Chamber hears from UCDA director

BUCKHANNON – Rob Hinton knows the sacrifices that must be made in order to run a business.

Hinton is the new executive director of the Upshur County Development Authority. He took the post earlier this month. Not only does he have a background in business, he has close ties to the community, officials said.

On Monday, he spoke to members of the Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce during the group’s noon meeting.

Chamber President Lori Meadows said she is looking forward to working with Hinton. She believes he has the drive and initiative Upshur County needs to progress.

“We have all the confidence in the world in him. We’re excited to pull in his regional connections. There’s just a lot of optimism. It’s an exciting time to have some fresh blood with The Event Center at Brushy Fork opening,” she said.

Hinton’s goals are to promote development along Corridor H and entice more tenants into the county’s industrial park. He also would like to see the development of office parks in the county to compliment industrial growth.

“Two hundred jobs are projected to be added to the area before Christmas. And there’s popular demand for a recreational and sports facility,” Hinton said. “That excites me, too. There’s a lot going on in Upshur County and there is going to be more.”

Though he’s an Akron native, Hinton is no stranger to West Virginia and Upshur County.

He attended college at Glenville State in Gilmer County on a football scholarship. He later attended West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon.

“I’m not originally from West Virginia, but I got here as quickly as I could,” he said. “And what I found was that it was easy to make friends in West Virginia.”

Hinton grew to love the state and wanted to make it his permanent home. But like many in West Virginia, he found that he had to leave to find job opportunities.

He worked in the athletics field in Colorado for a time, and also owned and operated a sports training center in Akron. As a business owner, he experienced the impact of tough economic conditions.

“You have to have walked in those shoes to understand what a business does to you,” Hinton said. “We went from making $40,000 in revenue a month to making $5,000.”

Hinton decided to return to the Mountain State and continue his education. He completed a master’s degree at Wesleyan. But again he had to leave the state to find employment.

Later, he landed a job working with the West Virginia Small Business Development Center.

He applied for the Upshur County Development Authority position upon learning of former director Stephen Foster’s intention to retire. Foster has been a great mentor, Hinton said.

“To have the torch passed on to me is a great honor,” he said.

One of Hinton’s goals is to help assure that people in Upshur County do not have to leave West Virginia to find opportunity.

“I want to help figure a way for people who want to stay in West Virginia to be able to stay,” he said.

Sam Nolte is president of the development authority’s board of directors. The board went through an extensive interview process and found Hinton brought the right skill set and background to the table.

“He’s an entrepreneur himself. He’s worked with other small businesses throughout the area. He has a lot of energy and definitely has Upshur County’s interests at heart,” Nolte said.

Hinton’s goal of providing opportunities for West Virginians to stay in the Mountain State is critical, Nolte said.

“It’s easy to say you want people to stick around. But you have to create opportunities for them. Rob understands that,” he said.