It’s become more and more obvious that West Virginia needs to strengthen its economy. Workforce participation is down, coal is in trouble and many of our state’s best and brightest leave for opportunities elsewhere.
And while the Legislature and others work to make our state attractive to business, many creative West Virginians often face obstacles in getting their goods to market.
But the Tamarack Foundation for the Arts hopes to change that. The group last week announced plans to raise $100,000 to convert space in the old Staats Hospital on the West Side into a creative business incubator, the Gazette-Mail’s Elaina Sauber reported.
Tighe Bullock, who heads Crawford Holdings, LLC, and is a candidate for the House of Delegates in the 32nd District, bought the building in 2014, and has worked to renovate the 94-year-old structure. He and his father also have headed up other revitalization efforts in the Elk City area of the West Side.
“We’re starting to finally build an identity on the West Side that has its own flavor to it,” Bullock said.
That vision is what drew the Tamarack Foundation for the Arts, Sauber reported.
“We were looking for a partnership, and what I see in this community development effort, particularly on that block, is a commitment to the arts,” said Alissa Novoselick, the group’s executive director.
The business incubator will provide in-person training, education and development programs for business-minded artists and space to showcase their work. The foundation hopes to eventually add artist studios and residences, similar to Asheville, N.C.’s River Arts District, Sauber wrote.
Embracing and fostering a creative class could help grow West Virginia’s economy. Chattanooga, Tenn., worked with and helped grow its creative class and is now seeing a revitalized economy after years of industrial decline.
And artists aren’t the only ones who appreciate an area’s creative vibe. More than 25,000 people have moved to Chattanooga in recent years, thanks in part to its growing arts and culture scene. West Virginia sure could benefit from the same kind of population boom.
Attracting national or even global companies to the Mountain State — and helping the ones already here to succeed — is a worthy goal, and one that will bring much needed jobs to our state. But economies are and should be multi-faceted. As Novoselick said, every piece of the economic puzzle is important.
That’s why the city, and the state, should embrace the foundation’s vision and continued efforts to foster a creative class in West Virginia.