Written by Aaron-Michael Fox.

Election year 2024: For the first time since this website was launched, Huntington is guaranteed to elect a new mayor. Mayor Steve Williams has reached the end of his three-term limit.

Elections generally encompass the entire scope of societal issues as we pour over the candidates we want to represent us for the next four years. In municipal elections, unlike those at the national level, the issues pretty much come down to the budget. How is the government going to make sure it has enough money to provide the necessary services it takes to make the city thrive?

No doubt there will be a lot of debate in the coming months about where Huntington should head in 2025 and beyond. I thought this would be a good time to take a look back at Mr. Williams’ tenure as mayor from a business perspective.

If you haven’t been to the Downtown Business District over the last decade, there has been remarkable change with virtually every block seeing redevelopment of some kind. The downtown neighborhood is absolutely chock-full of local restaurants, shops, and boutiques. This is the result of purposeful effort by many community leaders.

“We want our downtown to be a destination location,” Mayor Williams said. “It is affirmed constantly when people who visit for the first time or the first time in several years exclaim how surprised they are regarding the beauty of our community and how safe and comfortable people make them feel during their visit.”

Williams took office on January 1, 2013, and so far 103 downtown businesses have either opened, expanded, or extensively remodeled since then (see full list below).

I have long said in my public commentary that the government cannot directly create private sector jobs—it can only create an environment where business will flourish. The explosion of new businesses over the last decade shows that our city government has incentivized investing in our downtown neighborhood.

“What has developed in Huntington is precious, and we must do all we can to protect the hard-earned investment of our business owners,” said Williams. “That is why we have eliminated business taxes for retail, restaurants, and manufacturing businesses and reduced business taxes by half for service-based businesses.”

You read that right—Huntington city B&O taxes are currently ZERO PERCENT on manufacturing, restaurants, and retail with most other businesses hovering around one percent.

While this topic will be hotly debated by mayoral candidates throughout this election cycle, the downtown business owners I’ve spoken with say that the city tax structure is not a hindrance to business.

From what I’m hearing, the biggest deterrents to business in downtown Huntington are state bureaucracy, vagrancy, banks not approving many loans through the Small Business Administration, plus difficulty finding a dependable workforce that can pass a drug test. I would argue that whoever has the best plan for addressing these issues will get the business owner vote for mayor in 2024.

A positive future for business in the downtown neighborhood is incredibly important since it is the economic engine of the entire metro. Without growing businesses, we don’t have enough jobs and our population, tax base, and regional influence will decline; which will put Huntington’s future in peril. Vote wisely.

List of downtown businesses that have opened, expanded, or extensively remodeled since January 2013:

21 at the Frederick
9th St Diner
All About You Hair & Nail 
Apex Beverage Company
Austin’s Ice Cream 
Backyard Pizza & Raw Bar
Bahhof
Bar None Sports Bar
BDY Yoga
Big Maudlin Duck (coming soon)
Birds of a Feather – Heritage Station
Black Sheep Burritos & Brews

Black Sheep Harley-Davidson 
Boots Spirits and Feed
Boujee Boards by Roz
Bow Love Boutique
Breathe Wine & Culture Co. (coming soon)
Butter It Up
Calamity J Grill & Bar
The Cannabist
The Cellar Door
Crisppi’s Chicken
CPR Cell Phone Repair
The Crystal Path
Davis’ Place
Delta by Marriott
Double Tree by Hilton
Dunkin (campus)
East Flavor

Elysian Salon & Crystal Wellness
Firehouse Subs
Fuel Counter
Full Circle Gifts
The Foundry Theater
Glenn’s Sporting Goods
Golden Dagger Tattoos & Piercings
Goodfellas Barborshop

The Grill on Third
Gumbo Stop Café
Gyro King
Haute Wick Social
The Hip Eagle and the Little Eagle
The Historic Hippie
Huntington Ale House
Huntington Gardens
Ink’d Revolution
Iron Hand Barbershop
The Inner Geek
Jewel City Barber Shop
Jewel City Salon
Jewel City Seafood
The Jockey Club
La Fontaine’s Rooftop Lounge
The Lantern
Le Bistro
The Lost Escape Room
The Loud
Lulu’s vape shop
Lyn-Zen Microblading
Margarita’s Mexican Grill and Bar
Mammus’ Restaurant

Mountaineer Mobile Services

Mountaineer Weddings
Mr. Smoke vape shop

MU Hall of Fame Café

MVP Smoking Alternatives
Nomada Bakery
Now Hear This
Old Main Emporium
Old North Arcade
Paint and Sip
Paula Vega Cakes
The Peddler
Pet Palace
Pho U & Mi
The Pottery Place
Prestige Piercing
Pretty and Poised
Rapid Fired Pizza
The Razor and Shear
The Red Caboose
Rio Grande on 4th Ave
Rooster’s
Salon SAS
The Shala
Simply M Boutique
Sip Downtown Brasserie
Skeffington’s Formal Wear
Stellar Noodle Co.
Summit Beer Station
Square Slice Pizza
Taps at Heritage Station
Taqueria ’84
Terraleaf Medical Cannabis
Truckin’ Cheesy
True Soul Boutique
Tulsi at the Market
VC Boutique
Vandalia Crowd House

Wellman O’Shea Jewelers
Wildflower Gift Gallery
The Woods
Wright’s Clothiers

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