At its annual dinner last Thursday, the Pocahontas County Chamber of Commerce celebrated the efforts of businesses and individuals who work to improve the economic development and atmosphere of the communities in the county.
The chamber honored Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Cara Rose as Person of the Year and Jacob S. Meck Construction, et. al. as Businesses of the Year.
Chamber president Bill Jordan explained why Rose was selected for the honor.
“This person is no stranger to hard work and hospitality, with a work ethic like no other,” he said. “She’s a visionary with an eye for hospitality and many new and refreshing ideas for the community which she calls home.”
Rose entered the hospitality industry straight out of high school with a job at Snowshoe Mountain Resort. She moved on to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and, after nine years there, she became the executive director of the CVB in 2011.
In her efforts to promote tourism in Pocahontas County, Rose developed an idea that became the Mountain Music Trail.
“She developed a plan with the regional music trail to include five area counties,” Jordan said. “Now there are thirty-five partners participating in the working groups to make this dream of the Mountain Music Trail a reality.”
The Mountain Music Trail became so popular, it was a finalist in the 2016 British Guild of Travel Writers awards. While it did not win, the nomination brought the MMT to an international audience.
Along with her dedication to promoting the county, Rose developed the Tourism Club at Pocahontas County High School to help students see the potential of entering the hospitality field for a career.
“Today the club has over thirty students who attend meetings, off-site demonstrations and instructions,” Jordan said. “The club promises year-after-year to be even bigger and brighter. These young individuals are the customer service reps, store clerks and resort CEOs of tomorrow. The club instills in young people that they can finish school and get a great job here and stay home.”
Rose, surprised by the award, was grateful for the recognition and thanked the chamber for honoring her.
Chamber vice president Ben Wilfong announced that the businesses owned and operated by Jacob and Malinda Meck were selected as Businesses of the Year.
“These businesses have helped improve the living standards using locally sourced options that offer lower prices and help form a sense of community, and they encourage people to participate in the community as a whole,” Wilfong said.
Along with operating Jacob S. Meck Construction, Allegheny Disposal, The Outhouse, LLC, and more, the Meck family is active in civic organizations and their church.
“They are very active in the community in several facets – being members and supporters of Pocahontas County Chamber of Commerce, as well as Pendleton County, Randolph County and several other neighboring chambers,” Wilfong said. “They are very active in supporting our local 4-H groups as well as their church.”
The Mecks have passed their work ethic to their daughter, Jennalee, who has started her own business ventures under the guidance of her parents.
“Above all else, they are proud parents and encouraged their daughter, Jennalee, to join the family business as a young entrepreneur and to start her own business,” Wilfong said. “The family of young entrepreneurs is essential to economic development in our area. Since opening their first business, they have greatly stimulated the economy in many ways.”
Jacob Meck, who accepted the award on behalf of his family and employees, did not realize Wilfong was talking about his businesses until he mentioned they were selected as Young Guns by West Virginia Executive magazine and for the Big50 in Remodeling magazine.
The shock on his face was clear as he looked around the table where he was seated.
With a smile, Meck thanked the chamber for bestowing the honor on him and his family.
“Thank you, all,” he said. “It comes as a great surprise to me. I was sitting there, thinking about other things. I was kind of collecting my thoughts from somewhat of a very difficult business week, so some days, we wonder if we’re really worth the award. There are struggles and business is difficult, but Malinda and I are excited about business and excited about promoting business in the county and surrounding areas.
“We wish business well, not only for ourselves, but for our neighbors and friends throughout the county,” he continued. “I only wish that Malinda could be here with me this evening. She’ll be quite surprised.”
After the awards ceremony, Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Cooperation executive director Andrew Hagy spoke about the importance of economic growth in Pocahontas County and how the businesses can work together to make the county thrive.
“Now in my tenth week as executive director, I’m excited about all the activity and opportunities we have in Pocahontas County and throughout the region,” he said. “I know we have our challenges, but I believe we have more opportunities to take advantage of than challenges.”
Hagy said he has visited many of the businesses in Pocahontas County and listed several businesses and the number of employees they have – Interstate Hardwoods, 150 jobs; Northwest Hardwoods, 25 jobs; Jacob S. Meck, 25 jobs; Snowshoe, 450 off-season, 1,150 peak season; Green Bank Observatory, 105 full-time, 50 part-time.
He added several in Greenbrier and Monroe counties, as well.
“That’s just a few to name,” he said. “The services and manufacturing diversity is even more impressive. We’ve got Appalachian hardwoods to ski resorts to aerospace systems. Most important is that they’re growing and expanding.”
Hagy said the GVEDC is dedicated to supporting businesses and providing resources in order to help them to continue to grow and expand.
He added that on April 19, GVEDC will host a strategic planning and development community meeting.
“We want to provide a forum that includes our county and city partners and stakeholders to help us review our history and opportunities, establish a vision mission and set clear priorities, outcomes and initiatives for Greenbrier Valley for the next three years,” he said.
The GVEDC is also developing a new website which will help businesses get their information out into the world, as well as promote the Greenbrier Valley as a great place to live and visit.
“Today’s economic development website is a new front door to your community and region,” Hagy said. “A digital front door which displays to everyone everywhere things like our quality of life, our available sites and buildings, our existing business and industry, our unlimited outdoor and recreation opportunities and much, much more.”
Hagy said he is excited and ready to represent Pocahontas County and the Greenbrier Valley as they push toward a better and brighter future.
“I am excited to be working with Pocahontas County as to your economic development,” he said. “I will represent Pocahontas County and the region before the State Department of Commerce, State Development Office, the State Economic Development Authority, the Division of Tourism and partner with all the state agents just to reach out to Pocahontas County and Greenbrier Valley.
“I believe together – everyone in this room tonight – we can work together to improve the quality of life and create new jobs for the citizens of Pocahontas County.”
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org