Upshur County geared for growth

The Upshur County Commission and Buckhannon City Council are preparing to aim for retail growth in the area through the help of data gathered by Buxton, a company that organizes information to determine the local clientele and their shopping needs.

At a recent special joint meeting, Steve Foster of the Upshur County Development Authority hinted there may be an announcement soon about retail or residential growth in the county.

“There are some current developments that I can’t share with you this evening that we’re working on that would allow us to attract several of these into one location, and that’s exciting,” Foster said. “I think as a result of this study, we’ll end up with some new businesses retail-wise here in Upshur County.”

It’s not just businesses that could grow in Upshur County. Foster said people who want to come to Upshur County have difficulty finding a place to live.

“Hopefully we’re going to be able to make (an) announcement on (housing) as well,” Foster said, alluding to a possibility of an upscale development.

Foster said that Upshur County is one of 17 counties in West Virginia with a growing population.

“The big news is that we are growing, and we’re one of the few counties that can claim that,” Foster said.

He said there are two things currently happening to help the area grow – people are retiring to Upshur County and the cost of living is low. He also said Upshur County is within good proximity to Clarksburg.

“They want to have a small-town identity where they think they can make a difference, or a small-town environment where they feel their kids are safe. It’s quality of life that a lot of people are looking for,” he said.

Foster said one of the reasons this study is being done is to help bring more professionals to the area. He said it is difficult to get professionals to move to the county because of the lack of retail shopping and “a host of different reasons.”

The Buxton data also provided information about what types of businesses could be successful in Upshur County, and what Upshur County is losing in regard to businesses it lacks. It also projects what companies would not be successful in the area.

“So if somebody is interested in starting a business here, you can show them, ‘Hey, there’s a need for your product in Upshur County and Buckhannon,'” Foster said.

The conclusions are drawn from data about the type of customers concentrated in Upshur County. Customer types are determined based on a number of factors and categorized into 60 different types.

He said the largest customer-base found by the Buxton data is that most of the Upshur County population fits the category of “steadfast conservatives.” The customer-base description for these families is that they are usually 65 or older, live in mid-scale houses, live by an “old-fashioned reputation,” prefer print media like newspapers, think the stock market is too risky and spend money at places like Jo-Ann Fabrics and on automotive parts and vehicles.

Some businesses projected to be successful include Ace Hardware, Applebee’s and Ruby Tuesdays, based on the demographics provided in the data. Businesses the findings predicted may have a harder time in Upshur County are Midas, Shoe Warehouse, Famous Footwear, Jumbo Juices, Cheddar’s and Olive Garden.

“What Buxton is telling us makes a lot of sense,” Foster said. “Anything that helps the overall community helps economic development.”