WHEELING — Tourism rates in West Virginia are up 16 percent this year, a jump West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice attributes to the Trump administration.
Justice — whose family also owns the Greenbrier Resort — was among panelists participating in the “Tax Cuts to Put America First” discussion Thursday in the Glessner Auditorium at Oglebay Park’s Wilson Lodge. The event was sponsored by America First Policies, and preceded remarks from Vice President Mike Pence.
Justice said Chelsea Ruby, state tourism commissioner, told him Wednesday the tourism rate in the state is up 16 percent from June 2017 to June 2018. The national average increase is 1.7 percent.
“It’s all intermingled and tied back to Donald Trump and Mike Pence,” Justice said. “This just not just something falling off a log.
“Think about how many times these great people — the president and vice president — have come to West Virginia,”he said. “I think we should solicit them to become citizens of the great state of West Virginia.”
Justice said the Trump tax cuts passed late in 2017 have created a bump in manufacturing that has made the steel industry “boom like crazy.”
“You can help me with Vice President Pence or the president, but I’m going to ask him — wouldn’t it be awful nice if we had Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel back to work?” he asked.
Justice said the faith the Trump administration has shown in America, its people and industries has made the difference.
“Obama and all his cronies around him, did they really believe in America?” Justice asked. “That’s the very thing this administration is done. They believe in us. They are unleashing us. They are believing in the greatest country on earth. That’s the whole thing.
“There’s a big difference when you don’t truly believe and want to migrate jobs out, and you don’t believe in industry,” he said. “They’ve made you feel good about who you are.”
Also participating in the panel discussion were Ian Boccaccio, principal at Ryan LLC; Alfredo Ortiz, CEO of the Job Creators Network in Atlanta; Chris Miller, president of Dutch Miller Automotive in Huntington; and Judy Kay Sheppard, president and CEO of Professional Services of America in Parkersburg.
Miller told those present $1 in the hand of a small businesses — saved through Trump tax cuts — can have a greater affect on the economy than it does in government hands.
“We can take care of ourselves better than the government does,” he said.
Ortiz said naysayers predicted “armageddon” would happen when the tax cuts went into effect, but they are working for small business owners.
“If this is armageddon, sign me up for armageddon every day,” he said.
Those attending said they came because they support the policies Trump is enacting.
“I’m not a political person, but I keep my eyes open,” said Joann Davis Vandergrift, of Wheeling. “I read as much as I can, and I keep my mouth shut on Facebook.”
Pat Ford, executive director of the Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle, said Brooke and Hancock counties already have been the beneficiaries of $6.2 million in grant funding under the Trump administration. This money is helping with infrastructure improvements, and the abolition of abandoned buildings and brownfields.
“To have the vice president come here shows the importance of this region to the future of the nation,” he said. “I came to show my support and say thank you.”
Jayme Dixon, of Wellsburg, came in support of her son Dylan.
“He has two kids, and he will need the tax reforms,” she said.
According to information from the House Ways and Means Committee, the typical family of four earning the median income of $73,000 annually will receive a tax cut of more than $2,000 a year.
Kathryn Thalman, of St. Clairsville, came to show Pence she supported the Trump agenda, and appreciated his coming to the Ohio Valley.
“It’s a good way for those in the swamp to remember those of us outside the band,” she said.