Business & Industry
Tazewell and Mercer county area early settlers were predominately farmers, and followed the traditional pattern of foothills farming that characterized pioneering settlements all along the eastern slope of the Allegheny Mountain Range on the western fringe of the fertile Valley of the Virginias. But that way of life would change dramatically with the large-scale commercial exploitation of the region’s rich mineral and forest resources.
The Norfolk & Western railway drove a line from Radford, Virginia to the eastern Tazewell County town of Pocahontas in 1882, and started hauling out coal the following year. In 1905, the Virginian Railway brought a rail line through Princeton that sparked coal rail competition through the first half of the 20th Century that ended with the merger of the two railroads in the mid-1950s. Within a few years of the start of commercial coal mining in the region, huge timber companies emerged throughout the region to take advantage of the region’s incredible forest resources. Unlike coal, the area’s timber resources are renewable.
Several businesses evolved in the Mercer-Tazewell region to provide support services to the rail industry as well as the extractive industries of coal and timber. In addition, some service-based businesses evolved to provide support for the management, workers and families of the primary industries. The region benefits from a wealth of healthcare facilities as well as excellent public schools, colleges, universities, and technical schools that enjoy broad-based support.
Mercer and Tazewell Counties both have a variety of vibrant businesses and industrial parks with infrastructure in place. The labor pool is skilled and available to work in numerous industries area wide. Flexible job training opportunities are also available throughout the two-county region. The area is home to major global industries to small entrepreneurships. Related industries include primary and secondary wood industries, coal mining support companies, telecommunications, healthcare, retail, services, and hospitality. Tazewell County is served by the Economic Office of Development and Mercer, the Development Authority of Mercer County. The Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce is the sponsor of the Bluefield Coal Show and Bluefield Coal Symposium.
The region’s incredible natural beauty has always drawn a fair share of tourists into the two-county area, but improved highway connectivity, as well as growing interest in heritage tourism, has stimulated dramatic growth in this part of the economy. Accessibility to broadband communications and affordable utilities have drawn the attention of some urban businesses that are searching for a more rural setting.
Perhaps the region’s most vital resource is its people. Many residents remain as the third and fourth generation of people who literally moved mountains to carve out a civilization in southern West Virginia and southwestern Virginia. The spirit carried by that diverse and powerful workforce remains intact.
Small Business of the Year Award