This week from Charleston
This past week the House of Delegates Small Business Committee’s statewide listening tour made its way to the Eastern Panhandle. All members of the committee are current or past small business owners and the vice chair of the committee is Berkeley County Delegate Jason Barrett. I have been serving on the committee for the last two years and enjoy the new focus on entrepreneurship and small business. The most significant piece of legislation to come out of the committee in the last year was called Project Launchpad to identify specific industries to bring in to specific qualified regions in the state.
Tuesday’s tour brought out a sizable number of small business owners from Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties. We asked the people who came to tell us about their challenges and successes of doing business in West Virginia. The best part for most, I assume, was that the legislators just listened. It was heartening to hear the success stories and that there are plenty of people who believe that doing business in West Virginia is a positive. At the end of the tour all of the comments will be compiled and serve as the basis for proposed legislation to fix some of the problems that have been highlighted.
I was pleased that Shepherdstown was well represented by Christian Asam and Deborah Tucker. Along with Rob Losey of Bloomery Distillery, they emphasized the need to reform the antiquated alcohol laws and unfair taxes and fees. Losey pointed out that he actually has to pay a surcharge for every bottle sold at the Charles Town Distillery that is then paid to the to local liquor stores. That makes no sense. Of course, Sunday sales both at the distillery and at restaurants was discussed. Much of the focus was on the impact on tourism. Bloomery has had 50,000 visitors in the last three years with half of them coming just to visit the distillery. They lose a vast about of traffic by not being able to be open on Sundays.
On Wednesday, I attended a meeting at Washington High School on the use of synthetic drugs by students. They have had several incidents related to use of what has been called ‘spice’. The products that some retailers are selling to minors can have enormous consequences since the chemical composition can vary wildly and reactions can be extreme. These synthetic drugs were banned in West Virginia as of this past June, but some retailers are still selling them.