Sport Outfitters_NCIF Loan
Location: Williamson, West Virginia
Years in Business: < 1 year
Product/Service: Lodging
NCIFund Role: Business loan, technical assistance
Sector: Hospitality, outdoor recreation
Partners: Appalachian Regional Commission, First National Bank of Williamson, Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreation Authority
Impact: Support sustainable tourism economy

Jeff Davis, a former coal miner, was born and bred in Mingo County, West Virginia. He mined coal for eight years until 2006, when he opened up his own contracting business specializing in home remodeling and residential construction. While mines have closed in southern West Virginia, Jeff and his wife Anita have watched the Hatfield-McCoy Trails expand.

This 600-mile network of AT trails spans nine counties in southern West Virginia and brings thousands of in-and out-of-state visitors to the region annually.

The Opportunity

Jeff's hometown of Williamson is home to Hatfield-McCoy’s Buffalo Mountain Trail head. But the droves of people visiting Mingo County have little access to overnight accommodations, and the county misses out on valuable tourism dollars. Jeff and Anita saw an opening to build a much-needed lodging facility. 

They identified 200 acres of land convenient to the trailhead that could house cabins, but they needed financing to build the lodging facilities and get Sport Outfitters, LLC off the ground. Though this is the couple’s first lodging venture, Jeff’s background in contracting and running his own business made him well-suited to oversee construction and manage the facility, and he and Anita have poured hours of sweat equity into the property to prepare for construction.

It was difficult to get traditional financing for this first-time venture. That's where the Southern West Virginia Tourism Initiative comes in. The initiative, a partnership between NCIFund and the Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreation Authority, funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), supports sustainable tourism in the region’s coal-impacted communities. NCIFund was able to team up with First National Bank of Williamson to offer Jeff and Anita two loans to meet their financing needs. By partnering on the loans, NCIFund and First National were able to share the risk of financing a start-up venture. The loans will cover the construction of eight two-bedroom cabins, a general store, a wash bay and infrastructure for power, water and sewage.

The initiative also supports businesses with targeted technical assistance, so that entrepreneurs like Jeff and Anita have the knowledge and tools they need to make good use of loans. In this case, Jeff and Anita are getting help with designing the Sport Outfitters website and setting up their QuickBooks accounting system.  

Construction of the first four cabins is expected to be complete in the fall of 2018, with the remaining cabins completed in July. The owners also plan to include kayak rentals for floats along the Tug Fork River, archery, and guided hunting and fishing trips.

Sport Outfitters logoOur southern [West Virginia] counties here have been hit hard with the loss of coal jobs. With those jobs gone, we need to save ourselves. With the rich history and outdoor beauty that our state has to offer, I feel that tourism is West Virginia's future. 
- Jeff Davis, Owner, Sport Outfitters, LLC

The Impact

With a poverty rate of nearly 23 percent, Mingo County is considered “distressed” by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). Sport Outfitters provides vital tourism infrastructure the region needs to make the most of the Hatfield-McCoy Trails and reach its full potential for outdoor tourism and recreation. By encouraging more tourists to visit—for longer periods of time— locally-owned businesses like Sport Outfitters generate valuable dollars that circulate locally. Jeff and Anita also estimate that they will eventually employ six full and part-time residents.