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Panhandle marketing initiative launched

March 13, 2009

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Gov. Joe Manchin earlier this week signed an executive order that effectively launched an initiative to market West Virginia's four most eastern counties to the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area.

"This will enable local governments to work together, as a region, to promote economic development opportunities, while highlighting our state's many benefits, like a low cost of living, natural beauty, nice people and a low crime rate," Manchin said in a news release about the creation of Western Potomac Economic Partnership (West-PEP).

"I am confident that this partnership will allow local governments to ultimately better serve their customers and educate others on why West Virginia is a great place to work, live and raise a family. I look forward to working with the entire Eastern Panhandle delegation on promoting this region."

The initiative was championed by State Sen. Herb Snyder, who promoted the concept to county leaders last year.

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"The governor recognizes the unique potential of the Eastern Panhandle," Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, said in a news release from the governor's office. "The proximity to the D.C. metropolitan area places these four counties adjacent to a trillion dollar economy. This economic partnership gives us the opportunity to show our economic development potential."

Snyder said Tuesday that money would be appropriated to help market Hampshire, Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties collectively as West-PEP through trade shows, related publications and targeted mailings, among other strategies.

The executive order allows the West Virginia Development Office to provide assistance to West-PEP by encouraging businesses to expand or relocate within West-PEP and also package current incentives and evaluate prospective development tools that may be needed.

Berkeley County Development Authority executive director Stephen Christian credited the cooperative efforts of each county's development authority to bring about the new partnership, which will function as a public-private partnership 501C-3. Day-to-day operations will be managed by the Eastern Panhandle Regional Planning & Development Council, Christian said.

West-PEP joins other regional economic development partnerships among West Virginia's 55 counties, including the West Virginia Hardwood Alliance Zone and the I-79 High Tech Corridor.

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