Two Upper Potomac region counties are part of a long established, but relatively unknown, federal program to promote small business.
Garrett County, Maryland and Grant County, West Virginia both participate in the HUBZone program of the Small Business Administration. The brainchild of former Missouri US Senator Kit Bond, this program encompasses qualified census tracts, qualified no-metropolitan counties, areas around closed military bases, and Indian reservations. In HUBZones, small businesses receive preference for federal contracts.
In fact, the first contract awarded under the program went to a firm in Accident, Maryland.
West Virginia has eight counties (Grant, Pocahontas, Webster, Wetzel, McDowell, Calhoun, Mason) that meet any or all of the three criteria:
1) That the county's median household income is less than 80 percent of nonmetropolitan median household income in the state
2) The county's unemployment rate is not less than 140 percent of the average unemployment rate for the United States or West Virginia, whichever rate is lower.
3) The county includes a Difficult Development Area, as defined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
After the 2010 Census, the Small Business Administration removed Jackson, Tyler, Tucker, Summers, and Mingo from the list.
Apart from designated counties, the SBA recognizes (but cannot legally designate) a number of qualified tracts. Mineral County has one qualified tract that extends along the western boundary around Elk Garden and Piedmont, but does not quite extend to Keyser. Western Morgan County and the western and southeastern portions of Hampshire County also hold these designations.