Charleston’s History: Industrial Growth

In West Virginia, “Charleston” is synonymous with “industry”. Since the early 1800’s, Charleston has been a business hub of West Virginia, providing jobs for workers and raw materials for manufacturing. From salt to coal, from rubber to chemicals – Charleston is an industrial center to be proud of, providing a large percentage of the state’s jobs. Charleston’s industrial roots go back for several hundred years, and the city has a rich, varied business history.

In the 1800’s, salt brines were discovered along the Kanawha River. The first West Virginia salt well was drilled in 1806 (when West Virginia was still Virginia), and a huge period of economic growth began. Drilling for salt led to the discovery of a supply of natural gas, and the rest, as they say, is history. Charleston became a natural resource center, providing natural gas to the surrounding areas.

In the 1900’s, other industries began to grow in Charleston, including coal, chemical manufacturing, glass, timber, and steel. Many of these industries were attracted to the state from other areas around the nation, drawn by the rich supply of natural resources available in West Virginia. Even today, business owners relocate to the area to take advantage of the rich resources our state has to offer. Coal and natural gas are used for fuel, for manufacturing, and for export. As gas prices rise, West Virginia’s natural resources industries are only poised for growth. West Virginia coal companies are currently working on a liquid fuel made from coal, proving that innovation is alive and well in the state.

During WWII, the first rubber plant in the US opened in the city of Charleston. This manufacturing facility brought with it jobs and a period of economic growth for the area. By 1947, Charleston had it’s own airport, making it a transportation hub as well as an economic center. Growth continued through the ’50’s and ’60’s, with the development of the Interstate highway system making Charleston even more appealing to business owners and developers. Three major interstates merge in the heart of the city, making it easily accessible from nearly any direction. This unique location allows the city to truly be a center in the area, both geographically and industrially.

Today, Charleston is still a distribution point for natural resources. Coal and natural gas abound in the area, and are marketed throughout the state and beyond. Industries such as glass and chemical manufacturing are still popular, and still bringing jobs to our state. More and more small business owners are also calling West Virginia home, and many are choosing the city of Charleston. From large industrial facilities to small mom and pop bookstores, Charleston plays host to a wide variety of businesses and industries. Charleston truly is “Open for Business”.