A message from the Blueprint Communities Team of New Martinsville:
Remember those connect the dot games? It was amazing to watch your creation appear as you connected those dots in the correct numerical order. Was it a butterfly? A spider? Or maybe an octopus? You could normally see what it was going to be as you made progress in the connections. The thing about connect the dots? If you don’t follow the pattern, the plan, you just get some lines, nothing you can recognize. And when you do follow the pattern, the plan, you turn nothing into something quite remarkable.
And that is what being a Blueprint Community is doing for New Martinsville. The first connections were the team itself. Drawing from various disciplines in our community, the team that would gain the skills to build this picture includes: an executive director, a small business liaison from our regional economic development partner, a bank manager, a realtor, who is also a banker and a veteran, an entrepreneur who founded his business almost 39 years ago, and the president of our non-profit fiduciary, who also happens to be a community activist.
Add to that mix the extraordinary support from Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh (FHLBank), who runs and sponsors this program, and coaching from the WV Community Development Hub. This support involves coaching, training, and connecting to so many resources and partners for building communities, and our team was eager to learn.
The first thing we learned was how to get input from our community, and to pull from them the vision for New Martinsville’s future, and the pieces of a plan for how to get there. Our citizens drive our priorities, and for our small town, it was loud and clear. Not just one priority, but three. A drive through town on Route 2 showcases the small-town charm that is the heart of New Martinsville. There are some dilapidated and under-utilized properties in our community. And as with most towns, we have our fair share of small, independent businesses. Our priorities were set: beautification on Route 2, a building improvement program, and business support and expansion.
Our coach and FHLBank shared one opportunity after another. Two of our team members attended the Northern Brownfields Conference, which led to additional training on how to address our abandoned or dilapidated buildings. And that led to several volunteers willing to help assess and inventory our properties, dilapidated buildings, and open spaces. The city building inspector endorsed all this activity. This effort will grow into building improvement support, and the showcasing of buildings ready for small business investment and development. The dots were beginning to connect.
Our team took advantage of every webinar, partnership, grant application, and conference possible, which led to yet another opportunity – a foundation grant for a beautification project: an outdoor art installation at Bruce Park, which is situated directly on Route 2 in the heart of our city. That project is currently finishing Phase 1, with Phase 2 scheduled for completion in late Spring 2021. This is a collaborative effort of the Parks & Recreation Department, the Wetzel County School System, our local arts council, ArtsLink, and the Blueprint Community team. Another opportunity we went after was the WVU Fulcrum Project, in which we received design help with renovating our community welcome signs and engaged with the Graphic Design Students at WVU-Davis College for way-signage on Route 2 and in our community. More connections, more progress.
Our entrepreneur and our small business liaison, in collaboration with the local Chamber of Commerce, formed a small business focus group. Next up for them is a shared marketing plan as connections continue to be made.
And as those were happening, another amazing opportunity arose: an architectural design award from The Mills Group for a planned community center to be completed six or seven years in the future. Once again, this will be a collaborative effort with the City of New Martinsville and the Parks & Recreation Department, as we help connect the dots to the resources available.
And in all of this, we have used the community’s direction and the knowledge gained through the Blueprint Communities Program to create a strategic plan that covers the next few years, and a marketing booklet to showcase our town and its opportunities for all to live, work, and play. Follow this journey on Facebook here and join in as we continue to connect the dots. The picture of our future is so much clearer now!