WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — In order to keep population in West Virginia up, the state’s hotbed tourism industry is being looked at as a way to do just that.
Each of those topics were discussed in last week’s forum at the Greenbrier Resort where the annual business summit was held, sponsored by the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce.
All four GOP candidates for governor were present for talks on the state’s population and it’s tourism. The Republican competitors for governor are House Judiciary Chairman Moore Capito, businessman Chris Miller, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Secretary of State Mac Warner.
On the side of the population in the state of West Virginia, Delegate Capito, who’s leading in the most recent MetroNews West Virginia Poll results in the race for governor, said the state is on the right track, and businesses are seeing positive trends for the population.
“More people have actually come into West Virginia,” said Capito, the son of U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito. “What we’re hearing from West Virginians is so optimistic. They’re feeling good about being West Virginians again.”
Along with the current residents, Capito wants to keep businesses, many of them in attendance at the business summit, in the state.
“It seems like every day in West Virginia, we’re hearing about economic development announcement after economic development announcement,” Capito said.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey trails Capito by 9 points in the MetroNews West Virginia Poll, although 29 percent of those polled said they are “not sure” about the current candidates for governor.
Morrisey has an idea of taking a peek at how other states that surround West Virginia operate in multiple facets. He said he has a 100 day plan where, if governor, he would address population growth and consider the do’s and don’ts from what other states have in place.
“We can look at the policies that have worked in other places and then go from there,” Morrisey said, alluding to states like Kentucky, Ohio and Virginia.
“On the issues of taxation, regulation, licensing, and workforce, West Virginia is going to win against all those other states,” added Morrisey.
Secretary of State Mac Warner thinks propping up education is a good way to make the population go up. He promoted himself as the “education governor” to the business leaders and those tuning in to the business summit.
“Education is the key,” Warner said. “We need to put an emphasis on teaching.”
Warner, with a long track record in public service, said he’s seen the ups and downs the state has had with its population.
For auto dealer Chris Miller, the son of U.S. Congresswoman Carol Miller, it’s about promoting what the state already has working for them which is being a cheap state to live in with plenty of natural resources
“West Virginia has what other people are looking for. We have a high quality of life with a low cost of living and we have an abundance of hills, trees, rivers and streams,” Miller said.
Speaking of the outdoors, that was the next topic of discussion.
West Virginia’s population has not been as booming as the tourism industry has been of late. The candidates for governor were excited to talk about the state’s tourism, which is growing with the recognition of new state and national parks.
Miller said more opportunities are there to show off the coolest destinations and attractions that the state has to offer.
“There’s incredible tourism opportunities here, you just have to know how to market them,” Miller said, reiterating that West Virginia has what other people are looking for.
Secretary Warner wants the entire world to see West Virginia.
“All of these wonderful things that West Virginia has, we need to get that message out to the world,” said Warner.
Capito agrees. He said tourism in the state has to be an important piece to the future development. He wants West Virginians to tell a story.
“For far too long we’ve let other people from other big cities tell our story, but they aren’t telling it right,” he said. “We have to get people here.”
Morrisey calls tourism “a lifeblood in our state.” He wants more dollars to be invested in the industry over time, with a focus on parks.
“We need to keep selling West Virginia state parks as a crown jewel nationally, and we need to keep investing and building around our parks because there are economic opportunities around them,” Morrisey said.