The diversity of West Virginia’s cultures and landscapes presents challenges when it comes to marketing the state, says David Sibray, publisher of the West Virginia Explorer.
Many parts of West Virginia are dramatically different, Sibray told radio-show host Steve Novotney during an interview Friday on AM 1600 WKKX in Wheeling, West Virginia.
While discussing his fondness of the state’s northern panhandle, Sibray spoke of the challenge of marketing the panhandle’ landscapes, which he considers far different from those of others.
“Often there’s a demand for me to try to give the impression of West Virginia as one thing, and the problem is, and this may be a problem in other states, that West Virginia is not one thing.”
A native and journalist whose knowledge of the panhandle is renowned, Novotney agreed the panhandle is unique among the state’s diverse landscapes.
“We have five very distinct areas of our state, and I’ve traveled throughout the state, and all five of those are similar in some ways but very different in many ways.”
Sibray concurred, saying his job to ensure the allure of each region is inherent in its promotion.
“Exactly! They are all West Virginia, they hall have a different magic—though I believe that all West Virginia has a certain magic that I try to define.”
West Virginia Explorer has been a chief travel guide for West Virginia since 2000 and reaches potential travelers more than 120,000 times monthly.
Sibray said it is important to define the panhandle region meaningfully beyond the term ‘Northern Panhandle,” which may be clear to state residents, but is meaningless when marketing to the outside world.
“Those of us from inside the state knows what that means, to some extent, but for other people, I don’t think so. I don’t think that means more than—to me—being in ‘the panhandle of Oklahoma.’ ”
Sibray said he has recently been questioned about referring to the panhandle as part of the “Rustbelt,” a pejorative term for de-industrialized communities in the northeastern U.S., but he says he thinks it can help promote the region positively.
Sibray said he prefers to think of Wheeling as the “New York City” of West Virginia—a melting pot of different, influential ethnic groups and of high-style architecture.
“And you have your own island,” Sibray said. “Wheeling is so important, and learning how to bank on that culture is important when it comes to figuring out how to route our new economy.”