I have been taking road trips to visit clients in West Virginia for as long as I have been practicing law. My last road trip was before the 2016 Presidential Election. I generally pay a close attention to the places I visit by looking at the local activities such as for sale signs, lease signs, boarded up buildings, new shopping center development, new restaurants, retail chain stores, etc. to get an educated guess as to the local economy. In my last visit, I commented to one of my staff who traveled with me that I thought the local economy in West Virginia was struggling. So I was quite eager to return this time to see how the State is doing.
I, Kendall (associate attorney), and Andy (paralegal) left DC in the early morning of October 10 on our way to Huntington to visit Marshall University. The good thing about traveling early morning in the middle of the week is that we did not encounter much of traffic during the whole trip. We were able to arrive in town in the early afternoon. The first thing that I noticed is the new commercial development at Kinetic Park right off Route 64. A few years ago there was only one hotel in that area and two years later, I saw a Jeep Dealer (Yay!!! I am a Jeeper by the way), a brand new hotel – Fairfield Marriott, and a number of professional suites housing various medical practices, and of course all developed right around the Amazon Customer Service location that has been there for many years. I was very happy to see this because it is a strong indication that the State is turning around with its local economy. I think the current administration's emphasis in developing energy sector in West Virginia has a lot to do with it. I also have seen something that I have not encountered before in Huntington – traffic jam (albeit a short one). I think it is the first time that I get excited to get stuck in a traffic jam. This tells me that the town is doing well. 🙂
Another indication as to the well being of a town is to see the health of its restaurant industry. We were pleasantly surprised to find a German restaurant called Bahnhof WVrsthaus & Biergarten. While I don't consider myself a foodie, I am known in my family as being a picky eater. The food at Bahnhof was of a very high quality as we were all impressed with the overall experience that we had.
Besides Marshall University, we visited West Virginia State University. We learned that Katherine Johnson, who was the NASA mathematician who played a central role in the success of the first and subsequent US spaceflights was an alumnus of WVSU. For those of you who learn history through watching movies, Katherine Johnson was the central figure in the movie “Hidden Figures”. On the way back, we stopped by at New River Gorge Park (see the photos). Unfortunately, I think we were in a different part of the Park so we did not get a chance to see the New River Gorge Bridge.
Overall, this was a great trip. It also helped Kendall and Andy who had never been to West Virginia to see the state with their own eyes. We all agree is that people are just so friendly and genuine. For those of you who have not been to West Virginia, please block some time off your calendar and just go visit this beautfiul state.