GVEDC holds is annual dinner with keynote speaker Amy Shuler Goodwin
The Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation held its annual dinner on June 19, 2014 at Lewisburg Elks Country Club with special guest and keynote speaker Amy Shuler Goodwin, the newly appointed WV Deputy Secretary of Commerce and the Commission of Tourism. 70 people enjoyed a wonderful meal prepared by TLP and a great message from Ms. Shuler Goodwin. The dinner was sponsored by First National Bank of Ronceverte, Dominion Energy and Frontier Communications.
Amy’s message spoke of the positive aspects of tourism in West Virginia, one of which is its people. She noted that West Virginians are the number one tourist in WV, with Ohio being second. Starting with WV residents, it is important to educate all of what WV has to offer.
Amy emphasized the importance of staying relevant with the start of revamping the state tourism’s website. Her staff is fully utilizing all social media. She stated “We need to grow and thrive, be creative, dynamic and seek opportunities. We need to create new experiences to obtain loyal customers. Our return on investment needs to be large”.
“With a decreased budget, we must do more with less. Our call center is going to be revamped. People today want information extremely fast. We need to tap in with what motivates people to come to our state, spend money and want to come back”. Amy said she welcomes any feedback at Amy.S.Goodwin@wv.gov.
Amy took the time after her message and the dinner, to meet with those attending and answered questions. Louise Barnisky, Marlinton Councilwoman, stated, “I am thankful for the invite to tonight’s event and it was nice to see people she has known for such a long time ago. It would be nice to see good things come to Marlinton especially funding for a water plant. She enjoyed hearing Amy’s message and hopes she will come to Pocahontas County”. Bill Shiflet, GVEDC board member from Monroe County stated, “It was a wonderful evening. Amy seems to be right on track with educating WV first on tourism”.
Amy took special time to have a conversation with Cara Rose, Executive Director of Pocahontas County and Convention Visitor’s Bureau and Kara Dense, Executive Director of Greenbrier CVB. Kara Dense stated,” The dinner was a wonderful opportunity to hear our new WV Tourism Commissioner, Amy Shuler Goodwin, speak of her direction for the Division of Tourism. Tourism is such a powerful economic driver in the Greenbrier Valley and important to every county in the Greenbrier Valley. I thank the GVEDC for having her.”
Stephen Weir, Executive Director of GVEDC, completed an overview of GVEDC’s latest efforts emphasizing the creation of new jobs with the Rahall Business and Technology Center 140,000 square foot building being filled to capacity.
Stephen stated, “With the addition of the Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company and Smooth Ambler nearby, we have a leading edge with new types of business that will continue to see the Greenbrier Valley grow and thrive. We truly live in a great place in the state and in this country”.
The GVEDC has made within all its economic development programming, a commitment to include programs and projects that promote business growth through entrepreneurism. The maturation of the process of promoting the development and sustainment of entrepreneurs has netted some recognition for the GVEDC. Two programs, the Entrepreneurial Development Project and the Local Food Initiative have garnered some recognition for their role in promoting business as a career opportunity.
The Entrepreneurial Development Project:
The purpose of this project is the development of an entrepreneurial education program imbedded in the local elementary junior high school curriculums while integrating other entrepreneurial awareness building into the overall economic development strategy of the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation (GVEDC), the multi-county local development organization responsible for the region’s business growth and development.
The sixth graders in the Greenbrier County middle schools, where the project was initiated, were presented with an entrepreneurial “creative thinking” pilot project. The Communities in Schools program will be used to implement the first year. A job shadowing program would be implemented in the second year.
Other entrepreneurial programs targeting middle school students are also being evaluated. The Kauffman Foundation has permitted the use of the online site for its “All Terrain Brain” program as a resource in the development of this project.
The facilitator and program coordinator of this grant is Katie Ickes, who served as the Executive Director of the Greater Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce for seven years. Katie Ickes, working with New River Community and Technical College in association with Greenbrier Valley Economic Development, has partnered with Communities in the Schools to teach the Mindset for Success program at Eastern Greenbrier Middle School and Western Greenbrier Middle School.
A number of news outlets have done stories on this program and Katie has been invited to make presentations and join panel discussions about her project. The Mountain Messenger’s article entitled “Mindset for Success Program Making a Difference at Middle Schools” highlighted this program. It stated, “Many students do not have a vision of their future and believe they are limited by their current circumstances. Lacking long term goals, they choose to live for the moment and often make unsafe and unhealthy choices. The Mindset for Success program is being presented at Eastern and Western Greenbrier Middle School to address this problem and to encourage innovative and creative entrepreneurial thinking. The program has some components of the All-Terrain Brain program from the Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurism. The All-Terrain Brain program and Kauffman’s Icehouse program ascertain that having a vision for the future and working towards goals can lead to success and encourage choices that avoid detrimental behavior. An observing teacher noted, “The greatest aspect of this program is that it was that the students who normally struggle in core classes, excelled in this class. It brought students of different levels together as a team and it encouraged them to think outside the box.”
In November, 2013, the Appalachian Regional Commission held a conference in Charleston highlighting the developing trend of encouraging and supporting entrepreneurship in Appalachia as a means by which to transform its economy. The conference was entitled “Toward Prosperity: Entrepreneurship; Transforming the Appalachian Economy”. The ARC presented a series of case studies to the attendees entitled, “Entrepreneurial Appalachia: Case Studies in Evolving Economic Sectors.” The featured sectors included energy, health, manufacturing and local food. The local foods case study featured the Greenbrier Valley and the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation’s Local foods Initiative (GVLFI).
The Appalachian Regional Commission is a federal regional economic development organization created through a joint partnership of federal, state, and local government. Established by Congress in 1965, ARC works to promote sustainable community and economic development in Appalachia.
This report examines the trends fostering a change in the local economies of the region, demonstrating how these changes came about through the use of case studies. Each study examines a particular sector, those involved, how the change took place and the results to date. The reports overview states, “Throughout Appalachia, entrepreneurs are forging a new economic model — one based on local investment and local ownership — and their impact is already being felt in some of the Region’s evolving economic sectors… Prompted in part by Appalachia’s need for economic diversification, the ARC supported this research as a way to summarize entrepreneurial opportunities within these economic sectors and to examine innovative projects that demonstrate multiple benefits to rural and underserved communities.”
The study notes the trends, opportunities and challenges facing the local food productions sectors in Appalachia, saying “The local food sector is particularly promising for the Appalachian Region. Appalachia possesses a variety of cultural assets supportive of local food system development… Appalachia is also home to some of the nation’s most visionary leadership in the local food movement…”
The Greenbrier Valley, in southeastern West Virginia, is the watershed shared by Pocahontas, Greenbrier, and Monroe counties. While efforts in the local food economy have a long history, several related initiatives that have been operating since 2010 show great promise. These initiatives include: ¬ The Greenbrier Valley Local Foods Initiative (GVLFI): The initiative, a project of the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation, provides technical assistance and training for food and farm entrepreneurs; recently launched the “Greenbrier Valley Grown™” brand; and is exploring the feasibility of a processing, aggregation, and distribution facility for area farmers.
Collaboration between mainstream economic development institutions and grassroots organizations has been integral to the development of the Greenbrier Valley local food economy. The Greenbrier Valley Economic Development
Corporation (GVEDC) has helped area farmers markets access funding, acted as the fiscal sponsor for non-501(c)(3) organizations, and provided office space for start-up groups. In addition to providing local market outlets, grassroots organizations like the Monroe Farm Market, the Pocahontas County Farmers Market and the Greenbrier Valley Pasture Network also conduct community outreach and education, provide networking opportunities for growers and local food supporters, and help leverage additional resources for the continued development of the food economy. AmeriCorps VISTA positions have been used widely and successfully to increase the capacity of grassroots efforts and train the next generation of local food leaders.
The investments of local, regional, and national funders have also been critical to the development of West Virginia’s local food economy. In 2012, West Virginia received 2 out of the 13 federally awarded Rural Jobs Accelerator
Grants offered through a partnership between the Economic Development Administration, the USDA Rural Community Development Initiative and the Appalachian Regional Commission. Also, since 2009, the Natural Capital Investment Fund, through its participation in the Central Appalachian Network (CAN), has provided critical startup funding and organizational development support to grassroots local food efforts.