PRINCETON — “Regionalism is the way to go — but I couldn’t have said that here 10 years ago,” U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., told approximately 150 community leaders Tuesday.

The senator, who was guest speaker at a meeting held by the Mercer County Development Authority and attended by members of the Bluefield and Princeton Chambers of Commerce, Rotary Clubs and city administrations, elected officials and others, said, “Regionalism is the way things should be done.”

Noting that in the southern counties, “There is a tendency for them to be on their own,” Rockefeller said West Virginia is “basically a variety of economics that intermingle.” He said the state must look outside of West Virginia, even go international, in order to grow and progress. Reporting there are 18 Japanese companies in West Virginia,” he said, “That declares we are a part of the international community — places where international countries can go to do business.”

He pointed out the world is increasingly global and said “that works against us sometime.” He said the recent layoff at the Weirton Steel plant because the cost in China to manufacture steel is less than in West Virginia is a problem that can’t be changed.

“I’m glad Mercer County is looking at new and innovative ways to bring jobs to the area ... I will do everything I can to be helpful in that effort,” the senator said about the proposed equestrian park for a location in Green Valley on land owned by the cities of Princeton and Bluefield.

He predicted a resurgence of coal and said the coming of Broadband will be important in the advancement of technology in the southern, mountainous counties in West Virginia.

“When Broadband comes to West Virginia, things are going to happen,” the senator said. He reported the U.S. Senate will begin updating communication laws next year and Spectrum is “a golden fleece for communications.” He said, “You can’t do broadband and certain other things unless you have Spectrum.”

He commended the county leaders for their cooperative efforts saying mutual cooperative shows a lack of selfishness that “means so much.”

Also on the program were R. W. Wilkinson, Development Authority chairman; Bluefield Mayor Rev. Garry Moore, who gave the invocation; County Commission President Joe Coburn, Randall Price, chairman of the Equestrian Project; Sandra Lilly of Mercer Springs Farm; Bluefield City Manager Mark Henne, Acting Princeton City Manager Wayne Shumate, Greater Bluefield Chamber President Marc Meachum and Robert Farley, executive director of the Princeton/Mercer County Chamber.

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