The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 4, 2014

6 W.Va. cities tout economic plans

By Pamela Pritt
Register-Herald Reporter

CHARLESTON — Six state communities are making a plan for recovery from tough economic times. All face different challenges and all have different goals, but all have one thing in common — these six communities have a plan, thanks to their involvement with the WVHub.

Bluefield, Princeton, Hinton, Marlinton, Sophia and Richwood, all WVHub Blueprint Communities, touted their plans Monday at the state Cultural Center.

WVHub director Kent Spellman said those communities all have an exciting year ahead. Once the planning stage is finished, Spellman said, the key to success is what happens in the second phase, the implementation of the plan that makes the difference.

“They’re all doing remarkable things. Everyone is at a different level. They’re all going after different projects,” Spellman said. “I think we’re going to see everyone of these teams do remarkable things in their communities.”

The plans all consider demographics, challenges and trends.

For Bluefield, population 10,447 in 2010, challenges include a lack of civic engagement, a lack of ongoing connection between the city and Bluefield State College, redeveloping the downtown area and leveraging energy and transportation assets for business development.

The Blueprint team has set three “smart goals” for each of those challenges, including:

— 40 businesses involved in quarterly “chat and chews”

—n Open forums, community service projects with college student involvement

— Businesses focussed on the college student market

— A positive perception of the downtown area where businesses will show profitable sales by 2016

— A natural gas refueling station

Josh Kline, the city’s economic redevelopment and planning director, says he thinks the program is a good beginning.

“It’s been a learning experience,” Kline said. And what city leaders have learned most about is exactly what they need to overcome one of the obstacles in the path, “civic engagement.”

“[We’ve learned] how we get our community members to get off the bench and play in the game,” Kline said. “[They’re] excited about making their community a better place.”

He said that’s something every current community leader is looking for — a way to get residents to engage in building or rebuilding their towns and cities.

Kline, a Virginia native, said West Virginia’s human resources will make the difference.

“West Virginia has the best people,” Kline said, “people that truly care. And that’s what’s going to make the difference as these communities work to revamp who they are.”

He said the best part of the plan for him, is the role Bluefield State College’s new administration has taken in the process. New president Dr. Marsha Krotseng has a new vision for the college, he said.

“For us to partner with them is going to be the key to our success only going to produce more opportunities for the community,” Kline said.

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