Rolling Out the Welcome Mat

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It's been open since late winter, but formal dedication ceremonies were held Monday for Williamstown's new Welcome Center.

Long sought-after by Williamstown Mayor Jean Ford, the building located at the Interstate 77 exit is similar to a West Virginia Welcome Center near the Maryland border and it's no coincidence that both tourist centers are located at entrances into the Mountain State.

"It is important that the traveling public be provided with a positive first impression," said Bruce Levy, of the state Department of Highways. "What better way to capitalize on what we have to offer than a modern, state-of-the-art structure that promotes the state's artistry as well as its tourist attractions."

The center provides more than just pamphlets of state attractions. It includes a display area promoting the state's glass industry, and a theater area showing movies on state tourism destinations.

It is also staffed by West Virginia tourism personnel, who were praised by one traveler in an e-mail to Gov. Bob Wise, who attended Monday's dedication.

"Welcome centers are important because 90 percent of the people who travel to our area do so by car," the governor said. "Every day, they need directions, information, or help with reservations."

Before the Williamstown Center opened, the state's local welcome center was located 18 miles south of the West Virginia-Ohio border, near Mineral Wells.