6:00: Morning News

Justice describes economic development projects in southern W.Va.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice made several announcements this morning that could affect southern West Virginia’s economy.

Among the governor’s announcements were recommendations for grants for improvements along the Hatfield McCoy Trails.

He also spoke of continued development spurred on by the National Guard at the former Hobet mine site.

The grants were associated with federal abandoned mineland funds.

The governor described one of the projects as a $1.55 million grant for an elk viewing center.

Another $1.5 million would upgrade the Ivy Branch off road park in Boone and Lincoln counties. That amount includes money for cabins and master planning.

“It’s a good day when you can give money away and do things within our state,” Justice said. “We want them to continue to be good days.”

Justice urged West Virginians who haven’t visited the Hatfield McCoy Trail to go check it out.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “It’s totally amazing.”

The governor also described continued progress on the Hobet site, now called the Rock Creek Industrial Park.

Justice said the property now supports six different types of functions meant to support activities by the West Virginia National Guard and reserves.

There are 25 full time jobs connected to the property right now, he said.

The West Virginia National Guard has taken the lead on developing the property.

The Guard is using land for national vehicle maintenance work, to increase training and to develop new agricultural operations that include apple trees and greenhouses.

West Virginia Adjutant General James Hoyer has described using the property as a defense mobility training site.

At today’s press conference, Hoyer also described a new partnership with an organization called SPEC Rescue International related to the training effort.

Hoyer also described expanding the tire assembly facility on the site. He said that will add 10 workers to those at the site.

The Hobet property off U.S. 119 includes more than 12,000 acres of flat land — a resource that state development officials say is a rarity in southern West Virginia.

Developing the area was a priority for Justice’s predecessor, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

That project included a $100 million investment to develop the road leading to the industrial park.

“There were critics who said ‘If we don’t watch out, we’re going to build a highway to nowhere here and it’s going to cost an ungodly amount of money,'” Justice said.

“There were other people who believed without any question, you know, this is our next big coming of prosperity.”

Today, Justice said he hasn’t given up on turning the property into a multipurpose industrial park, but he wants to give it time to blossom.

“I truly believe the idea Governor Tomblin had is worthy and good. We don’t want to walk away from that,” Justice said.

Justice added, “It was worthy to pivot. It was worthy to acknowledge it was a good idea. The whole project is still at play.”

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