"Made in America" roundtable part of U.S. Sen. Rockefeller's push to create jobs

December 02, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — John Denver's geography might have been off a little in the lyrics of his song "Take Me Home, Country Roads," but he was right on when it came to promoting West Virginia tourism.

"Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River" have little to do with the rest of West Virginia. Jefferson County is the only part of the state touched by the Shenandoah River, there is no coal here and only a slim line on the map separates Virginia and Jefferson County along the Blue Ridge.

Sandy Burky of West Virginia Living magazine, one of 11 panel members recruited for U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller's final "Made in America" roundtable Friday, said "Take Me Home, Country Roads" has been West Virginia tourism's best-ever marketing tool.

The event at the Shepherdstown Train Station is part of Rockefeller's ongoing push to revitalize manufacturing and create jobs, according to a news release from his office.

Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, brought together artisans, manufacturers and retailers to talk about the impact of tourism, the challengers of cheap imports, the effect of Internet marketing and ways to encourage holiday shoppers to buy local products.

Meredith Wait, co-owner of Dickinson & Wait, a high-end Shepherdstown gift shop, said she has seen the downtown Shepherdstown business community get re-energized in recent years. She feels the local business community has been getting little or no help in promotions from the Jefferson County Convention and Visitors Bureau or the West Virginia Department of Tourism.

"We need expertise," she said.

Pam Parziale, who with her husband, Ren, owns Sycamore Pottery in Kearneysville, W.Va., spoke of the "uneven support" from the visitors bureau. She also was critical of the state's effort on behalf of the arts and culture.

"The last big push for arts and culture was when Gaston Caperton was governor," she said.

Mario Figaretti said his cousin, Tony, owns Figaretti's Italian Restaurant and Figaretti's Manufacturing and Distribution in Wheeling, W.Va. A family business, it goes back four generations from the early 20th century, when Mario's great-grandfather, Guisseppe Figaretti, a sulfur miner, came to West Virginia to work in the coal mines.

Mario's grandfather opened the restaurant in 1948. The sauce from a family recipe has become so popular that it expanded from just the restaurant and a small local market to a major commercial venture, Mario said. The family is negotiating with a big-box store to market their sauce, he said.

Other panelists included Caperton Furniture Works of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., Visions in Sculpture of Mount Lookout, W.Va., Pam Berry of the Shepherdstown Sweet Shop Bakery and Rita Colistra of the West Virginia School of Journalism.

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