I will try to answer, again, briefly – “What is The MonForest Towns Partnership (MFTP), and why is it important to our area?
MFTP is a multi-community collaborative which was formed in 2017, to address the economic events of the time. The partnership has been supported by an agreement with WVU and the USFS. The Board is represented by (mostly) volunteers who care about their communities and wanted to do something. Everyone involved understands the partnership is not the total economic fix for our area. The MFTP has provided an avenue for positive contribution that represents a coordinated effort. The intent is to build upon the assets that our region already possesses.
The Monongahela Nation Forest is one such public asset. With approximately 969,000 total acres, Pocahontas County is home to about 312,000 acres of the MNF. An increase in visitors to the forest equals an increase in visitor dollars to the county. More visitors is more opportunity to learn about our five state parks, the Green Bank Observatory, Snowshoe Resort and the Highland Ride Center, and many more sites.
In the short-term, the MFTP is a partial answer to the decline in the coal and timber industry in our state and region. However, in the long-term, the MFTP consists of eight counties and 10 towns, each with promising growth of outdoor recreation-based tourism. This re-creation economy product has guided the development of regional cooperation to undertake a dynamic performance agenda, for each town and the region as a whole. A regional approach has made grant funding more successful and go further.
The pandemic provided even more opportunity to take bold steps in refocusing the region’s economy in a culturally and environmentally responsible way. The Partnership and individual towns want to continue to assertively pursue the physical and programmatic projects that will improve the visitor experience, improve the overall business climate, and elevate the quality of mountain life for all.
So you know, other opportunities are being pursued. Personally, I have talked with companies from Washington state to Ljubljana, Slovenia. Most recently, after more than three months of correspondence with a corporate venture from Missouri, representatives came to Pocahontas County and spent two days here. In the end, we lost about 40 Amish families to Randolph County.
FYI: Keep an eye out for buggies and a coming bakery around Valley Bend. I tried.
So, be assured the MFTP is not the only focus. If you know of businesses looking for space or wanting to move, put them in contact with the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation. We now have a director from our county – Ruthana Beezley. I feel confident that she and her staff, and others, will continue to seek occupants for the Edray Industrial Building and surrounding industrial properties, including the industrial property at Frank. We need a trained workforce for that to occur.
But there is good news on the horizon, The Secretary of State’s Business and Licensing Division reported Pocahontas was among three counties that had notable growth during November, having registered 13 new businesses.