By: Lydia Crawley
The Parsons Advocate
During the regular session meeting of the Tucker County Economic Development, the board received updates on the progress of the group from Executive Director Steve Leyh.
According to Leyh, the median home and sale prices are both still trending high within the county with a rise of over 43%. Leyh said, “In Tucker County, the median listed home price in August was $381,750, up 43% year over year. The median home sold price in August was $300,000. It’s still trending high.”
The County is seeing record low unemployment, according to Leyh. “We hit record low unemployment,” Leyh said. “33 year record low in July, 3.1%. It’s the lowest it’s ever been.”
Leyh said he had also been networking with businesses in reference to a new state training program. “There’s program called The Governor’s Guaranteed Workforce, it’s basically a training,” Leyh said. “The state government wants to offset some cost for training. Trying to get some people involved and utilize that program.”
Also, as part of his report, Leyh updated the board on the work he is doing as part of the West Virginia Economic Development Council. “West Virginia Economic Development Council, we had our August meeting,” Leyh said. “I represented Region VII. We are planning to attend interim legislative sessions in October. We’re supposed to go in September, but they bumped us at the last minute. So, we are going to try to go to the Economic Development and Tourism Committee on behalf of all the Economic Development Authorities around the state. Mainly, we’re focused at updating the committee on what we do, since a lot don’t know what Development Authorities do. And also advocating for an increase in the Economic Development Grants and the State has been pretty much flat since I’ve been in West Virginia these six years.”
According to Leyh, the Hardwood Alliance Zone will have a national facilitator visiting all 12 counties in the Zone’s area as part of the organizations strategic planning initiative. “We have a national facilitator coming in to look at all 12 counties in the HAZ region, Hardwood Alliance Zone. They’re going to be talking to folks in the hardwood industry and we are going to try to develop a strategic plan to kind of guide us forward and we are also going to be exhibiting, I think I mentioned this before, at the the National Hardwood Lumber Association Trade Show. We’re doing that in combination with State Economic Development.” Leyh said he was attending to promote the growing hardwood industry.
The Governor’s Conference on Tourism had several record setting numbers, according to Leyh. The event, held at Canaan State Park, was the largest in the State’s history, according to Leyh and boasted increases in tourism. “The Governor’s Conference on Tourism was held in Canaan State Park,” Leyh said. “They had over 300 conference attendees. The biggest in the history, largest in the history of the State. Governor Justice announced that West Virginia just had the best tourism year ever. $7 billion last year. 30% growth since 2016. 54 million visitors to the State since 2022.”
According to Leyh, growth in the lodging market has been in the short-term sector. “Growth from lodging has really come from the short-term rental market when looking at lodging grown,” Leyh said. “That’s really been sort of the driver. Cabins and things of that nature.”
The Department of Tourism is also launching a new program aimed at education related to the growing tourism industry, according to Leyh. “And to try to conquer workforce issues, the Department of Tourism is launching a new workforce program they’ve come up with aimed at tourism work. Basically, the goal of the program is to educate the State’s workforce about tourism jobs and prepare them because there is going to be a substantial increase in tourism jobs as this industry continues to grow. So, they’re working with the Community College system to prepare a curriculum in the high schools.”
According to Leyh, the program is funded through a grant from the federal government. “The program is funded. It got a $5 million grant from the US Department of Economic Development Administration,” Leyh said.
Several projects in the area have been directed to utilize the West Virginia Tourism Act program, according to Leyh. “The West Virginia Tourism Act,” Leyh said. “This is a program that has been utilized in the past by Tucker County. Timberline took advantage of it whenever they came here. I connected Valley View Cabin Resort to this program. It’s a 25 to 35 percent of the total project cost to reimburse through sales tax credits.”
According to Leyh, the program requires a million dollars of investment to qualify, along with other requirements to be met. “The program requires a million dollars of investment to participate,” Leyh said. “One million dollars, that includes land acquisition and infrastructure and building so it’s not that difficult to get that number anymore. You have to attract at least 25% of the visitors from out of state and open at least 100 days a year and lodging cannot be any more than 50% of the approved costs.”
Leyh said that if any of the board knew of someone who could benefit, to let them know of the program. “If you know anybody that’s interested in tourism in Tucker County or anywhere in West Virginia they should consider that.”
The next meeting of the Tucker County Development Authority will be held on October 19 at 6 p.m. at the National Youth Science Center located at 494 Riverstone Road in Davis.