HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A top official with the Huntington Chamber of Commerce says, for the most part, small business owners feel safe in the city despite the massive drug problem there.

“Unless you’re engaged in drug use or the drug trade, your chances of people involved in this violent act is pretty slim,” said CEO Bill Bissett.

Business owners are comfortable, but also concerned how the drug epidemic is impacting the economy, Bissett said on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

“They worry about our reputation beyond the borders of the Huntington region. What does that do for us? If you’re a Google search term that connects to the drug epidemic and Huntington, West Virginia, that’s going to hurt you when you’re considering either attracting or maintaining businesses,” he said.

Bissett said the Chamber of Commerce is working to find solutions. He said the goal is to break the cycle of drug use and hopelessness in the city.

A lot of businesses are tackling the drug problem already by hiring recovering addicts, Bissett said.

“Whether it’s offering opportunities — literally taking that risk on someone who’s been through treatment, putting them in a responsible situation — because you often hear the sentence ‘a good job is often the best solution to such problems’,” he said.

Bissett is encouraging business leaders to recognize the drug problem in Huntington, but to also look at the problem on a nationwide level.

“I do think as business leaders, we need to take a deep breath and say okay what is the real situation here and what is it compared to much more urban areas than have much higher crime rates,” he said.

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