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Editorial: Cities should work together to promote region

Jun. 15, 2013 @ 11:21 PM

Neighboring cities always have natural rivalries.

Their high school teams play each other, their shopping districts compete for business and their governments often vie with each other for development, grant money and political power. Sometimes they even have different university allegiances.

Huntington and Charleston have a bit of all of that.

But so do Raleigh and Durham, Greenville and Spartanburg or Dallas and Fort Worth -- just a few of the many American cities that have taken advantage for their "regional" identity to promote growth and development.

Last week, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams raised the point that West Virginia's two largest cities have a lot to gain by working together, and he's right. Williams has invited Charleston Mayor Danny Jones and his administration to come to Huntington and explore areas of shared interest and cooperation, and we hope they will.

In today's world, vibrant regional metro areas are the key drivers of economic growth in the United States. Particularly when those areas feature clusters of like businesses and research centers, the potential for innovation and development increases, experts say. The Silicon Valley or North Carolina's Research Triangle are prime examples.

At first glance, West Virginia seems to have little potential for that. The state's largest city is barely 50,000 population, and none of the state's Metropolitan Statistical Areas rank in the Top 100.

But if you add together the Ashland-Huntington-Ironton metro area and the Charleston metro area, that picture changes. The combination is about 600,000 people, a much more noticeable number. The Charleston-Huntington television market is already packaged that way and is considered the 65th largest market in the country.

It also becomes an area that is home to five universities -- Marshall, University of Charleston, West Virginia State, OU-Southern and West Virginia Tech -- several community and technical colleges, and a host of other workforce development resources.

The Advantage Valley organization, of course, has been working for years to promote the region in this way, but there needs to be more "buy in" on that effort, particularly from local governments.

Washington's recent redrawing of the metro lines only underscores the point. In the latest configuration, Putnam and Lincoln counties have been moved from the Charleston MSA to the Huntington MSA. That makes Huntington the larger MSA, but by national standards, both are still small.

Only together do they add up to something more, and collaboration between Charleston and Huntington is an important step in that direction.

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