Economic summit to take place this week

Submitted photoJina Belcher, executive director of the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority (NRGRDA), has been recognized by the state business journal as one of its 2021 Generation Next ‘40 Under 40’ recipients.

New opportunities in new industries will be key to the future of the economy in the New River Gorge Region, said Jina Belcher, executive director of the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority.

Belcher cited the aerospace initiative, spearheaded by the NRGRDA, as well as new opportunities available in the region as a result of the national park designation for the New Rover Gorge as some of the industries that will serve as the foundation for moving the economy in the area forward.

These initiatives and more will be discussed Thursday at the Regional Economic Development Outlook Development Summit.

The NRGRDA, in partnership with WVU College of Business and Economics, will conduct the half-day forum.

The summit will take place from 9 a.m. to noon Thursday at the Historic Black Knight Municipal Park.

Kicking off the summit is Beckley Mayor Rob Rappold followed by a presentation from West Virginia University's Bureau of Business and Economic Research Director John Deskins.

Deskins’ presentation is expected to include the forecast for the economy for the New River Gorge Region, which includes Raleigh, Fayette, Summers and Nicholas counties.

Belcher said Deskins' presentation will also focus on new economic opportunities that are available as well as the projected impacts they will have.

“In turn, the NRGRDA then takes an opportunity to talk about and present how we intend to capitalize on those new opportunities for economic diversification and the projects and the programs that we’re supporting to really create that economic impact,” Belcher said.

“At this year’s summit, you’re going to hear a lot about the big projects that we have in the works and how those are going to create a new and larger economic impact than we’ve seen before, especially in a variety of new industries.”

Belcher said she had yet to see Deskins' economic outlook report but feels that they are already headed in the right direction.

“For us, we are looking at a variety of new industry opportunities, both outdoor recreation and aerospace-related,” she said. “We’re also looking at how we can find alternative energy sources and alternative uses for coal and coal byproducts.

“I think that you’re going to see that while the Covid-19 pandemic did cause a lot of negative economic impact that a lot of what (Deskins) is going to present is around the new opportunity we do have as well as the federal resources available to support economic diversification.”

Belcher said NRGRDA partners Active Southern WV, WV Hive Network and Country Roads Angel Network will also be presenters at the summit to provide updates on their work and it how benefits the community.

To register to attend the summit, go to nrgrda.org.

Belcher said space is limited and those who would like to attend must register in advance.

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