$1 Million in Loans Available to Take Down Dilapidated Buildings

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BAD Building coming down.When the Fayette County Beautification Committee demolishes a dilapidated, abandoned structure, those living near the site often tell them of others in the area that should meet the same fate.

“Every time one goes down, we hear about one or two more that need to go,” said Angela Gerald, project director for the committee. “It really does look 100 percent better.”

The revolving loan program is available to counties and municipalities that want to rid their communities of blighted, dangerous properties.

The committee has been using one of the West Virginia Housing Development Fund’s signature programs, the West Virginia Property Rescue Initiative, to fund this work. To date, Gerald said her committee has razed 10 structures. Thanks to a bill passed during the 2015 Session of the West Virginia Legislature and signed into law by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, the program is evolving.

The West Virginia Property Rescue Initiative, formerly known as the Demolition Program, mandates that the Fund allocate an additional $1 million per fiscal year over the next five years for a revolving loan program available to counties and municipalities that want to rid their communities of blighted, dangerous properties.

Key points about the program include:

  • The maximum loan amount for any one entity is $250,000 per fiscal year.
  • Loans may be made for periods of up to seven years.
  • Payments will be due over the life of the loan.
  • Payments may be deferred over the first two years of the loan.
  • No interest accrues during the first two years of the loan.

The program provides cities and counties with resources to acquire and/or remove dilapidated properties from their communities. To be eligible, cities and counties must have the authority to acquire and/or demolish the property, and the structures to be razed must constitute a health and safety hazard. Assistance is provided in the form of a loan repayable over a maximum term of seven years.

For more information about the loan program, visit www.wvhdf.com/WVPRI

New Create WV Director: “Innovation Economy Only Part of the Solution.”

Innovators.

DigiSo Anchor Group, Charleston WV. Photo courtesy www.digiso.org

At Create WV we like to say we are anti-nothing, only pro-West Virginia.

Create WW works to build and improve the innovation economy in this state. What’s the “innovation economy?” Also called the “new economy” or the “creative economy,” the innovation economy is the economy created by people with knowledge-based skills.

Many of these innovators are our own people! Create WV aims to make West Virginia a place where the creative class can thrive, and we do it by promoting the five pillars of the innovation economy: education, entrepreneurship, technology, diversity, and quality of place.

The solutions won’t be the same across the board. There is no one industry that can come in and replace coal.

I think the innovation economy is extremely important, but it’s only part of the larger solution. Allow me to explain.

My ideas for the future are numerous. I’m young, excited, and haven’t had my love for this great state stamped out of me by well-meaning but fatalistic people, who think they’re doing me a favor by telling me not to get my hopes up.

I love West Virginia. However, I can’t deny that our current economy needs some adjustment in order to move forward (and we are always moving, in some direction).

But there are a few things we need to understand. First, there is no one solution. And the solutions won’t be the same across the board. What works for Princeton will not necessarily work for Fairmont. There is no one industry that can come in and replace coal, or Mom & Pop shops, or whatever it was that was there but is not anymore.

Rather, 18 or 20 small businesses and entrepreneurs in one town will come together to offer alternatives (plural) to unemployment and dying industry. The innovation economy has enormous potential for West Virginia, but if we only have the innovation economy we are letting so much else go to waste.

Second, there is hope. I have it. I know a lot of people who do. There is good work going on. We have a wonderful quality of place and we have young people who are trying very hard to find a way to stay here. We have natural beauty and a unique knack for making great things out of almost nothing (read: innovating). All we need to do is put the hope and the innovation together, and we will be in business. Some people are doing it; it’s time for the rest of us to join in.

Sustainable change will progress at a snail’s pace, or so it will seem. But its effects will last.

Third–and this is harder for those of us who like to see immediate results–change is slow. Sustainable change will progress at a snail’s pace, or so it will seem. But its effects will last, because communities will be invested in them. One person can make a change, but it takes a village to sustain a change.

The kind of West Virginia I want to see is one a lot like Fayetteville, where we are holding our annual conference this year. Fayetteville has capitalized on its natural attractions, and entrepreneurs are the norm. Chain restaurants and stores are few and far between; instead the town takes pride in supporting its local businesses. The County Commission is supportive of new ideas, and the unique restaurants that have sprung up are a tourist destination in their own right. I don’t want Strip Mall West Virginia; I want a West Virginia where we take our old buildings and give them new life. I understand that this kind of change can take years and years to happen, and I’m committed to stick around for it.

I’m not out to change the world. My job at Create WV is to open a hole to make it possible for someone else to do so. West Virginia needs alternative economies for innovators and creative entrepreneurs to flourish here. The status quo is not good enough.

Does that make me better than what we have now? No. It means that we all deserve better than what we’re giving ourselves. So West Virginia, in the words of Donna Meagle, “Treat Yoself.”

Hello, Brittany.

Register Herald: After Much Opposition, Beckley Drops Proposed Basketball Ban

dunk.

Alfonso Jimenez/FlickrCC

By Wendy Holdren

After much public input, Beckley Common Council unanimously decided to remove the proposed basketball ban from its agenda, Mayor Bill O’Brien confirmed Monday.

Many residents spoke out in opposition of the ordinance, citing potential spikes in crime and obesity rates among area youth. 

The ordinance called for a ban on basketball hoops and basketball playing on city streets; violators would have faced a $25 fine. O’Brien said he does not expect the ordinance to be brought up again.

Many residents spoke out in opposition of the ordinance, citing potential spikes in crime and obesity rates among area youth. The ordinance was initially proposed after council received complaints that basketball players in the streets refused to yield to traffic.

O’Brien said the matter took on a life of its own, but he hopes the city’s residents can use that energy to help solve other issues.

Read the full story at register-herald.com

 

5 Tips: How to Get Your Press Release Published

what's the news?

Photo by Nick Page/FlickrCC

Here’s today’s question: Can you be more successful getting press releases and information into the newspapers around the state?

Short answer: Yes.

Longer answer: In today’s busy, short-staffed newsroom, hundreds of press releases arrive daily by email, print and fax. How you present the information is just as important as the message.

Remember: Information must have reader interest and benefit.

I’ve been asked to offer 5 quick tips that could improve your success rate with newspapers.

(Remember: Editorial staffs work for the reader. Information they use must have reader interest and benefit. While there are several sections of the newspaper – events and business pages and briefs – that feature news about your company or your event, for the most part, news editors look for reader interest. The advertising department can guarantee information about your company or event gets to the reader through the purchase of paid advertising.)

It’s still always about the ‘Who, What, When, Where and Who…

 

1. “Who” is about remembering your target audience.

While you will always need to get the approval of the executive director and/or board of directors, don’t confuse who signs your check with your target audience. You want the media to use your press release and the general public to read your press release. Both the media and the public care most about the “what.”

Don’t confuse who signs your check with your target audience.

To improve your odds of success, focus on the benefit of the information.

Example:

  • Good — “Homeowners could save more than 25 percent on housing renovations by applying for West Virginia’s new “Fix It Now!” housing program.
  • Bad — “The West Virginia Example Organization announced today it has opened the application period for the WVEO’s “Fit It Now” initiative.

You certainly want to mention your organization but wait until the second or even third paragraph:

State homeowners could find as much as 25 percent savings on housing renovations by
applying for West Virginia’s new “Fix It Now!” housing program.

The new housing renovation initiative, which includes more than $1 million in grants,
is open to all West Virginia homeowners and specifically targets low income areas,
according to West Virginia Example Organization.

“We hope homeowners will ‘Fix It Now,’” said Don Smith, executive director of the WVEO,
during a press conference Tuesday at the Charleston Civic Center.
Federal and state officials gathered at the Civic Center for the announcement.

 

2. “What” is about the benefit, not the activity.

As noted in No. 1, your target audiences are the media and the general public Both care most about the benefit. If you’re having a ribbon cutting for the cancer treatment center, the “what” is the cancer center, not the ribbon cutting.

Example:

  • Good — Thousands of Charleston residents will have easier access to chemo and other life-saving cancer treatments once the doors officially open today at the new $100 million Example Cancer Center.
  • Bad — Federal, state and city officials are expected to join with cancer patients today at the Example Cancer Center for a ribbon-cutting to open the new $100 million facility at Example City Hospital.

 

3. “When” is about the date you distribute the release, not about the date of the event.

Let the media know well in advance of events and send them the press release and photos early. Emailing or calling the day before or the day of an event definitely hurts your chances of good coverage.

 

4. “Why” is about the local importance of the news.

It’s always about why the locals think there is an important benefit.

The media and public would rather read what a local resident has to say.

It’s nice to quote your executive director, but the media and public would rather read what a local resident, patient or official has to say. If you’re making an announcement and only have quotes and comments from your staff and board, you have failed to prove the local importance.

 

5. “Where” is about the market you’re trying to reach.

Learn about the media outlets in the market you’re targeting. How many are there? Newspaper, radio and TV?

If the announcement is of local interest with very limited media, you can make a call or even a personal visit to distribute the information in advance. For a larger region, you need an organized effort and more time.

You can also use professional services such as the West Virginia Press Association to help distribute your information.

Always reach out personally to the media most important to your success.

Always reach out personally to the media most important to your success — local newspapers, radio and possibly TV — but do include regional and statewide media for major announcements.

 

Extra Tip: If anyone is still mailing or faxing releases, stop it now and move all delivery to email. You save money and the newspaper staff saves time. You can attach a formal press release to your email but always paste the entire message – in plain text – into the body of the mail. Newsrooms can cut-and-paste your information without worrying about having the right program to open the release or other formatting issues.

Hello, Don.

Got Voice? These Workshops Will Create Policies That Support WV Kids and Families

big and little.

Filter Collective/FlickrCC

Right now, citizens all over the state are building grassroots campaigns to shape and pass new state policies during the 2016 legislative session.

These are citizens who are passionate about helping children and families, promoting healthy lifestyles, improving their community, strengthening the local economy, and a host of other issues. I imagine they are people just like you.

They are looking for community leaders from all walks of life to join them in their effort to end child poverty. They’re looking for you.

They’re part of the Our Children, Our Future campaign, and they are working together on policies, organizing and leadership development to end child poverty in West Virginia.

In July and August, these passionate and engaged West Virginians are traveling around the state, and coming to a community near you. They are looking for community leaders, agencies and organizations from all walks of life to join them in their effort to end child poverty. They’re looking for you.

Click on the workshop near you to learn more, and register.

Eastern Policy Workshop
July 22, 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Canaan Valley Institute, Davis.

Southern Policy Workshop
Aug. 3, 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Geary Student Union, U.C. Beckley.

Central Policy Workshop
Aug. 11, 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church, Huntington.

Northern Policy Workshop
Aug. 17, 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Mary H. Weir Public Library, Weirton.

Come join other community leaders from your region to hear about the issues that are building some political momentum this year.

You’ll learn where you can get involved. You’ll have a chance to hear from local leaders, youth and legislators, and a chance to ask them what their priorities are and where they will stand during the legislative session.

And you will get trained on how to be a powerful, effective ally for children, families and communities in West Virginia.

Want to learn more? I’d love to hear from you. Email me.

Stephanie Tyree

 

 

 

The White House Official and Ripley’s Fire Hydrant Kid.

The White House Official and The Fire Hydrant Kid.Two things happened this week that really illustrated for me the spectacularly wide spectrum of people and work that make up this weird and wonderful beast we call “community development.”

On Tuesday, The Hub and our friends at the Coalfield Development Corporation convened a gathering in Fayette County of federal agency representatives, White House folks and economic development interests across the state.

It was a gathering of “suits.” We bought them together to talk some serious business.

It was, almost without exception, a gathering of “suits.”

We brought them together to talk some serious business: how West Virginia can make best use of the federal funding that is currently available to help communities impacted by the decline of the coal industry diversify their economic base.

Heavy stuff, but very important.

Just a few days before, I was out in the beautiful community of Ripley to work with the people there on their Turn This Town Around projects.

And I got to meet a young fella named Tyler Hilbert. Tyler is a junior at Ripley High School. Feeling a little parochial about his school’s identifying color, Tyler recently led a project to paint all of the city’s fire hydrants blue.

Why?

Well, why not?

Tyler’s youthful enthusiasm proved contagious, and the Mayor of Ripley decided to jump on board with his colorful campaign. In just a few weeks, all 164 of Ripley’s fire hydrants were transformed from the stock standard red to a much more eye-catching Ripley High School Viking Blue, thanks to Tyler, some generous volunteers and an army of city staff and helpers.

The Fire Hydrant Kid from Ripley, and the White House economic advisor. What’s the common denominator? The Hub.

This one simple and seemingly benign effort has provided a little spark of energy to the community, provided a fun and easy facelift to the place, and helped a bunch of other people see that they, too, can launch a project that makes a small but undeniable difference to their landscape.

Fun stuff, but also very important.

Tyler the Fire Hydrant Kid from Ripley. And the White House economic advisor. What’s the common denominator? The Hub. And all the people who are interested in grabbing the reins of West Virginia’s future, whatever they can do, wherever they are.

That probably includes you. Right?

About Jake

Charleston Gazette: The Hub Gathers Feds to Discuss Funding Support for New Future

What now?by Ken Ward Jr.

A team of Obama administration officials visited West Virginia this week to promote new programs and proposals to help struggling mining communities and hear about ongoing efforts by a variety of local groups to diversify coalfield economies.

“The loss of those coal jobs impacts every aspect of life in those communities. Reversing that spiral is going to take a collaborative approach.”

Representatives from the White House and a half-dozen agencies met with economic development officials from state agencies and with a long list of local and regional non-profit organizations for a briefing on President Obama’s proposal to provide hundreds of millions of dollars in coalfield aid as part of his 2016 budget recommendation to Congress.

Kent Spellman, executive director of the West Virginia Community Development Hub, said that coal’s decline is clearly having severe impacts, especially in Southern West Virginia.

“The loss of those coal jobs impacts every aspect of life in those communities,” Spellman said. “Reversing that spiral is going to take a collaborative approach.”

Spellman’s group and another organization, the Coalfield Development Corporation, organized Tuesday’s meeting with federal officials after Stephanie Tyree, community engagement and policy director for the Hub, attended a similar meeting in Kentucky, where local groups learned about federal help that was available and got advice on applying for such assistance…

“We are at a critical juncture,” Spellman said. “We have an opportunity. Let’s not blow it.”

Read the full story at wvgazette.com

Follow the author on Twitter at @kenwardjr

Turn This Town Around Mini Grant Program

 

How to get a mini grant.


Program Overview and Requirements

The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation has approved a grant to the WV Community Development Hub that will provide each 2015 Turn This Town Around community with $50,000 in mini grant funding and $25,000 in pre-development funding.


 

Mini Grant Funding – $2,500 max.

To be eligible for a mini grant the project must meet the following:

  • Focused on low-hanging fruit projects, and possibly intermediate projects if used on an early phase of the project (Examples: farmers market, bike friendly community, crosswalk art, beautification projects, etc.)
  • May be used for technical assistance and/or materials for at least 20 community improvement projects
  • Maximum mini grant will be $2,500
    Projects will be scored and selected by the Turn This Town Around sponsoring partners. Announcement of the selected projects will be made at the August meeting.
  • May NOT be used for the benefit of a sole individual, family, business, or organization
  • Must result in visible, measurable improvement in the community
  • Must provide benefit to the community as a whole
  • Must be supported by a team of at least three people, representing at least two different organizations
  • Each team member must participate in at least four community development workshops. Funding will not be released until the required workshop attendance has been met.
  • Secure $500 in matching funds towards the project (monetary or in-kind)
  • Project completed by May 2016

Complete and submit a 2015 Mini Grant Application by Wednesday, August 5, 2015.

All applications can be submitted to Amanda Yager by email at a.yager@wvhub.org or by mail at WV Community Development Hub, 103 Adams Street, Suite 200, Fairmont, WV 26554.


 

Pre-Development Funding – $25,000 max.

To be eligible for pre-development funding the project must meet the following:

  • Focused on bold aspirational projects (Examples: community center, food co-op, etc.)
  • May NOT be used for bricks and mortar construction
  • Examples of how the funding can be used include:
  • Feasibility study
  • Site survey
  • Site assessments
  • Engineering/architectural study and renderings
  • Planning
  • Financial projections
  • Development of a capital campaign
  • Legal structuring, etc.
  • Must be supported by a team of at least five people, representing at least two organizations
  • Each team member must participate in at least four community development workshops. Funding will not be released until the required workshop attendance has been met.
  • Completed by July 2016

Predevelopment funding may be requested in phases as the project develops and funding needs are identified.

Complete and submit a 2015 Mini Grant Application by Wednesday, August 5, 2015.

All applications can be submitted to Amanda Yager by email at a.yager@wvhub.org or by mail at WV Community Development Hub, 103 Adams Street, Suite 200, Fairmont, WV 26554.

 

Dominion Post: WV Legislators On The Hook For Stronger Bad Building Laws

crummy

Photo by Whitesville TTTA

The Dominion Post – Editorial

The time to raze the roof on eyesores is long overdue.

By most estimates, the number of abandoned structures that mar our local and state streetscapes and landscapes continues to multiply.

Maybe forms and lengthy procedures are not really much of a match for slums and blight, anyhow. And it’s certainly not as if communities and counties don’t realize there’s a problem.

It’s apparent that laws and agencies that are supposed to address this issue are inadequate, at best.

Just this week, Westover’s City Council took its first action toward tearing down and cleaning up abandoned and dilapidated houses. The city’s attorney outlined a three-step process that would allow the city to move against derelict property owners.

Elsewhere, the city of Parkersburg, also this week, announced a new registry and deadlines for vacant properties. Buildings that have been vacant at least 45 days, are in violation of codes and don’t have active utility service are required to register…

…Once upon a time, communities took part in house raisings for victims of fire, young families and the like. Some religious orders and social service agencies still perform this most neighborly of acts.

But today, some property owners have abandoned any spirit of community and allow dilapidated structures to literally rot along our streets and roads.

It’s apparent that laws and agencies that are supposed to address this issue are inadequate, at best. Not to mention, funding to raze these buildings or force owners into compliance through the courts is seriously lacking.

Legislators need to revisit the state’s laws on abandoned and dilapidated structures and put some fangs in them. Not only speed up this process by shortening deadlines and curbing appeals, but also dedicate a revenue source to help counties and muncipalities to raze such sites…

Read the full editorial at app.dominionpost.com

WV Executive: A New Energy Source Powering Williamson

Williamson

Cori Martin/FlickrCC

By Amy Arnett

“Williamson is the county seat of Mingo County, the chief city and trade center not only for the county but for a population of more than 100,000 people who live within 35 miles of the city. There is no other city closer than Huntington so large or so important.”

Deep in the heart of coal country, Williamson, WV could have easily resigned itself to be a casualty of the decline in the industry that built it.

This excerpt begins a 1931 promotional pamphlet published by the Williamson Chamber of Commerce hoping to generate business and tourism for their town, nicknamed the Heart of the Billion-Dollar Coal Field. Having just completed the 1930 census with a population of 9,410, Williamson was a growing community, flourishing in coal country atop a site that was nothing but a cornfield a mere 35 years earlier.

The town was in its heyday in 1931. Coal—and plenty of it—was dug by hand and transported by rail. Norfolk Southern Railway built a large marshalling yard in the town, a symbol of how valuable a commerce and industry center it was. And the residents mostly walked where they needed to go.

Today, Williamson stands as a community of roughly 3,000 residents along the Tug Fork River and the state line between West Virginia and Kentucky. A flood wall encircles the city, built in 1991 by the Army Corps of Engineers to protect Williamson from the all-too-common, devastating floods that had washed away historic parts of the town and caused economic struggles for local businesses.

There is one visible similarity about the two periods in time; you can still see people walking through town. The walking is less of a transportation necessity these days, though. Instead, it’s part of a movement for the town to take back their health, happiness and prosperity called Sustainable Williamson…

Read the full story at www.wvexecutive.com