Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 29, 2013

Exit 1: A building block for growth

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — It is no secret that there is a world of difference between Exit 9 in Princeton and Exit 1 in Bluefield. Interstate 77, and its booming Exit 9 in particular, is a stunning economic development success story for Mercer County and the greater Princeton region.

Simply put, business is booming at Exit 9. And there is very little room remaining for additional growth — with the exception of a few remaining areas, including the old Kmart property. That’s why development officials in Mercer County are now looking toward Exit 14 in the Gardner area for future economic development projects, including the long-proposed multi-purpose equestrian center. It is our hope that the Exit 14 area will explode with commercial, retail and tourism growth in the coming years. Big things start with small beginnings. And the long-awaited multi-purpose/equestrian center could be the spark needed to launch growth at Exit 14. Of course, a Target or Home Depot would do the same and make a lot of people happy in the process. And we would love to see one, or preferably both, of these two long-requested big box chains in the area.

But that brings us to Exit 1 in Bluefield. There appears to be a general consensus among local economic development officials that Exit 1 in Bluefield is an area that needs to be developed. And the reality of the situation is it should have been developed years ago. But a number of stumbling blocks have impeded development efforts, including the mountainous geographic terrain, visibility issues and the need for improved signage in the area.

But the new $3.9 million Bluefield Area Transit facility that opened last week could pave the way for additional growth at Exit 1. Bluefield Mayor Tom Cole is among those local officials who are hoping the new BAT facility will mark the beginning of additional growth and development at Exit 1.

The relocation of the BAT facilities accomplishes several objectives. It provides the transit system with a larger and more modern facility to operate out of. A new fueling station also is planned in the area. This, in return, should bring more traffic and activity to the John Nash Boulevard site and the Exit 1 area. The BAT system has a total of 24 buses with about 18 or 19 on the road on any given day. This will help to bring additional traffic to the Exit 1 area.

It is our hope that more businesses will follow the lead of the BAT system — as Exit 1 is an area that should be bustling with commercial activity. And the same goes for Exit 14 near Gardner.

After all, when a motorist exits the interstate, he or she expects to find gas stations, restaurants, hotels and motels and shopping centers within just a short distance. And that’s what we should be seeing along Exit 1. The BAT is a good start. Let’s hope it could provide the spark needed for additional growth.