CHARLESTON, WV – Gov. Jim Justice announced today that he is directing several state agencies under his administration to work together to explore the possibility of taking steps to expand the winemaking industry in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle.
The Governor is directing officials from the West Virginia Department of Commerce – including the Development Office and the Tourism Office – to combine their efforts, investigating the market for vineyards and wineries in the region and exploring how an expansion would benefit the state.
Gov. Justice will also be asking for the assistance of State Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt and the West Virginia Department of Agriculture in this effort, to help evaluate conditions in the area to determine the feasibility of adding vineyards and wineries.
“This could truly be a phenomenal green initiative that would lead to a major economic boost, more jobs, and a significant uptick in tourism in our beautiful Eastern Panhandle,” Gov Justice said. “If you go to places like Jefferson and Berkeley counties, and look right across the border in Virginia, there’s been a concentrated effort to promote vineyards and wineries and it’s really been a big plus to the economy.
“We’re finding that every bottle of wine produced in that region of Virginia is being sold. Additionally, these vineyards and wineries have become major tourist attractions,” Gov. Justice continued. “If the only thing separating us from all that goodness is a border, and there’s similar weather and a similar environment, then we owe it to ourselves to explore what kind of options we might have to replicate that success. We also need to identify and understand if there are any tax incentives that the state of Virginia is using to make this a reality.
“If we find that there’s nothing holding us back, then we should absolutely go for it,” Gov. Justice said. “Not only would growing grapes on our hillsides add to the unbelievable natural beauty of the Eastern Panhandle, it would also mean more jobs, more revenue, and even more investment in the region. It’s a win-win.”