Huntington’s economy has been described as strong, but fragile. The city’s GDP is up 2.5-percent, but the population remains flat. Compared to other area in the region, Huntington is still doing well. It’s due to the investments made in downtown.
Drew Hines has lived in Huntington for 20 years. His restaurants, which include Butter It Up and Dang Good Cinnamon Rolls, started in Huntington and can now be found in Charleston as well as Beckley.
“Oh, I love it,” Hines said. “This is the place I call home. This is the place I’m going to raise my children and where they’re going to grow up and I will invest in this community anyway I can.”
Bill Bissett, president of the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce, notes it takes the community coming together to advance.
“Everybody wants to be part of the success, so the more we grow as a city, the more we work together, I think that brings more people to the table and that’s a good thing,” Bissett said.
That success includes the arrival of the American Duchess riverboat Thursday morning. Hundreds of passengers arrived to spend their money eating and shopping in the city. With the start of Restaurant Week on Friday, Huntington is making headway in becoming a popular spot.
“Especially here on Third Avenue, the growth has been tremendous,” Bissett said. “We’re seeing new restaurants, we’re seeing diverse fare, we’re seeing young people borrowing money and making investments here for the long-term.”
While Bissett says Huntington is seeing progress he also explains the challenge lies in getting businesses to anchor in outlying areas.
“We’ve got to think, ‘how do we move that beyond the borders of Huntington into the west side, into Wayne County, into other areas, where they have the same opportunities that we have here in Downtown Huntington,” Bissett said.
Hines says a change in thinking, when it comes to economic development, is helping.
“You have a lot of help at City Hall and the community really stands behind you,” Hines said. “All the owners of other small businesses in Huntington are always willing to lend a hand.”
Apart from the money being spent by the passengers aboard the American Duchess, Bissett says those who visit here are taking back a positive impression of West Virginia, and word-of-mouth is the best kind of advertising.