Inaugural “State of the County” leads to Task Force creation
By Jessica Miller Lipscomb
On the evening of June 6, 2019, the Preston County Chamber of Commerce hosted its inaugural State of the County event. Open to the public and free of charge, the event began with a 5pm Business After Hours mixer and then moved into the main event promptly at 6pm. Featuring concise 5-minute briefs from speakers, the following sectors of Preston County’s current climate were represented: Education, Infrastructure, Tourism, Health & Safety, Economic Development and Community & Culture. The Preston Chamber’s primary goal in the organization of this event was to focus on uniting community leaders from various sectors and encourage a commitment to collaboration. This was accomplished when, at the end the evening, the Preston Chamber invited speakers and community leaders to join in a Preston County Task Force. This newly formed Preston County Task Force held an Action Planning Retreat on August 15, 2019 at the Camp Dawson Event Center. The goal for the retreat was visioning, establishing goals, and creating action steps. Homework assigned to Task Force members prior to the retreat was intriguing: “Imagine it is the year 2025. What does Preston County look like? Bring your thoughts to the meeting.”
Facilitated by Kelly Nix, the retreat was a thought provoking look at where Preston County is now, and where task force members hope to see it in the future. Innovative ideas were shared, and three topics were continually in the forefront of discussion throughout the day – Infrastructure, Bad Buildings and Workforce Development. Based upon the goals established by the task force, committees were formed to work on issues specifically affecting each of these three topics.
Chairing the Infrastructure Committee is Preston Chamber board member Lucas Tatham. This committee’s goal is to formulate a county-wide plan for economic development, and objectives were determined to be broadband internet accessibility, improvement of main roads, expedited permitting, enhanced public transport options, promotion of tourism, and the development of an Infrastructure Map.
The Bad Buildings Committee is Chaired by yours truly, and the committee goal is to develop a county-wide ordinance to result in uniform code enforcement; see a reduction in existing BAD buildings; develop a comprehensive plan for funding; create procedural outlines that can lead to more appealing towns. Activities being conducted to achieve this goal include working with the WVU Law Clinic to develop uniform ordinances, obtaining involvement and support from mayors and commissioners, developing a county-wide campaign to build resident pride in the community, exploring a salvage ordinance, building legal enforcement support for municipalities, collaborating with the WV BAD Buildings Program and educating and engaging local legislators on the property tax lien sales process.
The third Task Force committee is the Workforce Committee. Chaired by Preston Chamber board member Carrie See, this committee is striving to achieve the goal of providing a means to develop a competitive workforce by training our population for new, existing and innovative job
opportunities. Key objectives identified were the expansion and development of educational programs available in local schools, increased local entrepreneurship, sustainable continuing education/re-education for new and established businesses for a diverse workforce, and a culture shift to encourage an increased workforce participation in our region.
Every community has its own unique struggles, and in this, Preston County is no different. One thing that sets us apart from every other community, however, is that we have the strongest sense of “home” I have ever encountered. In this, I mean that Prestonians are loyal, dedicated and connected. We have struggles, sure, but none that cannot be overcome with enough collaboration and hard work. Rather than have many local leaders working independently to affect positive change, the Preston County Chamber of Commerce is proud to help connect leaders in the Preston County Task Force so ideas, energy and resources can be pooled for the greater good.
If you are interested in getting involved, contact Preston Chamber Executive Director Kristy Ash at 304.329.0576 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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