CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice is petitioning for Clay, Boone, Monroe, Preston, and Hampshire counties to be declared eligible for federal benefits as a result of their relative lack of business investment.
The Historically Underutilized Business Zone, or "HUBZone," program provides participating small businesses access to exclusive federal contracting opportunities and preferential price evaluations when bidding on at-large federal contracts.
West Virginia is one of the first 10 states to petition for expanding access to this program through governor-designated zones.
“Our great state’s small businesses deserve a fighting chance to show the nation the competitive advantage of West Virginia," Justice said.
"We remain ready and able to compete for federal contracting opportunities and help revitalize our rural communities through continued hard work and dedication.”
If approved, small businesses will have access to markets where they were previously excluded or where they suffered a competitive disadvantage.
Justice’s designations are in addition to existing areas where businesses are already bringing federal dollars into the state. Three percent of all federal contracts are to be funded through the program.
In 2020, West Virginia small businesses contracted for $48 million worth of goods and services. In 2022, small businesses in the state contracted for an estimated $99.7 million.
W.Va. Department of Commerce Secretary James Bailey said the designations underscore the state's commitment to economic development in all counties.
"The governor's decision to seek HUBZone designation for five additional West Virginia counties is further evidence of the state's commitment to its small business community,” Bailey said.
“The HUBZone program presents a great opportunity for businesses to not only increase revenue and diversify income streams but to also continue driving economic growth and job creation locally."
Mitch Carmichael, secretary of the W.Va. Department of Economic Development, said the increased access to federal funding would significantly benefit the five counties.
“This petition demonstrates support from state and local leaders, economic development groups, and interested businesses—all of which shows our commitment to assisting and catalyzing our more rural communities,” Carmichael said.
“We are excited for this opportunity and think that this access to federal dollars would be incredibly beneficial to the continued economic growth of the Mountain State.”