BUCKHANNON — The Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce gathered Thursday for its annual dinner and to recognize those who “dare, dream and do” in the community.
President Robbie Skinner said, “Our theme this year is ‘Dream. Dare. Do.’ Those words are the cornerstone of our organization and our community.
“We represent more than 160 dreamers who dare to do great things in their businesses and in our region,” he said. “Our organization continues to flourish. Just last year, in the year 2016 alone, we welcomed 11 new businesses to our community. All of those businesses opted to join the Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce.”
“We are the community’s largest, most influential advocacy organization,” he added. “We represent the mission, the values and the needs of everyone we serve to our city, county, state and national representatives. You all rely on and trust our organization to work for you every day. Our office is a warm and engaging center-point of information for members and visitors alike.”
Tickets for the annual dinner sold out, something Skinner said is a testament of success and creditability of the chamber.
Steve Roberts, president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, served as the keynote speaker. Roberts graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan College.
His remarks were directed at the importance of chambers but also the assets that West Virginia already has in place.
“We are a remarkable state and I think sometimes we don’t do enough to remind ourselves of what a remarkable place we are and what a remarkable job we are doing,” he said. “In West Virginia we are a blessed state and we are a blessed people. We have remarkable beauty. We have a delightful location. Our location is the envy of places in the rest of the country.
“They don’t have the proximity to major markets that we have. They don’t have the abundant water we have.”
Roberts cited the state’s abundant natural resources and its other assets, including the colleges and universities.
He also pointed to its people and said he had fun over the last couple weeks asking others who they thought were the most remarkable people from West Virginia.
That list includes John Chambers, CEO of Cisco; Alex Bolen, CEO of Oscar de la Renta; actress Jennifer Garner; musician Brad Paisley; and more.
“There are only seven people left alive who have won the Congressional Medal of Honor from World War II,” he said. “There is only one who was at Iwo Jima, and that is West Virginian Woody Williams. He is a walking piece of world history and a wonderful person.”
Roberts said he could go and on about West Virginians but turned to what is happening in the state.
“We are really beginning to see growth and development and new jobs created in West Virginia,” he said. “The numbers say that West Virginia has gained employment every month of 2017.”
Roberts said that tax collections are up, total employment is up, retail sales are up, chamber membership is up and coal production is up.
“Those are all very, very good signs for the economy of West Virginia,” he said.
“Natural gas has the potential to be the industry of the future for us in the state of West Virginia.”
While there is good news on the horizon, Roberts said there is plenty to do to help with growth and improvement.
“In order to help grow and improve our communities, we know we need to improve our schools,” he said. “We need to modernize and update our infrastructure.”
Roberts said he often hears from two people in the room that night pushing for the completion of Corridor H — Steve Foster, retired executive director of the UCDA, and Bob Skinner, vice president for advancement at West Virginia Wesleyan College and UCDA member.
There is also more work to do to create energy policies and encourage and facilitate production and transportation of energy, according to Roberts.
“West Virginia is the fifth most important energy producing state in the nation,” he said. “We are a significant, significant energy player.”
“If it is to be, it is up to me,” Roberts quoted a line that chamber members tend to believe.
“That is why we are here tonight,” he said. “We are people who identify a mission, who work as a team and we accept individual responsibility.”
“We have remarkable opportunities of us,” Roberts said. “We are and we will be an energy producing state. West Virginia has a history of being a state where people make things. Manufacturing is important in our state and we will have opportunities to explain our manufacturing infrastructure.”
Both U.S. Senators, Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito, are working to attract more Department of Defense contractors to the state.
The Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce premiered two new videos at this year’s dinner that will be shared through social media.
Seven organizations came together to sponsor the videos: the chamber, UCDA, St. Joseph’s Hospital, West Virginia Wesleyan College, City of Buckhannon, Upshur County Commission and Upshur County Convention and Visitor Bureau.
“This is a community project that has grown over the last year through our partnership with seven local organizations,” Skinner said.
One focuses on the arts with an interview with Ron Hinkle. The second video spotlights industry including St. Gobain and Weyerhaeuser.