Why Bridgeport? A Look at Economic Diversification

By Jon Griffith on March 18, 2023 via

Since childhood, you have probably heard the adage, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” This time-tested wisdom comes from Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, a Spanish novelist, who coined the well-worn proverb in 1615 in his work, Don Quixote. His original version stated, “...’tis the part of a wise man to keep himself today for tomorrow, and not venture all his eggs in one basket.” His warning is to not rely on any one thing too strongly. For example, applying for multiple jobs to hopefully land one or having a mixture of different investment products in your retirement portfolio, the principal idea is that diversification lowers risk. 
One application of this idea in economics, specifically for municipalities, is that a broad and diversified tax base provides a more stable long-term revenue stream for the city. Additionally, it imparts expanded job opportunities for its citizens. History has shown that over-dependence by a community upon a single industry can have devastating consequences when downturns occur. West Virginia is littered with examples of struggling towns relying on only one business, industry, or economic driver for their financial stability. Even though a community may thrive primarily through reliance upon one economic sector, the risk is always there of collapse. Forward-thinking civic and business leaders encourage and seek economic diversification to protect against this danger and provide long-term fiscal resiliency for their community.
Economic diversification is something the City of Bridgeport has and continues to take seriously. A century ago, the cattle industry was originally at the forefront of Bridgeport’s business opportunities. Located on the corner of Main Street and Virginia Avenue along the railroad, the stockyard was the center of business and socializing in town. The growth of oil and gas companies in the mid-1900s created a new vital industry in our area. Familiar names like Hope Gas, CNG, Precision, and Dominion have been here for decades. Today we have Eastern Gas Transmission, Antero Resources, Hope Gas-Dominion Energy, and many more. While slightly down from its peak, the oil and gas industry is still a highly valued and significant economic driver for our area. Yet, as a city, we can not and should not depend on them alone. 
In 1991 the FBI purchased 986 acres of land and began the construction of a 500,000-square-foot building to house their Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division Located just outside the city limits of Bridgeport, the facility has brought lasting change not only to our community but all of north central West Virginia. The 360,000-square- foot Biometric Technology Center (BTC) was subsequently added and placed into service in 2015. The facilities have a combined total of around 3700 employees. The direct impact of the FBI is enormous and brought with it a range of spinoff technology and criminal justice-related companies across our region to support and assist with the FBI’s mission here. Easily well over a billion dollars, the economic effect of the FBI and its related industries on our area is enormous. 
In 2010, United Hospital Center opened in Bridgeport, creating a vastly expanded medical sector for the community. According to the hospital’s website, the local UHC facilities employ over 2500 people. Recent additions, and inevitable future expansions, will only drive that number higher. UHC’s economic impact is massive. The recently announced plans for Mon Health to bring their brand of small neighborhood hospital to Charles Pointe Crossing will add to the level of care available to residents of our community and the surrounding area. Combined with the numerous other quick care facilities, doctors’ offices, and associated providers, the total economic impact of the community’s medical sector is likely approaching, or maybe even more than a billion dollars and growing. 
The City of Bridgeport’s recent investment in the Bridge Sports Complex has developed a new, up-and-coming economic driver for the area: sports tourism. The CityNet Center and Feature Field have combined with the existing Baseball Complex to become the new Bridge Sports Complex. Now in its second year, the facility is easily surpassing the expectations of the sports management consultants and the city. Tournaments, bookings, and memberships are all well ahead of schedule. Plans for continued expansion are in the works as revenue continues to climb. Success at the Bridge results in more visitors staying in our hotels, shopping in our stores, visiting our entertainment venues, and dining in our restaurants. 
The North Central West Virginia Airport’s improvements (new terminal, runway, and tarmac) and the new West Virginia AeroTech Park represent the beginning of the expansion of our flourishing, yet fledgling, aerospace industry. The airport already has an economic impact of over one billion dollars and employs almost 1500 people. At the AeroTech Park, Pierpont is in the planning stages for a new Aviation Maintenance Technology school. The new school would nearly double its existing student capacity. Expansions are moving forward by current airport residents, MHI-RJ, Aurora Flight Sciences, and others. As more businesses currently residing at the airport grow and expand, and new ones claim space in the AeroTech Park, the airport's economic impact will continue to grow. 
Retail establishments, construction companies, professional services, entertainment venues, real estate companies, hotels, restaurants, and all local businesses are beneficiaries of this multi-pronged economic development in Bridgeport, as are our citizens. Spurring these businesses’ success is also, in return, adding to the positive impact on the local economy. It is a win-win for everyone. Bridgeport civic and business leaders will continue to seek out new and varied industries to provide even more diversity in our economic base. Our goal is to improve the resiliency of our community to protect against unforeseen declines in any one sector. 
“Why Bridgeport?” We are actively working to diversify our local economy by providing the opportunities, infrastructure, and incentives to attract and retain business and industry. Ensuring Bridgeport will remain an economic leader in north-central West Virginia now and well into the future. Rest assured, the City of Bridgeport is not “putting all our eggs in one basket.” 
Editor's Note: Top photo shows the Citynet Center, while Eastern Gas Transmission (in the former Dominion building) in White Oaks is shown in the second photo. The United Hospital Center building is shown in the third photo, while an architectural rendering of the new North Central West Virginia Airport Terminal is shown below.

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