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Local Business Booming

By Staff | Feb 6, 2019

Within the past few years, Tyler County has seen an influx of new businesses, many of them being locally-owned. While some may speculate this is a cause of the gas and oil industry in the surrounding areas, others argue that small towns simply have an appeal that draws in business owners.

Terry Wiley, owner of The Sistersville Emporium, The Gaslight Theater, and The Sistersville Museum, is of the belief that small towns offer people a sense of comfort, security, and safety that bigger cities can’t give. Wiley said there is a renewed interest in small towns, which can be apparent by the amount of new people in the community. He said in the area he lives, there are no natives to West Virginia. Wiley believes people are looking for small towns as there is an appeal to the charm it gives.

Wiley also believes malls are dying, and as a result these local businesses rise in popularity. Wiley explained businesses in small towns ride on highs and lows as far as trends go, but said there will always be small towns and people interested in them.

One customer at the Sistersville Emporium, who claimed to be a native to New Martinsville, said she would rather shop locally. She explained she generally buys supplies locally, even during the Christmas season. For her and possibly to many others, there is an appeal to keeping money within the community and supporting the livelihood of neighbors.

She also expressed unique items can be found in small towns, rather than a mass factory-produced item in every store across America.

This Wetzel County native also said local people are friendly, and going to local stores is similar to visiting an acquaintance. These stores and businesses are owned and operated by people who are known and found to be trustworthy; they are individuals one can form a relationship with.

While both Wiley and the customer believe that local businesses are doing well, the customer was unsure whether there was a correlation with the influx of people in the area from the gas and oil companies.

However, Sharon Thomas – Executive Director of the Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce – believes the gas and oil companies have a lot to do with the rise in local businesses. Thomas said with these companies and the large amounts of people entering the county, it opens a need for services.

With more “cash flow” in the county, local people are seizing opportunities to provide the needed services. It’s Thomas’ belief that the presence of these companies and the increase of money in the area brings a sense of confidence to people wanting to take a step in opening their own business. The executive director said local people “feel secure to take action” in opening businesses and services as a result of a more stable economy brought on by these companies.

Thomas also said that gas and oil companies are good resources, and are a positive aspect in the community in regards to local businesses. However, while many current businesses are thriving in the economy at present, she explained there will still be struggles as there are with all businesses, namely in advertising the name and services provided by the business to the community. Having a rise in the number of community members and more payroll doesn’t change this fact, according to Thomas.

While it may be a concern for some that these new businesses will shut down when the oil and gas companies vacate the surrounding communities, Thomas believes that they will have stability even after this. While much of the local businesses’ success is currently wrapped up in the oil and gas industry, an individual’s business skills must also come into play. Thomas believes that as long as local business owners have the required skills, businesses will continue to thrive in the area. It was explained that because local people use these services as well, they should continue to thrive long after these companies leave.

However, Eric Vincent of the Tyler County Commission and the Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce said the presence of the oil and gas industry is both a positive and a negative aspect for local businesses.

Vincent believes, like Thomas, that the main reason for the recent boom of local businesses is the gas and oil companies, but also believes there are various other reasons behind these openings. However, Vincent said they are “flourishing” because of the influx of people in the county.

The Tyler County Commissioner expressed there is a “fine line” between it being positive and negative, and it is his hope that the owners have a plan for their businesses once this industry and people leave the county.

It’s his belief that the locals in the communities need to support these businesses and services, as they are what Vincent described, the backbone of our country. Vincent also said that local businesses opening up provide the community with more job opportunities that were not previously available, and that is a needed feature in the area. It was also explained that opening a business is a risky venture; Vincent encouraged locals to embrace these services as they are the ones who will remain once the oil and gas industry leave, and the businesses will then rely fully on them.

Other local business owners weigh in with their opinions on this matter.

Brooke LeMasters of Bombshell Hair Studio says, “People have just realized it’s time for our area, and if we want a different caliber of things we have to put in the initiative to do it.” She believes that while the gas and oil industry has played a part in people taking this initiative, it’s not the main reason.

LeMasters explained that local businesses are needed in the county, and noted that people are taking the risk of opening their own places.

Like Vincent, LeMasters believes that community members need to support local businesses. However, the owner and stylist said the community already offers a great deal of support and that they appreciate the services offered by small business owners such as herself. LeMasters also believes that business owners should “chip in” and show each other support as well.

According to the Bombshell owner, it takes a lot of “guts” to open a place, and she believes support from other business owners who are willing to cross-promote the business will go a long way in assisting owners.

Because LeMasters does not believe that the gas and oil industry has much effect on small town businesses, she doesn’t see businesses faltering when the industry leaves the area. However, she said that as business owners there are always choices to make that could effect the business negatively or positively. As such, she expressed that local businesses should thrive and grow if owners “play their cards right.”

One employee with Sistersville Florist – Barbara – doesn’t believe the gas and oil industry has an impact on the businesses at all. She said that while industry workers might boost restaurant sales and book up hotels, they don’t do much local shopping.

It’s Barbara’s belief that businesses are opening locally on account of the public growing tired of travel. For many people in Tyler County, driving is required for many services such as for medication, clothes, and products found in hardware stores. She said that don’t want to make the commute to a different area for these items, and she believes many would prefer local shopping. Barbara said she personally dislikes to travel out of town and desires to support the community and local businesses. However, she expressed that businesses have to be in Tyler County for that to happen.

The florist also said businesses are improving, and she believes that success will continue to rise.

In regards to the influx of local businesses, the general belief doesn’t seem to be centered around the gas and oil industry. Despite this, many still fear for the outcome of small businesses once these companies move to another community.

Whether the sudden boom of small businesses correlates with the gas and oil industry or not, the community at large seems to be grateful for it. The general consensus on this subject is that businesses are welcomed and needed in the area, and seem to have the support of the local community. With these results, one should not look for a large crowd or an industry to base their business success off of, but at the support provided by the community. If one can garner support from locals, than fear for the future is not needed, according to many business owners.

As a result of these findings, Tyler County residents are encouraged to support their local businesses and embrace the services offered. A little support can go a long way in business, and residents should keep that in mind before driving to another area for a product offered locally.