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Tech from the Mountain Top

Leadership West Virginia Session 2: My Fayetteville Adventure

Being part of Leadership West Virginia is an honor. As the President and Founder of Biztec, I joined this program to grow as a leader and to contribute more to our state's future. I was born and raised in West Virginia, and I have a deep love for this state. The people here are special—hardworking, loyal, and resilient. Biztec's growth provides jobs and economic impact to West Virginia. This session in Fayetteville reinforced why our work matters.

Bridge Walk Thrill-a in West “By God” Virgin-a

Thursday's Bridge Walk was both terrifying and exhilarating. The New River Gorge Bridge is an iconic structure. It's the third-highest bridge in the United States and the third-longest single-span arch bridge in the world. Walking the catwalk underneath this engineering marvel, which stretches 3,030 feet long and stands 876 feet above the river, was a real adrenaline rush.

The experience began with getting into our harnesses, which were admittedly uncomfortable. Strapped tightly for safety, we couldn't help but joke about the snug fit. But those harnesses were our lifeline, and they soon became a part of the adventure.

Our guide, Doug, was phenomenal and as nutty as squirrel turds. He moved around the catwalk with ease, seemingly unaffected by the height. His calm demeanor was as reassuring as anything could be as we navigated the narrow path. Doug pointed out the telltale number markings on the bridge, a reminder of the daring repels that take place during Bridge Day each October. These markings are used by BASE jumpers and rappelers, adding an extra layer of excitement to our walk. Yes, you heard right, they routinely jump off a perfectly good bridge.

The bridge was pretty scary when it would shake whenever trucks rumbled overhead. This added to the thrill and fear, making every step an adventure. The vibrations were a stark reminder of the bridge's height and the sheer drop beneath us. Each tremor felt like a gentle push, urging us to keep moving and stay alert. Some participants were more adamant about moving onward than others…uh hum, you know who you are.

I have to say, walking the catwalk offered breathtaking views of the New River Gorge below. The vastness of the landscape, throwing in the adrenaline of the height, sure made for an unforgettable experience. Those who were with me? Yeah, we trauma bonded. Sharing this intense experience brought us closer together with memories and connections that will last a lifetime.

If you ask me, the Bridge Walk was a perfect blend of fear and excitement that was only enhanced by the natural beauty of the New River Gorge. This experience is a testament to the unique adventures that West Virginia offers. It really is Almost Heaven.

She’s a Beaut Clark

Let’s just state the obvious, Fayetteville is stunning. The journey to get there took me along the Midland Trail as I exited the interstate in Charleston. That stretch of road is a scenic drive filled with picturesque views and winding roads.  Some turns were so tight that I am sure I saw my own taillights. That set the stage for the adventure ahead. When I got there, the first thing I saw was that the area boasts a lively historic downtown filled with charm and character. The streets are lined with unique shops, cafes, and historic buildings, each telling a story of Fayetteville's rich heritage.

If you haven’t had the chance to explore the Endless Wall Trail, you must get it on the schedule. It is, for sure, a highlight of the New River Gorge. This trail offers absolutely breathtaking views of the gorge, it is adorned with sheer cliff faces and lots of trees with a dramatic landscape. The hike is both invigorating and serene, providing ample opportunities to soak in the natural beauty of the area. I saw hawks soaring below me!

The view from Long Point is also spectacular. Standing on the cliff's edge, we could see the New River winding through the gorge below. The point showcased the diverse natural beauty of the region. We spotted birds soaring above and caught glimpses of deer and other wildlife hanging out in the trees.

Fayetteville's natural attraction is complemented by its prevalent community spirit. The designation of the New River Gorge as a National Park and Preserve has brought new energy and potential to the area. Dave Bieri, the District Supervisor for the park, shared how this status boosts local businesses and tourism. The park attracts more visitors, driving economic growth and providing new opportunities for the community.

My friends, Fayetteville is a gem in West Virginia.  By offering stunning landscapes, a charming downtown, and a thriving community it is a must see. The drive along the Midland Trail, the hikes, and the views all contribute to an unforgettable experience. This town is a perfect example of how natural beauty and community spirit can come together to create a vibrant and welcoming destination.

You see that mountain over there… one of these days I’m gonna climb that mountain

We heard from Emily Huguenin about Ascend West Virginia (Ascend WV). Wow, what a transformative program. It is designed to attract remote workers to our state. This initiative leverages West Virginia's abundant outdoor assets to foster economic growth and start to reverse the brain drain that has affected our communities for decades.

The concept behind Ascend WV is simple yet powerful: offer incentives to remote workers who relocate to West Virginia. You want a focused mission? You got it! The program provides a financial incentive and free outdoor recreation. As the late great Billy Mays would say “but wait that’s not all”, you also get a year of free coworking space to qualified individuals. This approach not only brings new residents to the state but also highlights the natural beauty and recreational opportunities that West Virginia offers. Yep, totally on brand.

One of the greatest strengths of this program is that it is attracting talented professionals who can work from anywhere. This allows Ascend WV to stimulate local economies with already employed citizens. These new residents will contribute to the tax base, support local businesses, and participate in community life. The program sheds light on many of the positive aspects of living in West Virginia, showcasing our state as a vibrant, welcoming place to live and work.

I really like the potential impact of Ascend WV on reversing the brain drain. For years, West Virginia has struggled with the outmigration of young, educated individuals seeking opportunities elsewhere. We see it all the time! Ascend WV offers a solution to this problem by bringing these individuals back and attracting new ones to our state. This influx of remote workers can revitalize declining communities and create a more diverse and dynamic economy.

It is clear to me, Ascend WV is not just a program; it's a catalyst for change. This initiative has the potential to transform our state by attracting new talent, fostering economic growth, and showcasing the best of what West Virginia has to offer. By providing incentives to remote workers, Ascend WV highlights our state's natural beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities, encouraging people to relocate and build their lives here. In doing so, it is also making West Virginia a brand that people want.  They start to see the state the way that we do.

This program is a testament to the power of innovative thinking and a commitment to building a brighter future for all West Virginians. It's designed to reverse the brain drain by bringing in talented individuals who will contribute to our communities, stimulate local economies, and participate in the rich cultural life of our state.

For more information about Ascend WV and how it can impact our state, visit their website here.

I Lika da Food, the Food is Good

Steven Keith, known as "The Food Guy," gave an insightful talk on the role of food in the economy. His website, The Food Guy, showcases his reviews and insights into West Virginia's culinary scene. Steven emphasized how food should reflect the culture of the area and can even become a destination itself. He says that by highlighting local flavors and traditions, restaurants can attract tourists and boost the local economy. Holler foods are my bag.  Give me some cornbread, taters, and beans and I’m a happy man. 

Chef Paul Smith, co-owner of 1010 Bridge Restaurant, The Pitch, and Ellen’s Ice Cream, also spoke about this. Chef Paul recently won the James Beard Foundation’s “Best Chef: Southeast” award, a prestigious honor that includes states like Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia. This award highlights the excellence and potential of our culinary scene.

Chef Paul’s recognition is a testament to the quality and creativity of our local cuisine. His restaurants are known for their innovative dishes and dedication to using local ingredients. The James Beard award not only elevates Chef Paul’s status but also puts West Virginia on the map as a culinary destination. Is anyone hungry?

Pinheads Bowling Alley: A Gem in Oak Hill – Got That Boom-Boom-Pow

Pinheads Bowling Alley in Oak Hill is a true gem. It's owned by my fellow Leadership WV classmate and Oak Hill’s Director of Economic Development, Alison Ibarra. She and her team showed great hospitality, opening her business to us for an evening of bowling, delicious pizza, and refreshing drinks. You can check out more about Pinheads here.

Bowling is a fantastic way to bond, and Pinheads provided the perfect atmosphere. As we laughed and competed, the camaraderie and heckling among us grew stronger. The blend of fun and connection was a highlight of the trip.

Hold my beer, watch this. I remembered being quite good at bowling back in the day. When I tried it this time, I struggled to find my groove. It turns out that my physical conditioning may have played a factor down the stretch. Is it normal to have sore muscles from bowling? I found myself asking this question as I felt the burn in muscles I forgot existed. Yeeeowchy!

The pizza was fantastic, and the drinks were a great addition to the night. But the best part? The karaoke. The 90s were represented with a forgettable rendition of Baby’s Got Back. But still, a big shout-out to my talented vocalists in the class. They truly made the evening unforgettable.

The experience at Pinheads was a perfect blend of fun and camaraderie, highlighting the community spirit of our Leadership WV group. It was more than just bowling—it was a chance to relax, enjoy each other's company, and make lasting memories.

True Dat, Pinheads Bowling Alley is not just a place to bowl; it's a place where friendships are strengthened, and fun is guaranteed. Thank you, Alison, for such a wonderful evening!

You Don’t Know Me…Or Maybe You Do

The time spent with fellow Leadership West Virginia classmates was invaluable. One of the highlights was taking the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment with Margi Bush from Wisdom Tree Coaching. This assessment helped us understand our personality styles and improve our leadership skills. I can truly say it was scary accurate.  I thought I was being punked. You can learn more about Margi's services here.

There were so many questions. It tells you if you are likely to be a Extrovert or an Introvert (is it too peoply in here or is it just me).  It can assess if you prefer to process information through data focused Sensing, or big picture iNtuition.  It can tell you if you likely default to using your Feelings or if you tend to run to logic and Thinking to make decisions.  And of course, are you a Judgy McJudgerson, the Judging person who likes everything planned out to the minute or an awesome Perceiving personality type that’s always a good time and goes with the flow (no bias here, hi I’m Joey, INFP). 

In all seriousness, understanding these dimensions helps leaders recognize their own preferences and adapt their leadership style to better communicate and work with others. It fosters empathy, improves team dynamics, and enhances decision-making processes.

During our session, Margi Bush guided us through our results, providing insights into how our personality types influence our leadership styles. This deeper understanding of ourselves and our colleagues was incredibly beneficial, promoting more effective collaboration and leadership within our group. She was beyond awesome.

I will say this for sure, the Myers-Briggs assessment is more than just a personality test; it's a tool for personal and professional growth. Use it to understand your own preferences and those of others. With that understanding, we can lead more effectively and build stronger, more cohesive teams. Thank you, Margi, for this enlightening experience!

We Have Culture and We Have Class

During our session, we had the privilege of learning about the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra from Jessica Silber. She shared the significant impact the orchestra has on our community. The WV Symphony is West Virginia’s premier performing arts organization, presenting classical, pop, and chamber music concerts annually throughout the state. Their performances not only provide high-quality entertainment but also contribute to the cultural enrichment of our region. The orchestra collaborates with other West Virginia arts organizations and offers a nationally award-winning education program, fostering a love for music among young people.

Another highlight of our session was learning about the New River Birding & Nature Festival. This event attracts bird watchers and nature enthusiasts from across the country. It showcases the rich biodiversity of the New River Gorge area and promotes environmental awareness and conservation efforts. I get this, I woke up one day in my mid 40’s and was suddenly way more interested in birds.  One morning, I was drinking my coffee, and I stopped and told my wife to come look at something quickly.  She came running over afraid something was wrong and I promptly showed her a bird outside the window.  The only word she said was “really?’ and walked away unimpressed. At that moment I realized I was a changed man...crap.

Moving right along, we also explored white water rafting opportunities in the New River Gorge. The area is known for some of the best white water rafting in the country, and the New River Gorge is no exception as it offers thrilling adventures for both beginners and experienced rafters. The economic impact of these outdoor activities is substantial, drawing tourists and supporting local businesses.

It was made obvious, that these cultural and recreational opportunities underscore the vibrant West Virginia. They highlight the importance of arts, nature, and adventure and how these things are enriching our lives and driving economic growth. When you participate in these activities, you not only get to enjoy the natural beauty of our state, but also support its cultural and economic vitality.

Looking Back on the Memory of...

Participating in Leadership West Virginia in Fayetteville on West Virginia Day was a unique and special experience. The knowledge gained and the beauty of Fayetteville left a lasting impression. From walking the catwalk under the New River Gorge Bridge to exploring the historic downtown and enjoying the breathtaking views from the Endless Wall Trail and Long Point, every moment was enriching. I can’t say enough about the experience.

It was amazing how the presentations on the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, the Ascend WV program, and the culinary scene underscored the diverse opportunities and growth potential within our state. The insights from leaders like Emily Huguenin and Steven Keith, along with experiencing the local culture, highlighted the convergence of community, economy, and natural beauty.

It was fun bonding over activities like the Bridge Walk, bowling at Pinheads, and participating in the Myers-Briggs assessment. They all facilitated deeper connections with fellow leaders in this program. This camaraderie is invaluable as it builds a network of supportive, like-minded individuals committed to West Virginia's prosperity. I am deeply committed to contributing to the growth and prosperity of West Virginia, leveraging these experiences and connections to drive positive change.

A Lot to Chew On

I am aware that Biztec's growth is contributing to the West Virginia economy by creating jobs and generating taxable revenue. I also think that by providing cutting-edge technology solutions, we help other WV businesses thrive. This session reinforced the importance of our work and the potential to make a difference.

Understanding the diverse opportunities in West Virginia helps me as a leader identify more ways that Biztec can contribute to the state's economic viability. The knowledge gained about programs like Ascend WV and the insights from local leaders can be instrumental in recruiting high-level employees to the state. Highlighting West Virginia’s natural beauty, vibrant culture, and economic potential can attract top talent to our team.

There is so much more to our state.  I learned about the impact of the WV Symphony, the New River Birding Festival, and other cultural initiatives that come with living here.  It underscores the importance of community engagement and support. Biztec can play a role in promoting and supporting these initiatives in the Mid-Ohio Valley, enhancing the quality of life for residents here and making it an even more attractive place to live and work.

If I could get to the meat and potatoes of this last week, I would say that the experiences and knowledge gained through this session of Leadership West Virginia will help me assure that Biztec will continue to grow, innovate, and contribute to the prosperity of our state. We are excited to be a West Virginia company.


About the Author

Joseph Sams is the owner and founder of Biztec, a company driven by a mission to provide industry-leading, customer-centric technology solutions. Fueled by continuous innovation, Joseph has dedicated his career to ensuring that businesses thrive through cutting-edge technology and superior service. Born and raised in West Virginia, Joseph's deep love for his home state and its people inspires him to contribute to its economic growth and development. Under his leadership, Biztec has not only created jobs but also played a vital role in driving economic impact in West Virginia. Joseph is passionate about leveraging technology to foster community engagement, support local initiatives, and attract top talent to the region.

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