West Point Through the Years
Since the University’s relocation to West Point in 2012, I have watched our town grow in so many wonderful ways. I’ve been a West Point area local since 1981, and it is has been amazing to watch the ways the town has welcomed the university and how our students have invigorated the community.
Point University’s move to West Point has impacted our city in so many ways. Rather than building new facilities, we revitalized existing buildings and we did it by using local companies and contractors whenever possible. What a great contribution to the job market! I was fortunate enough to be the first “local hire” and other locals have since joined our staff. Professors and staff began moving to the area and realtors began smiling again. Then the students came! Tax revenues went up, recreation facilities were updated, restaurants opened and jobs were filled. Area churches now hire our students to work in children, youth and music ministries. When you drive through downtown West Point and have to dodge the construction vehicles, rejoice! Point University is a factor in the investment decisions made by local businesses.
A Brief History of West Point
Pre-Civil War, before the days of standardization, railroad tracks on the East Coast were a different gauge (width) from the Western side of the country. The tracks changed at the Georgia-Alabama line. Trains loaded with cotton, cattle and people had to stop in West Point to unload and be re-loaded on a different train before they could continue their trek. As a result, West Point became a thriving city with hotels, banks, warehouses, theaters and even an opera house to entertain the many visitors that had to lay-over for a day or two before resuming their travels.
Textile mills, powered by the waters of the Chattahoochee River, began to spring up due to the proximity of the railroad and large cotton plantations. During the late 1800s, these mills produced canvas used to cover the Conestoga wagons of pioneers exploring and settling the new American western frontier. That means a touch of West Point was there for the Gold Rush!
The area textile mills continued to thrive and in the later part of the 20th century became the largest manufacturer of sheets and towels in the world. They produced most of the bed and bath products for JC Penney and Ralph Lauren, just to name a few. Companies that developed some of the nation’s earliest cell phone and call conferencing technology were set up in West Point. Through mergers and sales, these startup companies became T-Mobile, Intercall and Mindspring (now Earthlink).
As the textile industry moved off-shore and technology companies were traded, merged or sold, the economy of the city began to fade. Not willing to see the city die, hardworking area leadership recruited Kia Motors to build their first North American manufacturing site in West Point. People come from all over the United States and the world to work in the state-of–the-art facility. Today Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia employs more than 3,000 people.As you travel across our country and see anyone driving a Kia Sorento or Optima, honk your horn – those cars were made in West Point!
West Point Today
Students, faculty and staff come to Point University from all walks of life. It has brought new traditions and viewpoints to our quiet little town and we are richer for that. In addition to the fabulous education received at Point, students are forming relationships and philosophies that will shape them into productive leaders and disciples for Christ in whatever field they enter. I believe that West Point and the Greater Valley Area will be a part of those formations and when the students leave, they will take a little bit of West Point with them.
Mary Susan Underwood
Director of Guest and Community Relations