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Tourism, industry driving economic growth

April 25, 2013
By Anthony Gaynor - Night Editor ( , The Inter-Mountain

The improvements in the national economy are reflected in the growth being experienced locally. Over the course of the last year, Armstrong World Industries, Elkins Fordland and TRG have expanded staff, and other new businesses such as the Iron Road Inn have shown Randolph County is moving in a positive direction.

Randolph County Development Authority Executive Director Robbie Morris said the expansions in the local market are a result of the national economy improving.

"During the national economic recession, many of the industries in the area had to lay off employees, cut hours, shifts, or hold off on hiring more employees," Morris said. "As the economy begins to recover and national economic indicators such as housing data improves, our local companies are beginning to regain what they lost."

Article Photos

Elkins Fordland general manager Justin Jackson, left, and owner Jim Jackson discuss the expansion of the business that now covers six and a half acres and features a new auto detailing facility. The business also has added new sales staff and increased its online presence over the course of the last year. (File Photo)

Morris said local business TRG has announced multiple large hirings over the last couple years, putting several people to work. He said Northwest Hardwoods purchased Coastal Lumber Co., brought people back to work and added a second shift to its Dailey Yard and Mill operations.

Morris added the Hamer's Pellet Plant in the Elkins Industrial Park also has made significant capital investments in its operations over the past year.

Davis Memorial Hospital has made and is continuing to make a significant investment to its physicians office building, which currently is under construction. Morris cited a strong healthcare system as being vital to the local economy, development and the overall quality of life.

Morris also cited the tourism sector that is continuing to grow rapidly in the county. He said the successes of the American Mountain Theater, Gandy Dancer Theatre, Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad and many other attractions have continued to attract more visitors.

The rise in tourism also highlighted the need of having additional facilities where visitors can stay. Morris said The Iron Road Inn, which opened in December 2012, is a prime example of a business being able to succeed because of the success in the tourism industry.

The hotel features a railroad theme with spacious double, queen and adjoining rooms. One suite is decorated to honor Marilyn Monroe - who loved to ride trains. It also features handicap-accessible rooms. The upper lodge building with 18 rooms offers exterior entrances with queen adjoining rooms, kitchenette suites and single rooms.

Elkins Fordland is another example of how businesses are succeeding. Owner Jim Jackson said the combination of the economic recovery, the hiring of workers and new businesses has created an atmosphere for success. He said Fordland is a example of the improvements seen throughout the county.

"We've purchased an adjoining property to give us a continuous six and a half acres to display a larger inventory," he said. "We needed this to keep up with the sales pace because of the current high rate of sales the auto industry is experiencing."

The success of the business also has allowed Fordland to purchase a new service building. He said the facility will continue to grow from a light service work and auto detailing area.

"It will eventually expand into a six-bay facility," Jackson said.

Jackson said Fordland has hired additional sales staff and expanded the online presence of the business.

The expansions and additions over the last year are just a start, Morris said. He said the RCDA is experiencing more interest from businesses wanting to possibly locate in the area.

"They have been inquiring about land, buildings and companies in the region which they can do business with," Morris said. "All of these things are positive indicators that we are heading in the right direction."

Morris added that the RCDA wants to remain focused on items that will greatly help the area to expand. The highest priority to bring more growth to Randolph County is the completion of Corridor H.

"A main component for growing an economy is transportation," he said. "The RCDA, along with many other public and private organizations are working hard to push for the completion of Corridor H earlier than is currently scheduled."

Morris said another key component of economic development is having a skilled and drug-free work force.

"We can have all of the job vacancies in the world, but if we do not have the employees to fill them it does not do us any good," he said. "This is one reason we are hosting the first annual Randolph County Job Fair. I constantly hear from employers looking for new employees and I hear from employees looking for employment."

Morris hopes the event will bring the people together - reducing the unemployment rate and create a significant improvement to the local economy.

"We are focused on helping our local employers grow, while also looking for new opportunities to diversify our economy," he said. "We promote our strengths, while improving our deficiencies, and that is what makes Randolph County a great place to do business."



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