There is a sense of community in West Virginia that you just don’t get elsewhere. A sense of openness and possibility as well, due to the strong community element. That is why I see so much potential, and so many new opportunities.
When communities get together and share their experience, their resources and their determination, so many things can happen and I look forward to being a part of facilitating these connections. The POWER + funding package to help coal-impacted communities create new economic opportunities has opened up a whole new world of potential and opportunities, and it’s exciting to be a part of that.
The Hub’s Innovation Acceleration Strategy to help these communities identify their opportunities puts us right on the front lines of economic change in West Virginia. We are at a pivotal moment in history, and there is much at stake.
Before leaving West Virginia in 2014, I had worked for the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC) in Huntington, during which time I served as OVEC’s liaison to the Alliance for Appalachia’s Economic Transition team. The Alliance is a regional coalition of groups from numerous Appalachian states working on economic transition policy at the federal level around the POWER + plan, Abandon Mine Lands funding and Brownfields funding for communities.
I’m also a former board member of Create Huntington, a grassroots group in the city seeking to use the creativity of our people for economic revitalization work there, and a former VISTA at Marshall University for their Service Learning program, connecting nonprofit organizations and students for valuable service project to further the link between academics and community.
I have heard people say that to really do community based work you must pick a place and get to know that place if you are really to become part of the community and do the work right. This is what I hope to do once again in West Virginia.
There is a strong need here to make our economy more just, equitable and sustainable. I am a firm believer in community driven change and the power of organizing to help do this. We need to use the strength of community in the state to bring people together and make great things happen!
Having grown up in a town that has undergone significant economic change since the decline of large industry, I appreciate the need for communities to get out in front of accelerating economic opportunities when these big changes occur.
The involvement of citizens can be a game-changer when it comes to creating new opportunities and strengthening what is already there, and I look forward to helping make these connections happen across southern West Virginia.