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Hampshire County plans for the future as it continues to grow

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By MARLA PISCIOTTA
For The State Journal

In the past five years Hampshire County has received accolades ranging among the best creating and sustaining jobs and economic growth to the second best place in the country to buy an investment home.

Steve Roberts, president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, recently said that Hampshire County is leading the way for the rest of West Virginia to know what to do.

"The quality of life in Hampshire County is so important," Roberts said. "The combination of the quality of life and the natural beauty brings Hampshire County to the forefront," Roberts said.

The Winchester, Va.-West Virginia metropolitan area, which includes Hampshire County, climbed 93 spots from 134 to 41 in 2011, according to the Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities index.

The report includes both five-year and one-year measurements of employment and salary growth.

"We are really beginning to see positive signs for West Virginia and our entire region," Roberts said.

Officials have planned for the future by improving infrastructure throughout the county. A little more than $2 million was invested in an interconnector project that connected a major sewer line to Romney. Bridges have been replaced or repaired and many roads also have been paved and maintained recently.

Several other projects have contributed to the optimism about the economy in the area.

The construction of Hampshire Wellness and Fitness and Hampshire Memorial Hospital were completed in the past few years. The 65,000-square foot HMH cost $30 million to build. A 24,900-square-foot medical building also was constructed next to the hospital at a cost of $5,948.000.

The Route 50 two-lane road going through Romney was replaced with a three-lane road complete with turnoffs, new sidewalks and curbing. A new sewer drain was installed under the highway as it was being constructed.

DirectAnswer, a 22-year-old business in Oxon Hill, Md., leased a 33,000-square foot building in Capon Bridge Tech Park. The business processes orders for people who sell things on the Internet. 

A new state-of-the-art Sheetz store, geared toward the restaurant business is being constructed this spring.

Crane Welding, a 20-year-old structure and miscellaneous metal fabrication company moved from Virginia to Capon Bridge in West Virginia in January 2013.

Festivals such as the Founders Day Festival in Capon Bridge, the Romney History Festival and the West Virginia Peach Festival will bring visitors into the county from May through September to see some of the improvements firsthand.

A network of nine towers has cropped up throughout the county to enhance cell phone service.

The Hampshire County Development Authority is moving forward with plans to bring a rail spur in the Romney Business Park, which would enable the authority to construct a freight depot as well as an extensive shopping area. A study done by Dean Runyan Associates said that visitors spent $36 million in Hampshire County in 2008, an increase from the previous year.

That report was released by the West Virginia Department of Commerce and found that travel-generated earnings in the county totaled an additional $204,680 as well as affecting an estimated 390 jobs. In 2007, tourists spent $33.5 million in Hampshire County, according to the report.