As manufacturing and mining have declined in economic importance in West Virginia, the service industries have contributed an ever-larger share. The state has focused on developing such areas as health and medical services, business services, and information technology. Tourism, including food services, hotels, and entertainment, also contributes to this economic sector.
For many years West Virginia’s rugged terrain was a barrier to exploration and settlement. Water transportation was important in the state’s early development, and during the late 19th century the railroads were the key to the exploitation of timber and mineral deposits located away from the rivers.
Water transport remains important. The greatest amount of freight is carried on the Ohio River. The Monongahela, Kanawha, and Big Sandy rivers also carry considerable tonnage. The first important rail service began in 1853 when the Baltimore & Ohio reached Wheeling. After the economic depression of the 1870s, there was a rail boom aimed at exploiting the state’s coal, timber, and agricultural resources. Today, interstate highways cross the state and carry most of the goods that once traveled by rail.In the early 19th century, Wheeling, located on the Ohio River and the National Road, was a commercial center rivaling Pittsburgh. Charleston’s commercial importance dates from the improvement of the Kanawha River and the construction of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad after the Civil War. Huntington developed as a center of trade after that railroad reached the Ohio River. Encarta "West Virginia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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