FAYETTEVILLE, WV (WVNS) – Fayette, Nicholas, Raleigh, and Summers Counties were all represented by more than 75 stakeholders in the outdoor industry. They packed The Grove in Fayetteville on Monday, January 13, 2020, eager to discuss economic development at a workshop hosted by New River Gorge Regional Development Authority.

Gene Kistler was representing his business, Water Stone Outdoors, and told 59 News this forum is the start of a great opportunity.

“It’s 2020, I don’t think coal is going to come back. I don’t think anyone is gonna argue about that anymore,” Kistler. “So I think we need to take a look at where we are and not wait ten years to respond to change in the market place.”

Gene Kistler provides outdoor and climbing gear at his store. He wants people who are not from the area to be able to come here to do the same. That is where NRGRDA consulting partner, ‘Emergent Opportunities,’ comes in. Their president, Noah Wilson, traveled from Asheville, NC to lead Monday’s forum.

“Emergent Opportunities is a consulting firm dedicated to figuring out where the opportunities in our communities, especially rural places, are the most timely and have the biggest opportunity for growth and development,” Wilson said.

While rafting, hiking, and climbing are all staples to the New River Gorge region, Wilson explained the focus is on how current commerce can stay afloat, and why new entrepreneurs would want to come here.

“What would you do to ensure business already in this region can grow?” Wilson asked at the forum. “What would you do so that businesses could start in this region? How we can recruit companies here?”

Engaged and motivated, stakeholders participated in Wilson’s activities during the workshop, reflecting on how they can make this area not just better for new business people, but also for their children.

“This is not just about other people coming here, it’s about energizing a whole new demographic of locals to show them how lucky they are to live here,” Kistler added.

This workshop is the third in a series of public meetings that were held regionally over the last nine months.