Steve Foster told the Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce Monday that the completion of Corridor H could be just the trick to spur continued growth in the region.
The real trick, however, is to find the $800 million needed to complete the road by 2020.
The director of the Upshur County Development Authority, Foster said there would be significant impacts to the economic development of the region should the road way stretching from Interstate 79 in Weston to the Virginia border be completed 14 years ahead of the currently projected schedule.
Steve Foster, the director of the Upshur County Development Authority, outlines the area of Corridor H still needing to be completed. (The Inter-Mountain photo by John Wickline)
"I can tell you right now, the number is huge of what it could mean to this state," Foster said, noting that the findings will be presented to a federal panel in November. "The drive from Buckhannon to Washington, D.C., will be less than three hours. We are trying to come up with creative ways to finance that."
He also said people need to be prepared for the growth that should accompany the road's completion.
"It's only one-fourth of a mile from that exit to the downtown," Foster said. "A lot of other communities along the Corridor don't have that advantage. We have to plan for that."
Also in the plans in the coming months is the widening of Brushy Fork Road from Corridor H to the airport. He said that is being done to accommodate the new West Virginia Army National Guard facility being built in the area.
The project is a $15-million investment into the community, and it will feature a conference center for use by local groups.
Foster also discussed the "steel coming up from the ground" in the vicinity of the U.S. Route 33 intersection with West Virginia Route 20. He said there is potential for as many as nine retail locations and two restaurants to locate in that area.
"It's not going to be your typical strip mall," he said. "It will be a courtyard. It will be a very attractive facility. My hope is that it is something Buckhannon will support, not something they will drive by on their way to (Clarksburg) or Elkins."
Foster also said that about one of every nine families have someone who commutes from Upshur County to a job in Clarksburg or Fairmont.
"That wasn't even on the books seven years ago," he said. "People like our small-town atmosphere."
The Development Authority used to work as a "match-maker," Foster said, trying to find spots for potential business development opportunities.
"Buckhannon has some of the most expensive real estate in West Virginia," he said. "That includes Morgantown, Charleston and Huntington. There's not a lot of it, and the people who have it don't want to let it go."
He said his organization is in negotiations with two companies that, if successful, could fill the remaining 17 acres of the local industrial park.