The current President of the Kentucky Coal Association is leaving the energy industry, for a job back in his hometown of Huntington.
Bill Bissett will be the next President and CEO of the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce starting November 1st.
The 50-year-old father of two decided being in his home state and hometown was more important than leading the coal association in Kentucky.
“Huntington is home,” Bissett said. “I grew up here, I have three degrees from Marshall University. You have when you’re a West Virginian and you move to another state, a gravitational pull that seems to happen, especially if you hear Country Roads or something like that. It’s exciting to come home and just like everywhere we there are a lot of challenges and a chamber of commerce can be a solution for economic challenges, but other challenges as well.”
Dealing with a drug epidemic from the business side.
Bissett understands, though, he’s trading one controversial job for another that’s fraught with challenges. He says the ongoing drug epidemic in the region isn’t something the chamber of commerce can ignore, but he wants to highlight the positives of businesses and existing programs.
“I think everyone knows that the drug issues of this country go well beyond the borders of Huntington or this region, into Southern West Virginia and Kentucky, we see very similar issues in Eastern Kentucky, to anywhere where there are challenges like this,” Bissett said. “People with money have these problems as well, so this is a bigger issue than just Huntington, but Huntington has to come up with solutions as well.”
Bissett says solutions that Huntington has come up with, such as the Drug Control Policy Office, a needle exchange program and naloxone training for the community need to be highlighted. He hopes those efforts will show businesses and shoppers that it’s ok to come to the area. He definitely wants the chamber to have a seat at the table when it comes to discussing how to deal with these issues and how they affect the community.
“I do think that making sure the full story of Huntington is told is important,” Bissett said. “And I’m not talking about changing a perception, that would be doing a disservice to it. The chamber has to know it’s role, what it’s mission is and what it does and if that’s to benefit the people providing livelihoods in these two counties than that’s what we need to do.”
Connecting Huntington to Charleston.
It seems like Charleston and Huntington are two cities that are no long 500 miles apart, but are now 50 miles apart. — Bill Bissett
One of Bissett’s goals is also to create better ties with Charleston. He says the region would be economically stronger if these two cities were more closely aligned.
“It seems like Charleston and Huntington are two cities that are no long 500 miles apart, but are now 50 miles apart,” Bissett said. “The collaboration between the two mayors, we need to be working together. Every other state does that, we see that in Kentucky with Louisville and Lexington. We see an even greater opportunity to work more together and benefit both cities.”
Bissett is a former Chief of Staff at Marshall University, as well as the Director of Communications for the Departments of Agriculture and Transportation in the state.