It has been really inspiring working in McDowell County and seeing the motivation of these active citizens to make a positive change in their community.
Through our Innovation Acceleration Strategy (IAS) program, we are pleased to fund two projects to help spur new economic opportunities in their economy.
Seth Coen has a background in Environmental Engineering. Like many that live in Appalachia, his skills led him to a job connected to the coal industry, with a consulting firm on the reclamation of mine sites.
Seth spent much of his time in Kentucky and West Virginia. As he traveled to mine sites, he was taken back at the drastic amount of job loss.
About seven years ago, Seth realized there were many thousands of acres of underutilized land on these former mining sites, and knew this was an opportunity in these economically depressed areas. And so he decided to start a grassroots effort to help the community identify and create innovative post-mine uses for this land.
When we met Seth, he was working on turning a former mining site in McDowell County into a demonstrative project. He wants to explore the range of things these sites can be used for.
Seth plans to use the $2,000 award to create a flower garden, teach composting in five schools, and engage students in gardening. His hope is that this will spur economic development and entrepreneurship opportunities.
Arts and Culture
It’s no secret that Lori McKinney and the Riff-Raff Arts Collective has been doing amazing work in Princeton. Through focusing on arts, music and culture, they have basically created an economic sector from scratch. Why not try it in other places?
That’s a big reason Lori created the Create Your State concert series, traveling with her band to struggling communities around the state to teach them about creative placemaking through performance. Lori shows other communities that they can create amazing things as well.
It was through this performance that Lori met Craig Snow of Warrior Creek Development, who has been renovating a blighted building in downtown Welch. Craig also has a passion for the arts.
Craig is working with Lori to develop an arts plan that can work for McDowell County. They were awarded a $2,000 mini-grant to start hosting regular open mic nights in town, create an Artist’s Alley mural series, and add a space to display art in the very building Craig is working to develop.
McDowell County has loads of creative and artistic people living there already – perhaps this project can pull them together.