NEW MARTINSVILLE - New Martinsville is a place people call "home," said Don Riggenbach, president of the Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce, and he hopes more and more people and businesses will move there in the future and establish roots.
And future investment and prosperity in New Martinsville likely does rest in the hands of the chamber, he acknowledged.
The Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce is not just an entity providing outreach to business. Unlike most chambers, it is also an economic development group that owns property in the county, Riggenbach noted.
Don Riggenbach, president of the Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce, conducts daily business at his rug and tile store in downtown New Martinsville.
Photo by Joselyn King
"We are trying to attract gas drillers and attract more businesses to our industrial park," he said. "But we need more infrastructure."
Volunteers with the chamber are currently working to achieve that end, Riggenbach said. He added that Wetzel County is "geographically challenged" in that it lacks large tracts of flat land that would be attractive to big manufacturing plants, and is instead seeking to attract small manufacturing.
New Martinsville is named for Pressley Martin, who came to the territory that is now New Martinsville in 1808.
In 1810, he purchased 80 acres of land that would become the city.
New Martinsville currently has a population of 5,292, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
The percentage of those age 65 or older living in the city is 21.7 percent, compared to 16 percent across West Virginia - already a state that ranks among the highest in the average age of its residents.
The census data also reveals another important fact about New Martinsville - 78.1 percent of those living there own their homes, compared to 74.3 percent across West Virginia.
Now it is the chamber's mission to attract businesses and young people to New Martinsville - as well as give them a community where they will want to stay and live.
Riggenbach noted in past years, management and employees at the nearby Bayer and PPG plants would make their homes in New Martinsville.
"But the new generation (of employees) doesn't live here," Riggenbach noted. "They want to live in a bigger city - like Wheeling, or maybe even Pittsburgh - and commute."
New Martinsville has much to offer, he added.
"We have a good base to come raise a family," Riggenbach said. "We have low crime, low taxes, and our cost of living here is one the best you'll find anywhere."
He also commended the education provided by Wetzel County Schools and praised the library system in the county and Wetzel County Hospital.