By FRED PACE
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Economic development and getting people back to work were the main topics of U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito’s keynote address at the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 126th annual dinner Thursday night at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena.
“We are working on broadband deployment, retraining our miners, getting people back to work in manufacturing, tax reform and health care in Washington,” said Capito, R-W.Va. “West Virginia is having serious economic issues, but we are also having a tightening at the federal level, too, so I think it is going to take an all-hands-on-deck approach that includes those on the local, state and federal levels.”
Capito says new ways of generating resources must be taken into consideration.
“I think in the past, maybe there was a heavy reliance on federal or state dollars to be the only funding mechanism and the best way, but I think what we are finding is the most sustainable is when it comes from the ground up and encompasses all kinds of input and ideas,” she said.
Capito said even though West Virginia is transitioning and diversifying its economy, coal is still viable.
“I think coal has a great place to play in our nation’s energy economy,” she said.
“At the same time, we need to transition into the new economy, whether that’s advanced manufacturing, which you see Marshall University playing a big role in, or investing into high-speed internet.”
Capito said West Virginia still faces challenges.
“I am looking at infrastructure development, and it’s not just roads anymore. It’s basic broadband that I think is very important,” she said.
“I think also we need to be more creative in our financing. I have been looking at new market tax credits to expand those to more places in West Virginia.”
Capito also congratulated Huntington on being named America’s Best Community on Wednesday during an awards ceremony in Denver, Colorado.
“What a great opportunity for Huntington,” she said. “I think this highlights Huntington as a city that is looking to the future. I saw some of their plans that recognize community redevelopment, retraining, creative entrepreneurship, and these are the kinds of things that Huntington is doing on all levels to reinvigorate its community. I encourage Huntington residents to take a step back and look at all the good things going on here. You have many great restaurants, microbreweries, manufacturing and Marshall spreading its wings with engineering and new buildings and so much more. Sometimes when you live in a place, you don’t recognize it, but I do.”
Capito’s message hit home with Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce President Bill Bissett.
“Sen. Capito listens and engages,” Bissett said. “We see Washington as a dysfunctional place, but she isn’t that way. It’s that wanting to meet people and listen to them that is lost in most political circles, but it seems to be Sen. Capito’s strong suit. I think people just gravitate to her optimistic look on the future of West Virginia.”
The chamber’s membership includes businesses from heavy manufacturing to food service, according to Bissett.
“When I think of the 550-plus members of our chamber, they are busy doing what they do, which is providing a service or building a product. That is their focus,” he said.
“Telling their story can sometimes be a secondary concern, and that is what the chamber does. Plus, the chamber offers great networking opportunities.”
The dinner was sponsored by Frontier Communications, BrickStreet Insurance, Cabell Huntington Hospital, First Sentry Bank, Jenkins Fenstermaker PLLC, Marshall University, Natural Resource Partners (NRP) and St. Mary’s Medical Center.
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