PHILIPPI — Wendy Post pointed down Main Street to an empty strip of buildings, while her friend listed businesses needed in town.
Across the street, Caroline Jett spoke of buying and renovating Philippi property. Her husband, a retired contractor, “may just decide to come out of retirement,” Jett said with a laugh.
“If they bring another 400 students, that’s going to change the whole economy of Philippi,” said Ann Serafin, another Barbour County resident. “It’s going to be a whole new ball game.”
That’s the plan.
School officials and local residents met Tuesday morning to discuss the effect of more students — an enrollment increase of more than 300 percent — at Alderson-Broaddus this fall.
“We have a window of opportunity that might not come again,” said A-B President Rick Creehan, who led the morning meeting in the Barbour County Courthouse.
In June 2011, Creehan, seeking to end a decade of decreased enrollment, brought in about 450 freshman and transfer students to campus.
Creehan held the view of his banker father amid cuts and belt-tightening: “You don’t cut your way to prosperity. You grow your way to prosperity.”
The school wrote a new strategic plan with enrollment growth highlighted: “Get to 850 students as fast as we can possibly get them.”
Bar graphs Creehan pointed to during the meeting showed enrollment this year towering over past years.
“And here’s this year — boom!” he said. “Is it working? I’d say yes.”
Students don’t just want academics, but sports and activities, too.
“Let’s give them both,” Creehan said. “Is it that hard?”
The school spent last year recruiting for new teams, including the first A-B football team since the Great Depression.
Every campus bed will be filled with the alumni center taking an additional 28 students in an atypical housing model.
“Folks, there is great opportunity,” he said. “The time is right for growth in our community.”
Creehan shared stories of even faculty unable to find area housing.
Apartments, houses, restaurants, things to do in town and shopping were all needed, he said.
“If we don’t capitalize on this, shame on us,” said Broaddus Hospital CEO Jeff Powelson. “This is our opportunity.”
“Years ago, this town used to be really busy, and it’s just died out,” Post said.
She wants to see “all the businesses to put a little life back in the community.”
Post was glad to see area bankers on hand like Samantha Norris.
Norris held five “Welcome AB Students” signs from the meeting to put in her bank’s lobby, ready to welcome both students and entrepreneurs looking to build.
Judi Funk, a former A-B student and worker, walked from the meeting telling her friends she hadn’t seen the Barbour County Courthouse as busy as it was Tuesday “for years and years.”
“We want things to grow,” she said. That’s why she and friends attended the meeting.
John Mosesso, a Philippi native with several area businesses, thinks things will, in fact, grow.
Opportunities will surface after the demand is seen, according to Mosesso.
He owns Little Moe’s Restaurant and the Barbour Lanes Bowling Center, both which serve college students.
Mosesso doesn’t have anything in place for the growth yet. But college students can’t stay on campus all the time, hPhie said.
“I’m sure we’re going to get busy,” Mosesso said.