The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


April 13, 2014

Team work

Region’s chances for better future enhanced by working together

There is no doubt that last week’s announcement by the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority of plans for a 500-acre Mega-Site development is one of the most visionary ideas we have seen in southern West Virginia.

The scope of the project is so large, and its unveiling so unexpected, that it is difficult at this point to get a real grasp on just how big the potential is for the region.

“We have a sense of urgency; we have to do something to diversify the economy. A Mega-Site or Sites will be the key to helping us do that,” said Chad Wykle, NRGRDA executive director.

Urgency and vision have rarely been words that have been combined when we have heard previous talk about diversification of our economy in the region.

This time looks different.

The Mega-Site is far more than just a grand industrial park. In fact, we expect industrial parks that are in place throughout southern West Virginia will provide key support to Mega-Site companies, wherever the Mega-Site finally ends up.

We see some of the potential for interaction between our present infrastructure and the Mega-Site in comments by Tom Cochran, who manages Raleigh County Memorial Airport.

It’s about new thinking, and new ways to build our future.

“First and foremost, it is a way to diversify,” Cochran told The Register-Herald. “ ... we need to support ourselves by different means. These are major visions of big corporations that would bring a different menu of jobs.”

Municipal airports like Cochran’s are just one piece of the broader mosaic of opportunity that the Mega-Site offers.

To succeed, this vision needs to tap into all of the region’s infrastructure assets, such as our interstates, our present industrial parks, our railways, our educational institutions and our workforce.

It isn’t known yet just where the Mega-Site will locate, whether in Fayette, Nicholas, Raleigh or Summers counties. But for once, we’re talking on the front end about pooling our resources for an idea that will benefit everyone within the NRGRDA area.

Presenting a unified front for the benefit of all counties and municipalities has not always been the rule in the region. Often in the past, big ideas were stillborn thanks to infighting between counties, between cities and towns, and between our elected leaders.

But the Mega-Site seems to have been received with a new sense of cooperation, an acknowledgment that our chances for a better future are enhanced by working together across both county and municipal lines.

“Any success in any county mean(s) success for us all,” Fayette County Commissioner and NRGRDA President Matt Wender told The Register-Herald last week.    

“Even if it happens in Raleigh County, it will create jobs,” said Nicholas County Commissioner and NRGRDA board member Ken Altizer said.

“What’s good for one county, will be good for all four,” said Raleigh County Commissioner Dave Tolliver.

It may take years for the Mega-Site to become reality. But for the first time in a long time, we believe a project of this scope  has the necessary foundation for success.

It will take vision, and leadership, and smart decision-making and hard work.

It’s time we get started.

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