The Times West Virginian

July 17, 2013

Jamboree site will help foster more economic growth in state

Times West Virginian

— It’s difficult to gauge economic development.

The “if you build it, they will come” philosophy for government or private infrastructure development is usually a safe bet. Especially when you’re talking about drawing more than 40,000 visitors to a particular spot for a week.

Numbers released earlier this week regarding the Boy Scout Jamboree at Summit Bechtel Reserve near Oak Hill have supported the short-term success of the development. The Associated Press reported that construction of the permanent home for the national Jamboree pumped nearly $170 million in income into southern West Virginia over the past four years.

A report by SYNEVA Economics of Asheville, N.C., found that $121 million went directly into the community, and another $48 million indirectly benefited the community through construction, supporting 848 jobs.

On top of that, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced Monday that the project has generated $45.1 million in tax revenues between 2010 and 2013, with some $15.8 million for state and local governments.

That’s just the beginning, state officials believe.

Before the Boy Scouts of America chose Fayette County as the permanent home from the 80 sites in 28 states under consideration, the organization held its annual Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia. But it was always a temporary site in nature, which required dismantling and rebuilding of structures every four years.

Summit Bechtel is expected to be open year-round and available for Scouting events, retreats and conferences.

Tomblin says the numbers will continue to grow as those within the Scouting community tell friends and family about their experiences in West Virginia.

“Hopefully, the word of mouth resonates and they go home and say, ‘Wow, we didn’t think of West Virginia’ as a place to go,” Tomblin said earlier this week.

And then there’s the world Jamboree scheduled for 2019, which officials are already predicting will draw more than 80,000 Scouts from around the world and will mark the first time the event will be held in the United States. Not only will there be much more construction and work to prepare the 10,000-acre site for twice the number of visitors, but the impact on the supporting businesses — gas stations, hotels, grocery stores, restaurants — will be astronomical.

We know how much Summit Bechtel has meant to the state so far. This isn’t a temporary influx of dollars in our economy. It is a solid foundation that will foster growth and even more development. We know that visitors from near and far will carry home stories of Wild, Wonderful West Virginia as they experience the scenic beauty and outdoor recreation like never before over the next 10 days.

And we know West Virginia will not be the nation’s “best-kept secret” for much longer.