At the Region 4 Planning and Development Council meeting last week, executive director John Tuggle reported on several opportunities coming to West Virginia and the region, including a potential forest products cooperative and HUD assistance for flood victims.
Tuggle explained that Region 4 is working with the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Commission and the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority to develop a forest products cooperative.
“I think the development office is looking at it hard to implement a co-op for woodworking businesses,” Tuggle said. “The core is going to start in Region 4, but they hope it will grow even outside of Region 4 and be southern West Virginia, and maybe even the whole state.
“That’s one renewable resource that we have available that really, we’re not tapping into it as well as we can,” he continued. “Based on the information we’re receiving, there’s a door opening that maybe some of those wood products are going to be competitive with the China market.”
West Virginia hardwoods are currently being shipped to China, manufactured into furniture which is purchased by the US and shipped back to this county, Tuggle said.
Tuggle said the organizations involved with developing the cooperative are seeking grant funds to help market the idea that the woodworking industry needs to stay in this country, specifically in West Virginia.
“The grant money, some of that is going to go to do some really heavy duty marketing,” he said. “It will be everywhere – national and global marketing. That’s one thing we’re thinking has a shot at making some impact in the region.”
Marlinton mayor Sam Felton attended one of the development meetings and said it is important to look at ways to increase the forestry industry in Pocahontas County.
“With some of the information coming out of the meetings we’ve attended, it is amazing,” Felton said. “When I heard one of the foresters relate – get ahold of this idea – it’s a good picture. When you think about the equivalent sales in the last few years in the Monongahela National Forest, it amounts to a ten inch in diameter log, three feet long, per acre. That sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? It is ridiculous.”
Felton added that he recently attended Pocahontas Day at the legislature in Charleston and learned how some counties are benefiting from timber sales.
“I saw on some of the school budget information – Monroe County for instance – timber sales have given them more than one hundred thousand dollars,” he said. “At the time, Pocahontas County – zero. Everyone knows what kind of shape our schools are in in Pocahontas County, so I don’t just think about that one hundred thousand dollars, but I think about one hundred thousand dollars or more for the last thirty years.”
In his research into Monroe County and in Pennsylvania, Felton said the national forests in those areas are being timbered and the benefits go to the schools and government in those areas.
“They’re timbering there,” he said. “Why aren’t we timbering here? We need to at least be aware of some of those things and it is time for that comprehensive plan of Mon Forest to be updated.”
Tuggle also reported that West Virginia has received a large sum of funding from HUD for assistance to flood victims. The state has received approximately $104 million and is applying for $134 million more.
The funding will go for housing in Greenbrier and Kanawha counties, as well as Nicholas and others affected by the 2016 flooding.
Along with officials from the counties served by Region 4 – Pocahontas, Fayette, Nicholas, Greenbrier and Webster – the meeting was attended by Senator Joe Manchin’s representative, Peggy Hawse.
The meeting was catered by Harriet & Co. Catering.