CHARLESTON – For the past 30 years, I have looked at thousands of acres of flat land at the Hobet mine site in Boone and Lincoln counties and thought about the enormous possibilities those acres could bring about for West Virginia – if we ever had the opportunity. Today, opportunity is exactly what we have.

Since first announcing my vision for developing this site for economic growth nearly one year ago, this effort has simply been known as, "the Hobet project." Now, as we move even closer to this dream becoming a reality, we announced its new and official name: Rock Creek Development Park.

We also announced Rock Creek's first tenant, the West Virginia National Guard. Beginning immediately, the Guard is expanding operations to the site. Through vehicle maintenance work and expanded training for Guard members, we'll be bringing jobs and activity to Rock Creek. In addition, our state's agriculture industry stands to see a boost, with a Guard project that includes apple trees and greenhouses – and has the long-term potential for production operations that employ West Virginians.

Through a truly successful public-private approach, we have worked with local landowners who are donating land that will result in more than 12,000 developable acres for Rock Creek. With the Guard activities located on property adjacent to plots of land identified for development, we have such immense opportunity at our fingertips – opportunity nearly the size of the city of Huntington – to build up a region of our state hit hard by the downturn in the coal industry.

To realize its full potential, and thanks to a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, we have contracted with expert consultants for a long-term strategic plan for Rock Creek. These consultants are analyzing demographics and market trends to identify the best investment opportunities for the park, while also mapping out plans for infrastructure and design.

With a new name, a first tenant and strategic planning underway, Rock Creek is poised to become a hub for industrial, commercial and residential development. I have been working closely with local officials in Boone, Lincoln, Mingo, Logan and Kanawha counties. We believe, together, in the future of Southern West Virginia. And we are committed to seeing Rock Creek succeed.

For decades, our coal miners, workers and their families have kept our state strong. Now, it's our turn to help them.

For more information on Rock Creek Development Park, visit www.rockcreekwv.com.

Tomblin is the governor of West Virginia.

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