For business and employee resources, information, and updates on COVID-19, please visit the WV Hive website.

Improving Infrastructure: A Driving Force Behind Economic Development

Southern West Virginia is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. However, due to a lack of investment in infrastructure, many parts of the region are still struggling to recover from the decline of the coal industry. 

West Virginia is currently ranked 47th in the nation in terms of infrastructure quality, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. This lack of infrastructure is a major impediment to economic development in the state. Businesses are reluctant to locate in West Virginia because of the state’s poor transportation system and lack of broadband access. In addition, the state’s aging water and wastewater systems are in need of significant upgrades.

Fortunately, the state is making progress on some of these issues. One way to support economic development in southern West Virginia is to invest in infrastructure improvements. This includes repairing and upgrading roads, bridges, and airports, as well as investing in new energy infrastructure projects, such as wind and solar farms. In December 2022, Gov. Jim Justice announced that West Virginia will receive $548,083,740 in federal funding over the next five years to replace, rehabilitate, preserve and build bridges in West Virginia as part of the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The act totals about $550 billion in new spending for infrastructure projects all over the United States and signals a step in the right direction. 

The New River Gorge Regional Development Authority (NRGRDA) recently secured a Department of Transportation Safe Streets regional planning grant for $199,200. This grant will allow local leaders to plan improvements in pedestrian, bicycle, and motorized safety in the gateway communities in Raleigh and Fayette Counties. NRGRDA assisted with the Safe Streets regional planning grant, which includes a local match of $49,800, bringing the total to $249,000 in collaboration with Region 1 and Region 4 Planning and Development Councils.

“We want to thank Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito for their active support, and we will continue working together in creating the action plan and throughout its implementation,” said Jina Belcher, Executive Director of the NRGRDA. She said rural communities face an uphill battle competing for resources against well-funded and statistically prepared urban areas. “Our team effort – local, state and federal leaders all chipping in collaboratively — made the difference,” added Belcher. 

By investing in infrastructure, we can help create jobs and stimulate economic growth in southern West Virginia. The West Virginia Clean Energy Jobs & Economic Impact Report for 2022 stated that West Virginia’s clean energy sector has seen a 6% growth in jobs, amounting to a total of 17,959 jobs.

To learn more about the Safe Streets grant initiatives, be sure to sign up for the NRGRDA newsletter for the latest news and updates.