Preston County advantages lead to business success for many industries!
Preston County’s vibrant landscape, business-friendly attitudes, and proximity to major markets make it an ideal location for a variety of businesses. With a long history of experience in industries such as forestry and agriculture, Preston County has developed a workforce that values hard work and loyalty. With fewer government regulations and the proximity to the more urban Morgantown area, Preston County is primed for business success across a broad spectrum of industries.
Preston County has over 1,000 family farms and a strong livestock industry. The last West Virginia Census of Agriculture, performed in 2017, reported Preston County as the ninth-largest livestock producer in the state. Preston is the top county in hog and pig production. That makes it easier for residents and businesses to purchase their food or ingredients locally. As a result, the trend toward healthy eating has an excellent base in Preston County. Businesses seeking to capitalize on the growing farm-to-table movement and craft brewing trends will find the necessary resources in the region. An example of the agribusiness possibilities are evident with the locally owned businesses involved with the Preston County Farm Crawl, which occurs each summer and allows participants to experience a myriad of sustainable, natural products.
Local farmers work together with area experts, such as the West Virginia Extension Service and Northeast SARE, to ensure those resources are here to stay. This video on Aurora’s Snowy Creek Dorsets is an excellent example of collaboration. Another example is the West Virginia Voluntary Farmland Protection Act, passed in 2000 to protect agricultural lands and provide sustainable sources of agricultural products and tourism for the state's citizens.
West Virginia is the third most heavily forested state in the U.S., with 98% of that land available for timber production. The West Virginia wood products industry generates $3.2 billion annually and provides more than 30,000 jobs, according to the West Virginia Division of Forestry.
Preston County sits in the heart of West Virginia's hardwood region, offering distinct advantages for businesses in the wood products industries. The West Virginia Hardwood Alliance Zone assists businesses with relocation, expansion and development services. PCEDA itself actively works with new and existing businesses in achieving their goals. One example is the assistance PCEDA provided Allegheny Wood Products to obtain financing for a $5.0 million expansion at less than 5.0% interest. Another is a $500,000 forgivable loan to extend natural gas to the Allegheny Wood Products Hazelton facility to allow for increased capacity in their dry kilns.
Preston County’s wood products industry workforce is unmatched throughout the U.S. due to its historical experience and unparalleled specific training opportunities. The West Virginia Wood Technology Center is an internationally-renowned hardwoods technology training center located just to the south of Preston County in the City of Elkins. Its location is less than two hours from the Northpointe Business & Industry Park, allowing park tenants access to numerous safety training opportunities and forest management expertise. The Center provides a variety of customized training programs for the wood industry and is equipped with the latest technology and wood production machinery. The Center also offers an Associate of Applied Sciences Degree in Wood Production and a broad curriculum of classroom training and hands-on instruction. The Appalachian Hardwood Center at West Virginia University provides technical and research support.
Preston County is home to two major government facilities. Camp Dawson is a West Virginia Army National Guard facility located along the Cheat River. The site is used to provide realistic training opportunities to develop various unit readiness for wartime missions. It is also home to the Camp Dawson Event Center, a state-of-the-art government hotel and conference facility, the largest of its kind in West Virginia.
Preston County is also home to USP Hazelton, a Federal Correctional Center which includes a male facility, security female facility and a minimum-security satellite prison camp. Together, they house a population of more than 3,800 inmates.
Preston County offers unique properties at affordable prices for manufacturing businesses that typically require locations with large areas separated from residential uses. An excellent example is Superior Fibers, a worldwide leader in HVAC filtration, paint arrestors and specialty fiberglass applications in Reedsville.
Oil and Gas
West Virginia’s oil and gas industry is nearly as old as the United States itself. A thriving commercial oil industry was in process as early as 1819 with the first major wells drilled at Petroleum in 1859 and Burning Springs in 1860. Natural gas was moved in wooden pipes from wells to be used as a manufacturing heat source by the Kanawha salt manufacturers as early as 1831. These events truly mark the beginnings of the oil and gas industry in the United States.
Today, Preston County has a reliable oil and gas industry. A summary of the industry, including activity statistics and production trends, can be found here. In addition, the Gas and Oil Association of West Virginia and Appalachian Oil Purchasers provide services and resources for area businesses.
West Virginia is heralded for its outdoor recreation, having a higher concentration of assets here than many more familiar national outdoor recreation areas, and nowhere is that more evident than in Preston County. Whitewater rafting, fishing, hiking and hunting abound in the hills and forests of the area, each offering opportunity for businesses to capitalize on tourism-related businesses. Given the rising importance of place-based assets in motivating workers to locate and stay in communities, this industry sector is also increasingly relevant to the region’s talent attraction and retention efforts.
Located in the heart of the beautiful Appalachian Mountains, the region is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, with acres of parks, trails, lakes and rivers. Whitewater rafting is nationally-known in Preston County, with nearly 80 miles of free-flowing water on the Cheat River, giving all levels of paddlers the ability to relax on flatwater or test their abilities on Class III, IV and V whitewater rapids. Coopers Rock State Forest offers 13,000 acres of forest to experience, the largest forest in West Virginia. Outdoor recreation there includes 50 miles of biking and hiking trails, rock climbing, cross country skiing, fishing, hunting, camping and more, all in a pristine and uncrowded environment, far from the crowds of other East Coast venues.