A doctor returns to his hometown to support both individual and community health.
Ever wonder how a dying town finds a new lease on life? How boarded up buildings become bastions for new businesses? How small rural communities can educate youth while empowering them to improve their hometowns? If so, you’re going to love meeting these Possibilitarians. They embrace bold ideas with purposeful action and inspire and mobilize others to do the same. They focus on solutions instead of problems. They think positively and act with passion. They turn possibilities into realities.
“I never had a desire to have my fingers in all the pies,” says Dr. Dino Beckett. But his heart, skills, and vision have put his fingers in quite a few of the pies anyway. Williamson and Mingo County are benefitting.
Beckett returned to his childhood home of Williamson in 2004 to set up his medical practice there. He saw the connection between economic opportunity and physical health and helped launch Sustainable Williamson to integrate economic and health initiatives. Working through and with SW, he started the Williamson Health and Wellness Center to provide free care, then collaborated on useful additions—like a lunch walk and monthly 5K, community gardens, and a farmers market.
Over time, Beckett has allied with like-minded investment partners to support a wide range of community initiatives. We asked Beckett what drives his entrepreneurship—what we learned is how the Hatfield–McCoy Trails are transforming his part of West Virginia.
What motivated you to get involved in so many kinds of businesses?
In 2003–2004, when I came back here, the coal mining business was still pretty successful—so much so that I started another company called Comprehensive Health Solutions, which was like a concierge clinic for energy companies.
But then we started seeing the decline in coal mining. In 2008–09, Mingo County was one of the top three counties for per capita income in the state. Then, in 2015, we lost 1,000 coal mining jobs, jobs that paid $80,000 to $120,000 per year, in a county of 22,000. So families were having to uproot—but Appalachian culture is all about close-knit families, and, once families move away, they lose that connectivity. That was really the impetus on why we needed to act and do things to create jobs.
How does AMCO Heaven help?
In recent years, there’s this following of Hatfield-McCoy Trail riders that come here, and we have about a 70% revisit rate—which doesn’t leave a lot of housing options for people that are trying to come here for the first time. So we want to build out the lodging infrastructure and we have to have places to eat, places to rent machines, that kind of thing, so people can have great experiences. It’s an opportunity.
This part of West Virginia, we’re entrepreneurs at heart. Our great-grandparents knew how to farm the land, how to make a dollar. I’m an entrepreneur, my partners are entrepreneurs, and we’re trying to tap back into that—celebrate and encourage as much entrepreneurism as we can. Our goal with amcoheaven.com is also to attract and promote other entrepreneurs because, when you look at southern West Virginia, we do have a high poverty level and low entrepreneurship, and if we can increase entrepreneurship, we can lower poverty. We want to show people that they can have a business in West Virginia, particularly southern West Virginia, and be successful with that.
How has Williamson changed since you returned in 2004?
We have more restaurants starting to come downtown now, and more businesses are trying to locate into Williamson. The historic Mountaineer Hotel is booked more than it has been in years. The number of tourists that are visiting Williamson and Mingo County is just skyrocketing—so we’re seeing ridership, people eating in restaurants, staying in lodging. It’s incredible. We’re also starting to see local people buying old properties and renovating for rental potential, some even buying their second or third lodging facilities to rehabilitate them and get them on the market.
Williamson and Mingo County are just beginning a new era—people are finally getting that this is one of the up-and-coming areas of West Virginia to be a part of.
When 84 Lumber closed a lot of stores in 2019, including one in Mingo County, 12 jobs were going to be lost. Beckett and his partners bought the location’s assets and established Local Lumber Supply. They also created Local Services, which does heating and cooling, plumbing, roofing, and flooring. Instead of losing 12 jobs, they created more than 20 and now provide valuable construction services for the community.
Southern West Virginia is a beautiful place that has not historically attracted a lot of tourism. But now, the popular and growing Hatfield–McCoy Trails system is drawing more off-road riders every year—creating strong demand for dining, lodging, and services. Beckett and his partners launched amcoheaven.com to give visitors a convenient platform for researching events and booking services and to promote local entrepreneurs who are stepping up to make their visits enjoyable.
Williamson Memorial Hospital
Williamson Memorial Hospital is the only hospital in Mingo County. Beckett trained there as a student and worked there for 15 years so, when it closed in April 2020, Williamson Health and Wellness purchased the assets of the hospital. The plan is to re-open in April 2022 with an OR, an ER, laboratory services, and clinic space as well as hospital beds.
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