Strategically Positioning Montgomery, WV and Pennington Gap,VA for the Future
As a part of my Graduate Assistantship, I had the opportunity to be a part of the research team consisted of the Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance (IPG) and the Virginia Tech Office of Economic Development (OED) at Virginia Tech. Both Montgomery,WV and Pennington Gap,VA are small (with a population less than 2000 people) declining rural areas which their economic bases (coal mines, tobacco and/or other attractive industries) are no longer serving them.
We as the research team tried to help these communities by first leading a listening session (in each town) for hearing what the community needs, wants, assets and challenges are.
Having heard the communities goals and priorities, we then probed the existing reports which had been prepared for those communities by different institutions within the last decade. We tried to find similar towns in the region which could be referred as successful cases; in order to show what strategies are available and more importantly to demonstrate a number of difficulties and challenges of economic development in the real-world. We also gathered resources such as grants, partners, programs which could be beneficial to achieve potential economic drivers (chosen by the communities themselves) including four-season tourism, agricultural goods and services, manufacturing and emerging technologies, and the outdoor recreation industry.
After presenting the reports to each of the communities. We held a second hearing session, so that the community members, leaders, business owners and all other participating groups could decide what would be their next step. Shaping a steering group to drive the development agenda in these rural towns was one of the main concerns.
We held a “team building” workshop for Montgomery community on March 16, where community leaders, economic development experts and academic scholars discussed the main steps of shaping a steering group within a community. At the end of the workshop, the representatives from Montgomery formed a group, defined their organizational objectives as a steering group for implementing future projects based on the communities ranked order.