Without a 140 character limit and two bourbons under my belt, I swear I would have been more constructive. I would have said that successful tourism must be in lockstep with current trends and projects requiring big capital outlays must pay off for decades, making millennials and Gen Z central to their success.
In the little orange box, down and to the right, I critique each of Justice's ideas mentioned in my tweet. To prove I'm not just being a Negative Nancy, though, I also want to share new ideas for reviving West Virginia's economy.
Some are tourism-based. Others aren’t. And I’ll be the first to admit they all need pressure testing. I'll leave that to Justice's staff since mine consists of one eager but illiterate puggle. Here goes:
1) Give away a coal town.
Take your pick—Welch, Madison, Logan, Mullens—all are filled with great old buildings, left to rot. After remodeling a few into live/work and retail spaces, you could literally give them to qualifying artists and entrepreneurs. Can you imagine the media coverage? Can you imagine to deluge of applications from people ready to trade their $3,000/month Brooklyn studio apartments for free space in the inspiring Appalachian mountains? The second wave of spaces could go for a deeply reduced rate. By development's third wave, there should be enough momentum for private investors to take over. Oh, and don’t worry about these towns being remote. Other artistic hubs like Homer, Alaska and Hot Springs, Arkansas prove that can be an asset.
2) Beef up the eastern panhandle.
3) Be authentic along the New River.
4) Booze it up.
5) Legalize pot...fast.
6) Serve up Appalachian food.
7) Turn coal miners into tech grunts.
8) Don't just market; rebrand.
Jim Justice refers to himself as the state's "marketer in chief," proposing an ad campaign to publicize all West Virginia has to offer. That's the right direction, but he should push it further. I'm talking about a full rebranding. Justice needs a little help I think, and taking a look at Secret Hideout's website, even hiring a group like them would go a long way to help him revive the state. Think about it—when West Virginia gets national exposure, what's it about? The death of coal, mountain top removal, meth, or backwoods antics like those on MTV's Buckwild. None of it drives tourism or attracts investors, and the state has centuries of bad press working against it. Hillbilly stereotypes extend to the region's first European settlers, so it will take a radical repositioning to change people's hearts and minds, to convince them of what you and I know—that West Virginia is not just wild. It is also wonderful.