By Bobby Bordelon\r\n\r\nCongresswomen Carol Miller visited the Greenbrier Valley Airport and a number of Greenbrier County officials and organizers on Friday, July 17. Miller's seat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee prompted her visit to the airport, as well as several other locations in southern West Virginia.\r\n\r\n[caption id="attachment_50136" align="alignleft" width="451"]<img class=" wp-image-50136" src="https:\/\/mountainmessenger.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/13\/2020\/07\/IMG_1948-300x200.jpg" alt="" width="451" height="300" \/> Congresswoman Carol Miller speaks with Greenbrier County Commission President Lowell Rose.[\/caption]\r\n\r\nBefore the tour, a socially distant and masked meeting was held between Miller and members of the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation, county officials, airport employees, and other interested parties about what they need.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt's great anytime we can host a member of the Congressional delegation,\u201d explained Airport Director Brian Belcher. \u201cIf they know what the airport's needs are, there's [sometimes] a way they can help if they can. Sometimes they might not be able to, but at least they know what our needs are and we can work with them to get things done here. There are a lot of projects that we can do at this airport; they're not always FAA eligible for funding, so we need other avenues of funding to get them done"\r\n\r\n\u201cI talked about my year and a half in Congress and what I'm trying to accomplish, which is economic development of southern West Virginia,\u201d Miller said. \u201cI look at myself as an ambassador, meeting with ambassadors of foreign countries, that are our friends, to let them know what we have in southern West Virginia, our opportunities for people who want to invest. I think we need to reinvest and reinvent and make southern West Virginia shine again. Economic development, job creation, opportunity, whatever I can do in my position in Congress to put people together.\u201d\r\n\r\nTalk of tourism and airport funds were also important to the meeting \u2013 revenue for airports across the United States is massively down as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread.\r\n\r\n[caption id="attachment_50137" align="alignleft" width="300"]<img class="size-medium wp-image-50137" src="https:\/\/mountainmessenger.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/13\/2020\/07\/IMG_1949-300x200.jpg" alt="" width="300" height="200" \/> Congresswoman Carol Miller[\/caption]\r\n\r\n\u201cWe talked about how COVID-19 affected all of us,\u201d Miller said. \u201c\u2026 Times have been a little uncertain but we're all going to move forward. We are all going to get through this. \u2026 Our airports have really suffered \u2013 millions and millions of dollars lost. It's been a bad thing.\u201d\r\n\r\nDespite the hit to reserves, the airport\u2019s operating account was saved by grant funding from Congress in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The funds allowed the airport to continue to function while air travel is massively reduced.\r\n\r\n\u201cOur rents and our fuel sales go into an operating account and it currently has $110,000 in it,\u201d Belcher previously explained to the Mountain Messenger. \u201cWe got $1,042,000 from the CARES Act and we\u2019re using that to pay employee benefits so we don\u2019t have to lay anyone off during the COVID-19 pandemic. \u2026 That money would have normally come out of the operating budget, so now we\u2019re able to save into the operating budget \u2026 which will last us a little over a year.\u201d\r\n\r\nMiller also noted Congress is working on a fifth COVID-19 response bill this week but was unable to say what would be in it.\r\n\r\nRiding alongside Belcher, Miller and Michael Chirico, a member of her staff, were able to see the many planes, hangers, fuel tanks, and more facilities scattered across the airport grounds.\r\n\r\n[caption id="attachment_50138" align="alignright" width="449"]<img class=" wp-image-50138" src="https:\/\/mountainmessenger.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/13\/2020\/07\/IMG_1931-300x200.jpg" alt="" width="449" height="299" \/> Miller, Belcher, and Chirico tour the airport grounds.[\/caption]\r\n\r\n\u201cIt was mostly an informational meeting when we did the tour,\u201d Belcher said. \u201cWe were talking about how the airport runs. You saw the private jets that are out here behind us, and we work those jets when they land and we sell the fuel to them, so we explained how everything works. Just went over some of the projects that are going on.\u201d\r\n\r\nMillers assignment on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee also brings another key issue southern West Virginia into the spotlight \u2013 internet connectivity infrastructure. Miller stated the meeting highlighted a few ongoing projects that could improve the region's connectivity.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe number one hurdle we have is infrastructure, it's broadband,\u201d Miller said. \u201cI'm already hearing plans of what we would like to do here through economic development. The Facebook [broadband] trunk is coming from Ohio through Beckley, how we can hook people up that way. Some of it is very basic \u2013 it's water and sewer. West Virginia has been long to the table in getting everybody connected for a lot of different reasons. A lot of people are independent and don't want to get hooked up. We just need to do whatever we can to make it appealing to businesses coming in.\u201d\r\n\r\nBelcher cited a recently funding $1.5 million project through the FAA that the congresswoman was able to help get to the Greenbrier Valley Airport as a reason he was excited when she reached out for a visit and tour.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe airport is a gateway into this region,\u201d Belcher said. \u201cIt's not just Lewisburg and White Sulphur Springs, I consider it the whole region. You have Snowshoe, The Greenbrier, the Homestead, that's three major resorts and we're the closest airport. \u2026 Her staff [and her] will go back and find ways they can help not only the airport, but the whole region. I think the airport is [important] for economic development in the whole region and with everybody working together, the county, economic development people, the state, the Congresswoman, her staff, if we all work together I think we can get a lot done here.\u201d\r\n\r\nIn order to reach Miller with potential issues or concerns, a contact form can be found at <a href="https:\/\/miller.house.gov\/contact">https:\/\/miller.house.gov\/contact<\/a>.