Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


November 18, 2012

Signs of hope

ATVs, Boy Scouts bode well for 2013

— — Although growth in Mercer County has remained largely stagnant, there are a few encouraging indicators of hope to be found.

For example, revenue generated from the county’s lodging tax showed a slight increase this year — a jump of $427,193 as compared to $410,558 in 2011, according to the Mercer County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Mercer County collected $353,652 of the 2012 tax total, followed by the city of Bluefield with $69,721 and the city of Princeton with $3,820.

That growth can be attributed to an increase in tourism visitors to Mercer County for the year. The tourism growth is largely attributed to the opening of the new Pocahontas segment of the Hatfield-McCoy Trails. And tourism growth in 2013 is expected to continue thanks to new economic engines powered by all-terrain vehicles and Boy Scouts, according to Marie Blackwell, executive director of the Mercer County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The trail system is expected to continue to grow in the new year, and the arrival of thousands of Boy Scouts to southern West Virginia in 2013 is also expected to have a direct impact on Mercer County.

Thousands of Boy Scouts, their families, counselors and other personnel are expected in southern West Virginia when the new Boy Scout facility in Fayette County hosts the National Boy Scout Jamboree in 2013. Many will be traveling through Mercer County on their way to the jamboree.

“While the scouts are at the summit, their families will be touring our area, staying in local motels, eating in our restaurants and visiting our attractions and shops,” Blackwell said during Tuesday’s meeting of the Mercer County Commission.

Blackwell says the bureau is offering hospitality training to local businesses so they will be “up to speed” about what Scouts and their families will expect when they visit Mercer County. Some businesses are already seeing the results of the approaching jamboree.

“They are in the area, and they are lodging,” Blackwell said, adding that one hotel has already booked 40 rooms for people attending the jamboree. “They are already making their plans, and we need to be up to speed and let them know how happy we are to have them here.”

We agree. And it is critical that Mercer County officials do everything in their power now to prepare for this incoming influx of Boy Scouts.

We must send a clear message now that the Boy Scouts, and their families, are welcomed in Mercer County. And the same goes for the additional off-road riders who will continue to visit Mercer County in the months and years ahead as part of the Hatfield-McCoy Trails.

Opportunity is once again knocking. We must be ready to answer.

The Mercer County Commission — working in conjunction with the Mercer County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce, the Princeton-Mercer County Chamber of Commerce and other related entities — should get to work now on an aggressive tourism and economic development plan for Mercer County.

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