West Virginia Day 2023: Commemorating 160 Years of the Mountain State

A photograph of Glade Creek Grist Mill, located in West Virginia.

West Virginia Day, held on June 20 every year, celebrates the anniversary of the Mountain State being admitted to the Union and officially becoming America’s 35th state in 1863. While West Virginia is renowned for its mountainous landscape and coal mining history, the state is now making a name for itself as a land of renewed opportunity as it pushes to further its economic development and revitalize its communities. 

Channeling the energy of the state’s official motto — “Montani semper liberi,“ meaning “Mountaineers are always free” — locals and leaders, including Brad D. Smith, are seeking to make this envisioned prosperity a reality by freely innovating and tapping into the state’s natural potential. 

Keep reading to learn more about the Mountain State and its recent accomplishments as its 160th statehood anniversary approaches.

Appreciating West Virginia’s Natural Resources

Although 13 states make up the Appalachian Mountain region, West Virginia is the only state that is wholly within the region. The state is also home to the Monongahela National Forest, which has served as a valuable renewable resource for timber production. To ensure future generations understand and appreciate the importance of the state’s natural resources, programs like the Brad and Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative (OEDC) teach young students about the environment through initiatives like the Science Adventure School. Additionally, the Smiths established the OEDC to help improve quality of life for West Virginia residents by advancing outdoor recreation and infrastructure, which, in turn, ignites the local economy.

Driving Economic Development in the Mountain State

Over the past four decades, West Virginia officials have pushed for economic diversification to strengthen and revitalize areas that have been impacted by job loss and downturn with the dissipation of coal mining. This has brought new industries and jobs to the state — further supporting West Virginia’s economic development. As a result, in 2018, the state’s exports outpaced the nation’s growth, increasing to $8.1 billion with new industries — such as aerospace, automotive, chemicals, hardwood, metals and plastics — contributing over $3 billion to the state’s exports. More recently, state government reports showed that over 3,300 jobs were created and 2,600 were retained in 2022.As West Virginia’s economy previously centered around industries related to its natural resources and landscape, such as coal mining, some innovative companies are also driving change by merging old industries with new. For example, Appalachian Botanical Company uses reclaimed coal mining land as prime growing fields for lavender and honey production — resources that are then used to create a range of high-quality botanical products. Due to its rocky, acidic terrain, West Virginia has historically been far from a popular choice for farming. Appalachian Botanical is bringing new life to bygone land.

How WV Ranks

With beautiful scenery and an economy that’s on the rise, West Virginia has pushed itself to the top of national rankings. Read on to see how the Mountain State ranks across various categories.

Celebrating West Virginia Day

West Virginians and Mountain State enthusiasts alike can celebrate West Virginia Day by taking a celebratory trip of their own to the acclaimed New River Gorge, visiting museums, touring historic coal mining towns, or shopping from local artists and vendors. West Virginia University also holds yearly celebrations for the state’s anniversary with exhibitions focusing on themes highlighting different facets of West Virginia’s history. In previous years, the state’s government has held celebrations in Charleston. In 2022, First Lady Cathy Justice hosted a birthday cake contest to find the best recipe across the state to commemorate the holiday.

A Note on Brad D. Smith’s Commitment to West Virginia

Brad D. Smith has remained committed to West Virginia throughout his lifetime. Born and raised in Kenova, he has credited his success to his home state and has continuously worked to “give back to the house that built him” by investing in its people, environment and talent. In 2018, Brad and his wife Alys co-founded the Wing 2 Wing Foundation which seeks to aid the state’s economic, educational and environmental development by supporting programs that promote these three areas. 

Additionally Brad helped to establish Ascend West Virginia, a remote worker program that incentivizes professionals to relocate themselves and their families to the Mountain State. Brad’s work with Ascend WV has so far contributed to the successful relocation of three different cohorts — over 75 “Ascenders” along with their families. Over the next five years, the program aims to support an additional 1,000 Ascenders and their families as they make new homes in West Virginia.

Beyond his philanthropic work, Brad is also the current President of Marshall University and actively serves both the university and the state by creating and investing in initiatives that support the students and those living in the surrounding area. Keep up with Brad in the news to stay up-to-date on his work and commitment to West Virginia.