CLARKSBURG -- As the featured speaker at the annual Harrison County Chamber of Commerce awards dinner Friday, U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller had an important message.
Creating new jobs and improving the economic climate of the state should be a priority for all residents, he said.
North Central West Virginia, and Harrison County especially, are beginning to thrive in a time when other areas are seeing economic losses, he said. But this is no time to rest. Instead, even more aggressive campaigns are needed to continue to draw the kinds of businesses and industries that have made Harrison County a development model for the rest of the state.
"In an era when traditional West Virginia companies are struggling, and when multinational corporations pack up and relocate at the drop of a hat, Harrison County can boast a growing list of top employers," he said. "And a lot of the credit has to go to the people in this room tonight.
"Local economic development is not traditionally a priority for congressional representatives," he said. "But in West Virginia, all of us have to work hard all the time on preserving and creating jobs."
To survive and thrive in the 21st century, Rockefeller said West Virginians have to embrace both the old economy -- coal, chemicals, steel and manufacturing -- as well as the new economy -- technology.
As the economy changes, so does the need for quality education, Rockefeller said.
"The new economy is a knowledge economy, and we have to offer prospective employees technically skilled and Internet-ready workers," he said.
After Rockefeller's remarks, awards were presented for ambassador of the year, business of the year, citizen of the year, community improvement and new business of the year. Young entrepreneur of the year, a new award this year, also was presented.
n Joe Nestor was named ambassador of the year for his service to the chamber's ambassador's council and for going above and beyond the call of duty.
n Bombardier Aerospace was named business of the year for outstanding corporate citizenship, community involvement and commitment to the chamber. In recognizing Bombardier, presenter Woody Thrasher said the company "continues to be a major player in the current and future growth of Harrison County and North Central West Virginia."
n Ralph Bean was named citizen of the year for his leadership, community involvement and volunteerism within Harrison County.
Thrasher touted Bean's extensive law background as well as his work with economic development in the state.
n Medbrook Medical Associates was given the community improvement award for commitment to improving the quality of life in West Virginia.
The center not only donates free sports physicals to county athletes but also established a Children's Charities to sponsor local golf tournaments.
n Embellishments, owned by Cathy Goings, was named new business of the year. Embellishments has taken a vacant downtown building and turned it into a beautiful asset to the city, said presenter Mary Lou Jones. It had an outstanding first year and has tremendous potential for growth, she said.
n Bridgeport High School student Jeffrey R. Barger was named young entrepreneur. The award was created to honor someone under the age of 18 who is a dependent or employee of a Chamber member.
Barger is active in the community and his church youth group, said presenter Don Molter, and will be representing Harrison County at the state Governor's Honors Academy this year.
Staff writer James Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at email@example.com.