The Small Communities, BIG Solutions conference is back in-person this year

The Alliance for the Economic Development of Southern West Virginia (Alliance), Coalfield Development and the West Virginia Community Development Hub (WV Hub) are excited to celebrate the fifth-year anniversary of the Small Communities, BIG Solutions Conference at the University of Charleston on Nov. 15 to 17. Tickets are priced at $35 a day or $75 for an all-access pass for the full conference.

The Small Communities, BIG Solutions conference is dedicated to showcasing successes and highlighting the projects across West Virginia. These projects advance the state’s health, economy, and communities.

“The Alliance Presidents work tirelessly across West Virginia, and this conference is the perfect opportunity to drive impact in our smallest communities,” President of Marshall University and Chair of the Alliance, Brad D. Smith says.

Executive Director of the West Virginia Community Development Hub, Stephanie Tyree, appreciates that the conference gives everyone a chance to learn and talk about all of the great work happening throughout the Mountain State.

“Over the past four years, this conference has showcased the remarkable work that is happening across our state and the incredible potential we have to work across geographies, sectors and interests to build solutions together,” Tyree says. “As co-leader of Community Day, we are excited to share new ideas, appreciate the work others are doing around the state, and spark new collaborations.”

Connecting with others in the work to promote community and economic work happening in West Virginia is something that founder & CEO of Coalfield Development, Brandon Dennison looks forward to this year and every year.

“This conference is all about making connections, celebrating and lifting up our state’s successes,” Dennison says. “Small Communities, BIG Solutions has sparked discussions around many different topic areas. I am especially excited to lead our workforce development panel again this year to discuss programs and initiatives that are advancing our state’s economic development and job opportunities.”  

Dr. Martin Roth, President of the University of Charleston, is excited to not only be a new member of the Alliance, but to host the conference that has become synonymous with community building.

“As the newest member of the Alliance, the University of Charleston is honored to be part of this collaborative effort to foster economic and workforce development in our region,” Roth says. “Together our impact can be significant. This conference brings new ideas and the right mix of passionate people together to help strengthen West Virginia.”

Sara Payne Scarbro, associate vice president of external engagement for the Marshall University Research Corporation, chairs the planning committee. The last two conferences have been virtual because of the pandemic and being able to meet in-person this years brings a special excitement to Scarbro.

“For the past two years, we have had such great conversations despite the challenges COVID-19 presented, but we are eager to gather again to share successes and receive updates from our state’s top leaders,” Scarbro says. “We are also excited for the opportunity to meet over three days – each with a daily focus.”

The daily focus includes Tues., Nov. 15, Our Health; Wed., Nov. 16, Our Communities; and Thurs., Nov.17, Our Economy. The annual Power of Performance Awards will be presented during the Communities Day on Nov. 16. The nomination process is now open, to nominate an individual or organization who is making a positive impact by either putting people to work, revitalizing our communities, or changing lives, complete the quick form here: www.wvsolutions.net. Self-nominations are encouraged.

The planning committee is working hard to build an unbelievable agenda with experts and leaders in multiple sectors. This conference is open to the public, but space is limited. Registration is now open.  Sponsorships are available, contact Brittany.Bruce@marshall.edu. For more information and purchase tickets visit www.wvsolutions.net.

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For too long, who and what it means to be a West Virginian has been defined for us. It’s time to redefine the Mountain State in our own words and in the eyes of the world. West Virginia can be anything we want it to be – let’s redefine it together.

Parsons

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Message from our Executive Leadership Team

Fifteen years ago, stakeholders building up local communities and economies in West Virginia convened to map a coordinated strategy to systemically grow community economic development activity in the state. From the shared vision and collaborative leadership of dozens of strategic partners across the state, the WV Community Development Hub was born.

Since that time, The Hub has grown into the anchor community development organization serving West Virginia. We have built upon the original vision to create a method for rural, community-led development strategies that is uniquely tailored to the needs and opportunities of our state.

As we have grown and developed a proven model for success, our partnerships with community and economic development practitioners, funders, and committed West Virginia residents have been foundational to every element of our work.

Over the past two years, the team at The Hub has adapted to the unprecedented challenges our communities have faced during the pandemic by leaning into our core strengths to deepen our impact. The Hub remains committed to tackling persistent challenges, and we have focused our attention on the most impactful elements of our work.

We are supporting community leaders to advance their visions for local development, creating new pathways for engagement and leadership growth through our virtual training platform, and leading strategies that lift up voices of community leaders to move forward solutions to long-held challenges to growth.

If the past two years have taught us anything, it is that nothing about the future is set in stone. While the coming year may present enormous opportunities for advancement in our state, they will also inevitably require significant capacity building, shared strategies that are grounded in trust-based partnerships, and extended efforts to support the leadership development of individuals and organizations who have been asked to do more during a time of extreme stress and strain.

The services that anchor organizations like The Hub provide are even more critical in this time, and we expect our work to scale significantly in the coming years ahead.

We look forward to continuing to do the work of putting into action the vision and the shared strategies envisioned by that core group of community economic development practitioners and funders fifteen years ago.

In Continued Accompaniment,

– WV Community Development Hub
Executive Leadership Team

Stephanie Tyree

Executive Director

Amanda Workman Scott

Director of Community Engagement

Emma Pepper

Director of Strategic Network Communications

Katie Loudin

Director of Strategic Development

Montgomery

Residents participated in the Cultivate WV program to kickstart community and economy building. Read their community case study.

Smithers

Residents participated in the Cultivate WV program to kickstart community and economy building. Read their community case study.

Kingwood

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Lewis County

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Meadow River Valley Region

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Read their community case study.

Monticello Neighborhood of Clarksburg

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Watch their community documentary.

New Martinsville

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Read their community case study.

Systemic Change

2021 became a time period of catalytic potential as we saw years of investment into our core strategies to enact systemic change yield new results. Our strategic focus areas include policy, communications, and supporting the community economic development system in leveraging unique financing opportunities such as the Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER Initiative and Opportunity Zones.

In addition, through our strategic policy support role within the Abandoned Properties Coalition, The Hub successfully advanced two key objectives: the creation of a statewide land bank at the West Virginia Land Stewardship Corporation and extension of the state’s Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit. 

Through the Opportunity Appalachia program, 6 catalytic community projects located in WV-based Opportunity Zones received $250,000 for pre-development technical assistance. Three projects received additional private funding as a result of program participation.

Community Coaching

In 2021, we accompanied 16 communities through our in-depth, professional coaching programs. In addition to leaning into coaching and financing opportunities offered through these programs, participating communities leveraged an additional $2.8 million in funding on their own for community economic development projects. While participating in our entry-level coaching program, Cultivate WV, Montgomery and Smithers realized momentum-building success through access to $40,000 in seed funding for projects like farmers markets, public art, wayfinding, community events, and development of a trail system.

Six communities, Lewis County, Kingwood, Meadow River Valley, Monticello neighborhood in Clarksburg, New Martinsville and Parsons, graduated the intermediate planning program Blueprint Communities* with strategic plans in place. We also launched a new round of HubCAP, our flagship community economic development program, in six towns located in the Monongahela National Forest region: Cowen, Franklin, White Sulphur Springs, Elkins, Marlinton, and Petersburg.

Elkins

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies. 

A core team led by Woodlands Development Group also participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Franklin

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Marlinton

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Petersburg

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

White Sulphur Springs

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Charleston

A core team led by Crawford Holdings, LLC participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Huntington

Core teams led by Thundercloud, Inc. and the City of Huntington participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support community development projects located in Opportunity Zones.

Grafton

A core team led by Unleash Tygart, Inc participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Leadership Development

As hundreds of people began to engage in our virtual training activities in 2020, we saw a critical opportunity to scale and deepen our impact. This year, The Hub team developed an accessible, virtual platform with options for self-guided and group learning activities as well as professional coaching.

Kickstart Communities is now the crux of our efforts to bring new people into the work and grow their leadership. These activities now form the foundational stages of a Community Leadership Development Pipeline to move motivated residents from seeing the challenges in their communities to proactively collaborating to resolve them.

Cowen

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies. Read their community case study.