Moving in the right direction
People are leaving KanawhaCounty for a variety of
reasons. Some are looking for newer, cheaper housing and a more suburban
But most people leave the state looking for work, Goldman said. The
1980, he said. He easily names a dozen Kanawha Valley industrial
plants that have closed or reduced jobs in the past 20 years: Owens
Corning, Union Carbide, DuPont, etc.
That industrial past is over, he said, but some area leaders haven't
caught up with that reality. Goldman wants to focus on generating
high-tech jobs in the county.
"We still want to think we're this heavy industrial county,"
Goldman said. "We need to change this macho image, get real and get moving
in the right direction."
A comprehensive study of the state's economy released last year by
Market Street Services says state leaders have given little thought to
"Instead, the orientation of West Virginia's system is still attempting
to address the historic needs and desires of industries that no longer
provide much return on the state's investment," the study said.
Earlier studies of West Virginia's economic problems have sat on a
woes, the Market Street study concluded. West Virginia's leaders need to
implement recommendations made in the past and "get the word out" about
the state's positive aspects, the study said.
For example, the Kanawha Valley has a large, untapped pool of
unemployed and underemployed workers to draw from. Toyota officials made
their Buffalo plant the first facility outside Japan to produce parts for
their Lexus luxury line because of the high quality of their West Virginia
Bringing people back
KanawhaCounty Commissioner Kent Carper disputes the
doesn't argue the county is losing population, he says
county leaders have expanded the infrastructure that keeps people
"Build water and sewer, improve the educational system, provide
affordable housing - those are the things that attract young families,"
Carper said. "Its not rocket science."
Since 1996, more than 2,700 county residents have hooked up to
public water for the first time, according to the county planning
office. About 1,900 more people are now on a public sewer system. Builders
asked the county for permission to create 616 subdivision lots in
2000, up from 213 in 1999 and the highest number in five years.
Carper points to the upper Kanawha Valley as an area that is on
the rebound. The new Riverside High School, expanded water and sewer and a
four-lane U.S. 60 have led to a mini-boom in subdivision construction in
places like Quincy and Shrewsbury, which have seen little development in
more than a decade. However, part of the subdivision boom may also be
attributed to buyouts of houses for an expansion project at the nearby
Sen. Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, has a different idea for bringing
people back into KanawhaCounty, especially Charleston:
Redevelop the city's old brick buildings and create a vibrant cultural and
in downtown Charleston, including the newly completed Maple Terrace, new
and renovated townhouses in Charleston's East End.
"We have to make the city exciting, a destination, a place where people
will want to live," McCabe said.
Charleston and the rest of KanawhaCounty can't compete
on price of land and new buildings with surrounding counties, he said.
Instead, McCabe said leaders in the county should continue to
renovate downtown, build the Clay Center for the Arts to the east and join
the two together into a cultural and arts district that will attract
visitors, residents and tax dollars.
Goldman concedes that making the city exciting will help. But he said
it won't be enough to stop the area's slow decline as long as it costs so
much to build in KanawhaCounty.
"I talked recently to someone who decided to build a home in Putnam
County," he said. "He said it was worth the 30-minute drive to be
able to build a larger house. You can have exciting things, but if people
want a less expensive house, and not to get taxed to death ..."
Part Two of "Valley on the Move," which will examine Putnam County's
gain from Kanawha County's loss, will appear Monday in The