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Tomblin says golf brings business to West Virginia

Jul. 04, 2013 @ 12:20 AM

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin was all smiles as he took to the course Wednesday for the Pro-Am event of The Greenbrier Classic.

For Tomblin, though, this tournament is all about business -- big business -- for West Virginia.

During a pause in the round, Tomblin spoke about what The Greenbrier Classic means to the state of West Virginia from a business perspective.

"Obviously, having the Classic here, we get worldwide exposure from it," Tomblin said. "It's a lot of exposure, and it provides a very positive image for the state of West Virginia. People bring their families here, and businesses can see exactly where they are putting their money and what they are investing in."

In 2012, The Greenbrier Classic brought 187,000 people to the week-long tournament, making it an attractive venue for those looking to do business.

What makes the 2012 figures more impressive is that the totals came just four days after a powerful derecho storm ripped through the Greenbrier Valley, leaving the area without several amenities -- including electricity and water -- for days.

Tomblin noted that several companies have opened or expanded in West Virginia over the last year, and many of those came as a direct result of talks that started on the grounds during The Greenbrier Classic last year.

Much like in 2012, the state is using its marquee golf event to show investors why the Mountain State is the right place to be.

"With the state being a sponsor of the tournament, I had a chance to meet and have dinner with some potential foreign investors," Tomblin said. "We've got some good leads while we've been here, and our development office is working really hard. I think the people who come here who are our guests are just thoroughly impressed when they get here because they don't know a lot about what to think of West Virginia."

Tomblin confirmed he has met with several investors -- both international and American -- this week. Among the international suitors, there were companies from Spain, Italy and Japan who Tomblin met on Tuesday and Wednesday evening following the Pro-Am.

Golf is one of the most internationally recognizable sports with members coming from all over the world, so the tournament helps to build common grounds that foreign investors might not otherwise have within the state.

John Klemish, the broker-in-chief and assistant to chairman Jim Justice at The Greenbrier, was golfing in the Pro-Am foursome which included Tomblin, PGA player Bubba Watson and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear.

Klemish said the work Tomblin is doing for the state during The Greenbrier Classic is amazing, and he jokingly added that if anyone needs proof he is working hard to improve the state's economy, they need to look no further than his golf game.

"He's working really hard for this state, I can tell you that," Klemish said with a smile.

The Greenbrier Classic has players from nine different countries represented this week, so Tomblin thinks this week -- fittingly, also America's birthday -- is the perfect time to showcase the state and country.

In addition to Tomblin meeting with potential investors, there are several companies who have purchased corporate tents to accommodate their own business ventures. Tents have been set up along the 12th and 17th fairways for those businesses to treat their guests.

According to Tomblin, it's the perfect location to showcase the state's offerings.

"You think about this: Between now and Sunday, there will be tens of thousands of people here, and we also have events like the Boy Scout Jamboree coming in with 50,000," Tomblin said. "We have to put our best face on and show a very positive image.

"West Virginians are very proud of our state, and we'll do everything we can to make our guests happy and comfortable here."