By Wendy Holdren
Victor Flanagan, the newly appointed chairman of the Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce, says the Chamber will work this year to address the prescription drug abuse epidemic.
Flanagan, a local attorney for over 25 years, said he plans to work closely with the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department, Beckley Police and the West Virginia State Police to help take control of the growing drug problem.
“We see it’s impacted our workforce. The Chamber of Commerce is involved in business and employment, and it has a huge impact on businesses moving here.”
He hopes to usher in an era of an educated, drug-free workforce in Raleigh County.
“We’re business-driven. Our goals are right there — a good employee base and good employers.”
When businesses have educated, drug-free workers to hire, Flanagan said employment rates will go up and more businesses will see Beckley as a potential location to set up shop.
Flanagan said he will not only address the issues by working with law enforcement, but will also work closely with the Raleigh County Board of Education.
“The last three superintendents have laid a foundation for a very good school system. We hope to make Raleigh County a showcase for education in West Virginia.”
He noted the Chamber’s recent endorsement of drug testing in schools and he said they hope to implement that plan by next fall.
“Our plan is not a punishment. It gives students an opportunity to say no.”
Flanagan referenced a bill Delegate Joe Ellington, R-Mercer, plans to re-offer that would require drug testing of teenagers when they apply for a driver’s license.
He said by requiring drug tests for driver’s licenses or to participate in extracurricular activities, students will have an incentive to combat peer pressure and stay drug-free.
His term as chairman began Jan. 1 and he said he feels very positive about what can be accomplished in Raleigh County.
“We have had a very active Chamber over the past several years. It sometimes takes months or even years to see an impact, but I think it’s time to take the next step.”
The lifelong Beckley resident and BRCCC member for the past eight years said in addition to combating the drug problem, he also plans to work closely with the University of Charleston.
“They are extremely important not just for Beckley, but for all of southern West Virginia. They will have a huge economic impact.”
He said the benefits of having a university nearby are twofold — not only does UC have a great reputation for providing quality education, it can also generate possible millions of dollars in revenue in the area.
“We turned a very negative into a positive.”
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