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The Importance of Entrepreneurism and Economic Development in the Greenbrier Valley: Two Programs of the GVEDC Successfully Address the Issue

The GVEDC has made within all its economic development programming, a commitment to include programs and projects that promote business growth through entrepreneurism. The maturation of the process of promoting the development and sustainment of entrepreneurs has netted some recognition for the GVEDC. Two programs, the Entrepreneurial Development Project and the Local Food Initiative have garnered some recognition for their role in promoting business as a career opportunity.

The Entrepreneurial Development Project:

The purpose of this project is the development of an entrepreneurial education program imbedded in the local elementary junior high school curriculums while integrating other entrepreneurial awareness building into the overall economic development strategy of the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation (GVEDC), the multi-county local development organization responsible for the region’s business growth and development.

The sixth graders in the Greenbrier County middle schools, where the project was initiated, were presented with an entrepreneurial “creative thinking” pilot project. The Communities in Schools program will be used to implement the first year. A job shadowing program would be implemented in the second year.

Other entrepreneurial programs targeting middle school students are also being evaluated. The Kauffman Foundation has permitted the use of the online site for its “All Terrain Brain” program as a resource in the development of this project.

The facilitator and program coordinator of this grant is Katie Ickes, who served as the Executive Director of the Greater Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce for seven years. Katie Ickes, working with New River Community and Technical College in association with Greenbrier Valley Economic Development, has partnered with Communities in the Schools to teach the Mindset for Success program at Eastern Greenbrier Middle School and Western Greenbrier Middle School.

A number of news outlets have done stories on this program and Katie has been invited to make presentations and join panel discussions about her project. The Mountain Messenger’s article entitled “Mindset for Success Program Making a Difference at Middle Schools” highlighted this program. It stated, “Many students do not have a vision of their future and believe they are limited by their current circumstances. Lacking long term goals, they choose to live for the moment and often make unsafe and unhealthy choices. The Mindset for Success program is being presented at Eastern and Western Greenbrier Middle School to address this problem and to encourage innovative and creative entrepreneurial thinking. The program has some components of the All-Terrain Brain program from the Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurism. The All-Terrain Brain program and Kauffman’s Icehouse program ascertain that having a vision for the future and working towards goals can lead to success and encourage choices that avoid detrimental behavior. An observing teacher noted, “The greatest aspect of this program is that it was that the students who normally struggle in core classes, excelled in this class. It brought students of different levels together as a team and it encouraged them to think outside the box.”

In November, 2013, the Appalachian Regional Commission held a conference in Charleston highlighting the developing trend of encouraging and supporting entrepreneurship in Appalachia as a means by which to transform its economy. The conference was entitled “Toward Prosperity: Entrepreneurship; Transforming the Appalachian Economy”. The ARC presented a series of case studies to the attendees entitled, “Entrepreneurial Appalachia: Case Studies in Evolving Economic Sectors.” The featured sectors included energy, health, manufacturing and local food. The local foods case study featured the Greenbrier Valley and the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation’s Local foods Initiative (GVLFI).

The Appalachian Regional Commission is a federal regional economic development organization created through a joint partnership of federal, state, and local government. Established by Congress in 1965, ARC works to promote sustainable community and economic development in Appalachia.

This report examines the trends fostering a change in the local economies of the region, demonstrating how these changes came about through the use of case studies. Each study examines a particular sector, those involved, how the change took place and the results to date. The reports overview states, “Throughout Appalachia, entrepreneurs are forging a new economic model — one based on local investment and local ownership — and their impact is already being felt in some of the Region’s evolving economic sectors… Prompted in part by Appalachia’s need for economic diversification, the ARC supported this research as a way to summarize entrepreneurial opportunities within these economic sectors and to examine innovative projects that demonstrate multiple benefits to rural and underserved communities.”

The study notes the trends, opportunities and challenges facing the local food productions sectors in Appalachia, saying “The local food sector is particularly promising for the Appalachian Region. Appalachia possesses a variety of cultural assets supportive of local food system development… Appalachia is also home to some of the nation’s most visionary leadership in the local food movement…”

The Greenbrier Valley, in southeastern West Virginia, is the watershed shared by Pocahontas, Greenbrier, and Monroe counties. While efforts in the local food economy have a long history, several related initiatives that have been operating since 2010 show great promise. These initiatives include: ¬ The Greenbrier Valley Local Foods Initiative (GVLFI): The initiative, a project of the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation, provides technical assistance and training for food and farm entrepreneurs; recently launched the “Greenbrier Valley Grown™” brand; and is exploring the feasibility of a processing, aggregation, and distribution facility for area farmers.

Collaboration between mainstream economic development institutions and grassroots organizations has been integral to the development of the Greenbrier Valley local food economy. The Greenbrier Valley Economic Development

Corporation (GVEDC) has helped area farmers markets access funding, acted as the fiscal sponsor for non-501(c)(3) organizations, and provided office space for start-up groups. In addition to providing local market outlets, grassroots organizations like the Monroe Farm Market, the Pocahontas County Farmers Market and the Greenbrier Valley Pasture Network also conduct community outreach and education, provide networking opportunities for growers and local food supporters, and help leverage additional resources for the continued development of the food economy. AmeriCorps VISTA positions have been used widely and successfully to increase the capacity of grassroots efforts and train the next generation of local food leaders.

The investments of local, regional, and national funders have also been critical to the development of West Virginia’s local food economy. In 2012, West Virginia received 2 out of the 13 federally awarded Rural Jobs Accelerator

Grants offered through a partnership between the Economic Development Administration, the USDA Rural Community Development Initiative and the Appalachian Regional Commission. Also, since 2009, the Natural Capital Investment Fund, through its participation in the Central Appalachian Network (CAN), has provided critical startup funding and organizational development support to grassroots local food efforts.

 

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GVEDC Annual Meeting and Dinner

GVEDC Annual Business Dinner creates local support

Dr. Washington, Keynote Speaker

Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation held its annual meeting on June 19, 2013 at the Elk’s Country Club 19th Hole Restaurant with special guest and keynote speaker Dr. L. Marshall Washington, President of New River Community and Technology College.  Approximately 50 attendees enjoyed a wonderful meal prepared by TLP and a great message from Dr. Washington.

Dr. Washington’s message spoke of a multitude of educational opportunities for traditional and non-traditional students in the five NRCTC campuses.  Dr. Washington also spoke about the many levels of partnerships NRCTC have with area businesses, non-profit s and individuals.  These collaborative efforts have led to identifying the educational needs of the community and utilizing many available resources.  One such effort has led to the One Room University in Marlinton, WV.  It is great example of overcoming obstacles in rural areas. Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation, Greater Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce and New River Community and Technology College have partnered to present Entrepreneurial Cafes and plan to implement entrepreneurial educational programs in the Greenbrier County school system.  Dr. Washington attended the last Entrepreneurial Café and was highly impressed with the presentations and local talent.

“The support of President Washington and New River has been crucial to the success of the Cafes.   I appreciate his understanding of the importance of developing an entrepreneurial mindset through our student programming and supporting our present entrepreneurs to grow our local economy in the 21stcentury,” stated Katie C. Ickes, Entrepreneurial Program Coordinator for GVEDC.

Stephen Weir, Executive Director of GVEDC, completed an overview of GVEDC’s latest efforts with the GVEDC Food Program, creating new business in wood products and continued expansion with technology with ABB Appalachian Electronics and UTC.

Many of the attendees are very excited about GVEDC efforts.  Lucy Bell, GED Instructor at NRCTC stated, “I came for the sole purpose of hearing Dr. Washington’s speech but came back very enlightened with GVEDC and decided to become a member.”

Other attendees were very excited about all efforts of both GVEDC and NRCTC.  Janice Shelton, Manager of Workforce WV stated, “I came to hear Dr. Washington and was pleased to hear about the partnership with GVEDC and about the research that has been completed to determine our business needs in this community.” John Tuggle, President of Pentree stated, “It was great to hear Dr. Washington’s message about getting nonprofits involved in partnership with NRCTC to ultimately promote growth in this area.”

Dr. Washington and NRCTC Supporters

 

 

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The GVEDC

Airport Sunrise

Photograph by Michael Johnston of Renick, WV

The Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation assists the needs of the business community of Greenbrier, Monroe and Pocahontas Counties, West Virginia. We provide a variety of services to new and existing businesses such as: business financing, general and technical assistance, site selection and most importantly, the highly skilled and loyal West Virginia Workforce.

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