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Jackson County a leader in economic growth

RIPLEY — Jackson County led the United States for economic growth in 2018.

According to Mark Whitley, director of the Jackson County Development Authority, a new study took place to analyze gross domestic product.

“It’s everything from construction to domestic and international sales so it’s a whole gamut of products or services,” Whitley said.

The county saw an 86.5 percent growth as compared to previous years. The analysis involved counties in the country with populations with less than 100,000, according to Whitley.

“The major portion of that was the Mountaineer Express pipeline project; we had around 1,700 construction workers during that time,” Whitley said.

Along with that, several plants in the area had increased productivity. Some of those major plants include Constellium, Armstrong World Industries, KS of West Virginia, Star/SDR Plastics, Valtronics and Niche Polymers.

“They not only have domestic sales and clients but international sales and clients,” Whitley said.

Jackson County also led the state in 2018 and 2019 in newly developed corporations with a 10 percent growth within the last year.

“Small business development continues to be the backbone of the economy,” Whitley said.

Mayor Josh Miller of Ravenswood said he gives credits to the entrepreneurs as the ones taking the risk.

“The way the economy is now and how it’s changing, the future belongs to the entrepreneur,” Miller said.

Miller said the growth wasn’t just from the pipeline efforts.

“It’s small business growth as well,” he said.

Whitley is confident Jackson County will lead the nation for the 2019 year as well due to industrial properties that are available.

“We’re working with clients now for possible new facilities and expansions in Jackson County,” Whitley said. “We’re one of those best kept secrets in West Virginia.”

Small business development will continue to be a focus for the county, according to Whitley.

“It’s hard to find an empty building in Jackson County right now and that’s due to the small business growth that’s happening,” he said.

The Development Authority assists the small businesses by providing technical assistance and working with lenders on small business loans.

Mayor Carolyn Rader of Ripley is proud of the county’s success and hopes that it will continue to bring in more businesses to the area.

“We’re looking forward to an incentive to work even harder to maintain our growth,” Rader said. “I’m using this statistic a lot when talking to small business to get other businesses to come here.”

Miller feels that Ravenswood and the county as a whole are an opportunity zone for businesses. “Basically it’s a long term tax incentive that allows business to take profits and invest it in this area as an economic incentive,” Miller said.

Miller and Rader both attribute their success due to the cohesiveness of Ripley and Ravenswood.

“It’s fun having a partnership between Ripley and Ravenswood and our goal is the same, to promote our county,” Rader said.

In the same way, Miller said there’s a strong relationship between the two communities.

“Jackson County as a whole has a good thing going on; we’re cohesive. Ripley has their specialty and Ravenswood has ours. Together we make up a strong county; we see the future being very positive,” Miller said.

Candice Black can be reached at cblack@newsandsentinel.com.

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