Here is an impressive statistic to mull over. Between April 1, 2020 to March 31 of this year, Mercer County had a net gain of 206 new businesses. The 3.3 percent growth in new business registrations for Mercer County was confirmed last week by West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner.
That’s an impressive accomplishment, particularly considering that all of this new growth occurred during the pandemic.
A number of new businesses have been announced in recent weeks, continuing a trend of positive growth for the region.
Jim Spencer, the city of Bluefield’s community and economic development coordinator, attributes much of the growth that the area is seeing today to the arrival of technology giant Intuit in Bluefield in 2019. lntuit, which will operate a Prosperity Hub in the city’s downtown district, currently has 250 employees working in Bluefield and is still hiring.
Spencer said Intuit’s arrival in the city brought hope back to Bluefield, as well as a plan that was complemented by the city’s ongoing efforts to help recruit entrepreneurs to the area.
“In a span of three months during the high point of the pandemic last year there were nine new businesses that opened up in Bluefield,” Spencer said. “And we are talking with more, and more are coming.”
Jeff Disibbio, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of the Two Virginias, agrees with Spencer. He, too, is seeing widespread interest in the region from prospective businesses and industries.
“I think that people are finally realizing the multitude of opportunities that West Virginia offers and especially Mercer County,” Disibbio said. “They are realizing how well-handled the pandemic was and the implementation of the vaccine that is still going on.”
Disibbio said the state and county also has been “very thoughtful” about how the day-to-day operations of businesses are handled during the pandemic.
“If we contrast that with some of the larger cities like New York and Chicago, by comparison Mercer County looks extremely attractive,” Dissibio said. “We feel people are finally reaching that realization.”
The city of Princeton has been experiencing growth since 2015, according to Mayor David Graham. He says 90 businesses have located in the city since that time with 70 of them still open.
Graham said the city has a program of offering an initial waiver of the Business and Occupational (B&O) tax, which has proven to be a popular incentive for prospective businesses.
“It is still a strong, ongoing program and new businesses seem to be eager to come here,” Graham said, adding that Mercer Street now has only three empty storefronts. “We are closing in on have full occupancy on Mercer Street.”
Given all of the challenges and disruptions associated with the pandemic, many businesses and families are looking to relocate from the big cities. That makes southern West Virginia, and Mercer County in particular, an attractive location to live and work.
Dissibio believes all of the growth the region is currently seeing is just “the tip of the iceberg.”
We, too, are excited about all of the economic activity the region is reporting right now. We hope to see additional announcements in the near future.