Matewan voted winner of inaugural ‘Turn This Town Around’ campaign

March 17, 2014

Staff report

MORGANTOWN – After three weeks of online voting that resulted in more than 16,000 votes, Matewan has been chosen as West Virginia Focus magazine’s southern Turn This Town Around winner – Grafton was the winner from the northern part of the state in a campaign to ignite change and initiate community engagement in West Virginia towns.

The West Virginia Community Development Hub, one of the state’s leaders in the field of community development, will coordinate the effort. The Hub will connect the two communities with training in civic engagement, leadership development and project management.

“Turn This Town Around takes a different approach than community development work in the past in that it takes all the training, technical assistance and coaching directly into the community instead of delivering much of that in workshops,” said Kent Spellman, executive director of the West Virginia Community Development Hub. “It pushes communities toward immediate, visible activities as well as longer-term projects, and it documents the entire process in a way that has never been done before.”

West Virginia Focus, a publication from New South Media Inc., will document this yearlong campaign in each issue of the magazine.

Nikki Bowman, publisher of West Virginia Focus and creative mind behind Turn This Town Around, says this campaign is part of the New South Media Inc. mission.

“The mission of our company, New South Media, is to change perceptions about our state, not just how others look at us, but how we look at ourselves as West Virginians,” Bowman said. “We do that by telling our state’s story — one town, one person, and one business at a time.”

Bowman says these two towns are a perfect example of why this campaign is vital to our state’s economic growth and tourism advancement.

“We are a state of small towns. They are our lifeblood. Both Grafton and Matewan are historically significant and have tremendous potential, but I think that it is easy for community members to get overwhelmed when faced with challenges,” she said. “There are no easy answers. There is no quick fix. We cannot bring back the past, but we can envision a brighter future and work toward that goal. I hope we can inspire people to be possibilitarians. Together, we can make the possibilities reality.”

To further document Turn This Town Around, West Virginia Public Broadcasting will record and film every step of the way, for the world to see.

“West Virginia Public Broadcasting is proud to help tell the stories of these towns through TV, radio, and our website so that others may be inspired by, and follow, their example,” says Scott Finn, executive director of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

Community leaders from Grafton and Matewan are already working with the West Virginia Community Development Hub, creating action plans for their towns, brainstorming new ideas and creating a vision for the future. A town hall meeting is planned for each community to start disseminating information and appointing projects to various groups.

West Virginia Community Development Hub, New South Media Inc., and West Virginia Public Broadcasting are excited to start working with the Grafton and Matewan communities and to document this revitalization.

“New South Media’s partnership with West Virginia Public Broadcasting and the Hub is unique, and we hope it will be a model of how public-private-nonprofit collaboration can help measurably improve West Virginia’s communities and the state as a whole,” Spellman said.