MCRA to host Small Business Development Summit

Staff Report

During its February board meeting Thursday afternoon, the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority discussed in detail its upcoming Small Business Development Summit, which will be held at 10:00am on Tuesday, February 23rd, in the UMWA Local 1440 Union Hall on Main Street in downtown Matewan. The Summit will be conducted in cooperation with the Hatfield-McCoy Trails Recreation Authority. The purpose of the Summit, according to Executive Director Leasha Johnson, is to provide Mingo County businesses with tools and resources which will equip them with an ability to more fully capitalize on Trails tourism opportunities.

“As our rural economy continues to transform, it’s very encouraging to know that tourism, and particularly Trails tourism, is at the forefront of this post-coal transformation,” said Johnson.

“The Hatfield-McCoy Trails system is one of the largest off-road systems in the world, and Mingo County is privileged to host more than 220 miles of this world class system in our county alone. With permit sales increasing year after year, and with newly constructed trails set to open this Spring, Mingo County’s small businesses need to take full advantage of the economic opportunities that are right here at our fingertips, and facilitated by Trails tourism.” Johnson added.

The Mingo County Summit aims to provide development assistance, marketing tools, and funding resources which will better position existing and future businesses to maximize the economic potential of Trails tourism.

Johnson added that it’s also important for Mingo County’s municipalities to take aggressive steps in making our towns Trails friendly and recruiting more trail riders to our downtown areas. “The town of Gilbert has done an amazing job embracing Trails tourism and accommodating trail riders year after year, and that’s why we’ve invited Mayor Livingood to deliver a presentation about Gilbert’s success. I encourage officials from other municipalities to attend the Summit next week to gain insight into making all of your towns a Trails tourism hub”, said Johnson.

In addition to Mayor Livingood’s presentation, Summit attendees will hear from Jeff Lusk, executive director of the Hatfield-McCoy Trials Authority, about the Trails’ economic impact, as well as exciting news about new trail openings and new capital access opportunities; they’ll hear from the WV Small Business Development Center about programs that are designed to provide high-quality business and economic development assistance to promote small business growth and expansion, as well as business coaching and technical assistance; and specialists from the Robert C. Bird Institute and West Virginia University will be on hand to provide social media and digital marketing tools and resources to assist businesses in forming effective marketing strategies.

Anyone interested in attending the Summit should RSVP to the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority at (304) 235-0042.

In other matters, Johnson provided an update of development activities by a potential manufacturing client at the Authority’s James H. Harless Industrial Park. She reported that a geotechnical survey of the client’s preferred development area was completed in December and that talks have commenced with engineering firms regarding permitting, site layout, and industrial waste treatment.

Johnson also reported that plans are underway to seek funding for the development of an updated strategic and community development plan for Mingo County. She noted that the MCRA is at the forefront of leading our communities and the coalfield region through positive change and transformation to a thriving post-coal economy. “Through new strategic planning”, Johnson added, “We hope to better position ourselves to realize economic health and revitalization. This planning process will require a widely supported, county-wide effort that I hope will start with beautification and ridding Mingo County of abandoned and dilapidated buildings that deter investment and economic growth.”

Johnson expressed an immediate need to inventory Mingo County’s economic development assets and to focus on diversification efforts that best leverage the county’s resources into job creating opportunities. Ret. General Robert (“Doc”) Foglesong, a member of the MCRA board of directors, applauded that direction by noting that “Today’s markets are loaded, and in order for Mingo County to be successful throughout this economic transformation, we need to recognize our advantages, continue to build successful partnerships, and capitalize on the opportunities that are unique to us as a result of our existing resources.”
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