By Lori Dittman WV House of Delegates 63rd District
Interim meetings for me began last Sunday when the Education Committee and other staff members toured the new Herbert Hoover High School.
The new state of the art facility is awe inspiring. Principal Mike Kelly showed the group the magnificent school and spoke about Herbert Hoover’s growth as a school. In 2009, the school ranked 100th on School Digger, a school rating site. In 2011, they jumped to 40th. Currently they are in the top ten, and that was without a new facility. Principal Kelly has certainly assembled a goal-oriented driven team that has significantly improved school culture, has a vision for success and is optimistic about their continued achievement considering the opportunities that the new facility will give students and staff.
Economic Secretary Mitch Carmichael also addressed the Economic Development and Tourism Joint Committee. Between 2017 and 2021, West Virginia generated $6.2 billion in tourism revenue. In 2022, the state generated $6.2 million in one year. He stated that employment growth is climbing and in the last 38 months the economy has seen a growth of 125,000 jobs. The unemployment rate continues to decline and is currently 3.4 percent. Gross domestic product is rising. The average wage has gone up 7.5 percent. Since 2022, 29 fortune five hundred companies have expanded to West Virginia. Fast permitting, no unemployment debt, central location, lower cost of operation, designer programs, and companies wanting to locate where things are happening will continue to be attractive. The challenge will be to see investment extend to rural areas including central West Virginia. I will never stop promoting the possibilities that exist in our district.
Other presenters included Ed Maguire, Environment Advocate West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and Kim Reed, Planner and Executive Director, City of Nitro. They gave an overview of the Dilapidated Properties Program (DLAP) created in 2021 with the passage of Senate Bill 368. Round one pilot grant statistics saw an estimated 252 commercial structures and 2,822 residential structures identified. $10 million was allocated for demolition, but it would cost $32 million to fully fund demolition of the identified sites. Round Two identified even more structures with the dilapidated property inventory growing. The DEP has developed a ready-to-demo checklist for counties and municipalities which you can find on their website.
I was happy to present a $10,000 Local Economic Development Assistance (LEDA) grant to the Braxton County Commissioner Lisa Godwin for a water extension project in Stumbo.
I would like to give a shout out to all the organizers of the Cross-Country Meet, No Excuses, which was held at Holly Gray Park. Congratulations to all the runners that participated. That course is a difficult one and runners met the challenge. Braxton Live did a fantastic job covering the event!
Gilmer County High School held their 2023 Homecoming this past weekend. I’m sure it was a wonderful time for alumni to gather with current students and families and reminisce.
On a personal note, I enjoyed an evening of square dancing and music at the Cedar Creek Fall Festival. I even tried square dancing for the first time in years. I had the best square dance partner, Ezra Minney, that coached me through the dance. Cedar Creek State Park is a treasure, and they have more fun events scheduled for the remainder of the year. Trick or Treat on October 22nd, and the Christmas Lights Celebration on December 9th-10th and16th-17th, so mark your calendars.
I continue to make progress on the quest to run in all 55 West Virginia counties, and recently completed two more counties bringing my total to 54!
The first day of Fall is September 23rd. There is already a chill in the evening air and leaves have begun to change. I hope everyone has a chance to spend some time outside enjoying the colorful beauty of Autumn.
“Autumn leaves don’t fall, they fly. They take their time and wander on this their only chance to soar.” (Delia Owens)
I look forward to hearing from people in the district and hope to see you out and about enjoying all the great things our area has to offer. I can be contacted at lori.dittman@wv house.gov or 304-701-8600.