For most of the state’s existence we have relied on extraction industries. Unfortunately, coal has been on a steady decline since the 1950s. While coal will not likely go away completely in our lifetime, we must plan for the continued drop in production. West Virginia has a lot to offer. We have an able and hardworking workforce made up of men and women capable of learning any skill, trade, or industry. We have a great vineyard and winery in Spencer. We have the Mothman Festival in Point Pleasant, which draws thousands of visitors annually. People want to come here to work, live, and have fun. Our beautiful state just needs marketed better, and we need fresh ideas from our leaders. Below is my plan for economic diversification:
- Increase industrial hemp production statewide. Hemp is a versatile agricultural product. It can be used to make rope, clothing, paper, building materials, plastics, pharmaceuticals, and more. Increasing hemp production will broaden our agricultural sector and allow the state to attract hemp manufacturing industries in places like Ravenswood, where factories already exist. It is also good for the environment, sustainable, and renewable.
- Focus on downtown redevelopment. We live in a different economy now. It is difficult to compete with national chain stores; however, there is one way this can be accomplished. By empowering entrepreneurs to open specialty shops, restaurants, and other businesses, we can make downtown areas thrive again. I have already seen the potential across the district and in other areas. There are downtown areas in every county where we have seen empty buildings.
- Boost tourism. We have a beautiful state with much to offer travelers. Attracting visitors to the state should be a priority. At the same time, it is important to understand tourism alone will not save us. It is only one piece of a successful diversification plan.