their region.
Graning added, “In rural communities it’s difficult for people to understand what resources are available to them. So we may have six or seven organizations offering support for businesses, but if they aren’t aware of what things are, then it is impossible for them to utilize them. So, this is also an educational effort to help them understand what resources are available to them.”
The event also spoke about West Virginia’s current economy.
“West Virginia has suffered greatly in recent years. Ultimately, the state lost 26,000 jobs between 2012 and last year. But the state has gained back 4,500 of those jobs. Here in the New River Gorge region, the same pattern has happened. We’ve lost a lot of jobs over a four or five year period, but we’ve seen the economy turn around, and we’ve seen growth start again,” said John Deskins, Director of WVU Bureau of Business Economic Research.
However, Deskins says the only negative is West Virginia’s economic growth isn’t as rapid as they would like for it to be. But by expanding beyond gas and coal, summit officials say West Virginia can see a large economic growth.