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, 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.
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.
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?