This week from Charleston
Last week I traveled to Moorefield for one of the House of Delegate’s Small Business & Entrepreneurship listening tour events. There have been a series of listening events across the state since the end of the legislative session last March and there are two more, including one in Martinsburg on October 14th at the Holiday Inn from 6pm to 8pm. Please attend if you are a small business owner or an entrepreneur.
Of the small business people in Moorefield, one of the themes that developed at the was about support of hospitality and tourism. Hospitality and tourism needs to be a critical arm of economic development and not a stand-alone project at the state level. It was certainly no surprise to me that there were complaints about our state’s archaic alcohol laws. One of the small business owners pointed out that the law actually requires “private clubs” to serve liquor but that no one actually has a “private club.” He is right. It’s very clear that we need to reform the antiquated laws and regulations so that our tourism and hospitality business will thrive, not just survive. I have spoken frequently about the challenges Bloomery Distillery has had with West Virginia law, and I was the sponsor of the bill to fix just some of those changes. That bill passed both the House this last year, but unfortunately died on the last night of the session.
Another unsurprising complaint was poor service from FirstEnergy and Frontier. One of the larger small businesses represented spoke of the problems in getting FirstEnergy to assist it with expanding its business. The complaints about Frontier related to inconsistent and slow internet speeds. I was pleased to hear that some new small business owners were happy with how easy it was to start a business in the state. I also heard the positive comment that our taxes were much lower than the surrounding states. I am glad to hear that we are comparing positively to our competitors. It is not discussed enough that our real property rates are much lower than Virginia and Maryland’s.
Don’t forget about the Public Service Commission hearings on the FirstEnergy electricity rate hikes will be in Shepherdstown at the Shepherd University Frank Center on October 6, 2014. The first hearing begins at 1:00 p.m. and will be followed by a second hearing beginning at 6:00 p.m. I hope you will join me and tell the PSC how the proposed rate increase will affect you and how you feel about paying the $7.5M cost of Potomac Edison’s monthly meter reading ordered as a result the General Investigation into the company’s meter reading and billing practices.