ROCK CREEK – During a press conference on Friday afternoon at the former Hobet mining site in Boone County, Gov. Jim Justice announced that he was committing approximately $39 million dollars toward developing an access road to the site and an intersection at the entrance off of U.S. 119 that would include a bridge suitable for facilitating the further development of “Rock Creek Development Park.”
“Today I am committing the funding to build the access road and pave it and build the new intersection off of Corridor G,” he said. “In addition to that, today I’m announcing that the West Virginia National Guard will resume their activities at Hobet and today I am directing our DNR to explore all of the possibilities here for recreational and wildlife enhancement and growth to absolutely inspire more and more activities on this property.”
He added, “The primary is one thing, we’ve got to build the road.”
Earlier this month, the West Virginia National Guard said they were pulling out of the site and relocating their operations elsewhere.
Justice said that recruitment of industry will be key to the success of the site.
“We need to recruit and recruit every business to West Virginia we can to give us jobs and opportunity and opportunity and opportunity,” he said. “Trust me, when they come in the door now, they’re coming to buy.
When asked by the Coal Valley News why today is the right time for the commitment versus 2017 when his office initially committed $30 million to the project but saw no dirt moved, Justice said it came down to the fiscal health of West Virginia at the time.
“In 2017 the state was bankrupt and the prospect of bringing business here by building a road to nowhere and everything and bring new business here really was a tough pull,” he said. “Today it is a different time. West Virginia has now become the diamond in the rough that everyone missed. Instead of a dark, dingy backwards place that people thought….and we were always battling who was going to be dead last us or Mississippi. Today it’s a different animal, it’s a different world and it couldn’t be more apparent than with the hyperloop coming. Recruitment now is a real possibility.”
Justice added what he sees is as tremendous potential for multiple industries.
“It could be any and everything,” he said. “It could be downstream petrochemical. It could be anything. There are so many people looking at West Virginia right now and the (National) Guard are a tremendous compliment to this. The great workforce and great craftsmanship we have in West Virginia on a level site in an “Opportunity Zone” coupled with all of these things make it a reality.
Opportunity Zones are economically distressed communities that may qualify for tax deferment.
Highways Commissioner Jimmy Wriston confirmed that the project was ready to go and said dirt could be moved immediately.
“We’re ready now as soon as we clear the right-of-way,” Wriston said alongside the Governor.
District 7 Senator Ron Stollings, a long-time supporter of the development of the site spoke about the announcement.
“This place is so big it is big enough for everything,” he said. “It is big enough for National Guard military training, we have a wonderful flat area that we don’t have much of in southern West Virginia. This allows us to diversify our economy and expand our tax base.”
District 23 Delegate Rodney Miller said that the news was significant.
“It is good to see that the work through the years by so many people is coming to fruition,” he said. “It means a lot for our community and the hopes and dreams of what can happen here are coming to reality and you heard it from the top official in our state. I’m excited right now. Here we are and here we go.”
Boone County Commissioner Brett Kuhn stood with state officials and expressed what it means for the county he serves.
“We appreciate Governor Justice making the Rock Creek Development Park project a priority,” he said. “This project can be the driving force behind an economic recovery for Boone County and southern West Virginia.”
Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 304-307-2401.