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Elkins part of program set to build economies

CHARLESTON — Elkins is one of eight communities which will benefit from the launch of a new program to build local economies.

The West Virginia Community Development Hub has announced Downtown Appalachia: Revitalizing Recreation Economies, a strategic three-year initiative which will focus on a group of communities in the Monongahela National Forest region of the state.

Taking part along with Elkins will be Cowen, Franklin, Marlinton, Parsons, Petersburg, Richwood and White Sulphur Springs.

“While the tourism industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, state and national parks have been an exception to the rule, including in West Virginia which saw a 9% increase of visitors to these locations in 2020,” a Hub press release states. “Communities located near parks and recreational areas, like the eight participating in DARRE, are ideally placed to take advantage of the state’s investment in tourism attraction and its connected investment in remote worker attraction.

“DARRE will build upon community partnerships developed as part of the WV Community Development Hub’s community coaching programs including working with existing teams to help accelerate positive impacts,” the release continues. “The eight participating communities will have access to over $1 million in technical assistance funding to revitalize underutilized downtown properties and attract developer investment; technical support to build engaged entrepreneurial communities that proactively develop and support small businesses; and community development services that ensure long-term local engagement and visible improvements to each individual community.

“The central partners leading this program will engage many business and project development support organizations to leverage the maximum amount of resources for participating communities,” the release states. “The DARRE partnership welcomes inquiries from interested stakeholders as well as residents in participating communities.”

The central partners of the program, the WV Community Development Hub, the Northern WV Brownfields Assistance Center at West Virginia University, and Partner Community Capital (formerly Natural Capital Investment Fund), combined bring more than 30 years of experience in community engagement, property redevelopment technical services, financial investment and lending, and strategic planning, the release states.

With the support of the Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER Initiative and matching funds from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and the One Foundation, DARRE will support rural communities in building an integrated strategy for economy building focused on the following activities: downtown building redevelopment, entrepreneurial training & small business development assistance, and comprehensive community revitalization.

For more information about the DARRE program, contact program leads Kaycie Stushek at k.stushek@wvhub.org or Stacy Thomas at s.thomas@wvhub.org.

The West Virginia Community Development Hub mobilizes residents from all over the state to spark transformational change and progress in their communities, according to the release. During the past year, The Hub has worked directly with 21 communities across the state and 40% of West Virginians were positively impacted by Hub-related projects.

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