Economic development support strengthens small businesses in southern West Virginia

Economic development support strengthens small businesses in southern West Virginia

The economy in southern West Virginia has been weakening in recent years due to the declining coal industry, which was long the state’s most lucrative employer. Jobs have been lost as mines have closed, and the region is losing population at a rapid rate.

West Virginia State University Extension Service collaborated with the Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreation Authority (H-MRRA) to place a full-time Extension agent into the multi-county region of southern West Virginia supported by an all-terrain vehicle trail system. The H-MRRA is a recreational organization made up of more than 700-plus miles of ATV trails and is quickly becoming a vital entity to bolster economic development as more small businesses attempt to cater to the tourists coming to the region for trail riding.

The WVSU Extension agent provided direct economic development support to the businesses located along the trails. This included:

  • Conducting routine site visits to learn the needs of the businesses and how to support them to ensure success
  • Conducting trainings on topics such as business plan development and marketing to improve their skill sets
  • Developing a network of regional business owners to broaden collaboration along the trail system

The collaboration has provided much-needed support services to 140 businesses in the region. These efforts led to the development of 11 new small businesses along the all-terrain vehicle trail system to bolster regional tourism. Additionally, nine existing businesses expanded their operations, leading to increased economic activity in the region as visitors have more opportunities for shopping, dining and spending money along the trails.