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Building a Vibrant Community — what is economic development?

ELKINS — Over the past several months you have heard and read about the efforts of many in Elkins to “build a vibrant community.” While there are many different parts to building a vibrant community, the epicenter is economic development. Economic development is a phrase that gets thrown around in many ways, so I would like to explain the fundamentals.

There are three main legs of the economic development stool. The first is business development, which is what most people think of when they say economic development. Business development involves the recruitment of new business and the retention and expansion of our current businesses. Recruitment involves attending trade shows, meeting with site location consultants and business executives, all with the hopes of getting them to locate a new facility, branch, business in Randolph County. Business retention and expansion involves working with our current business base to ensure success and growth.

The next leg of the economic development stool is community development. Community development involves the development of assets and infrastructure throughout a community to make it more livable and enjoyable. Housing developments, creation of parks, and broadband development are a few examples that fall under community development.

The final leg of the economic development stool is workforce development. This involves the quantity and quality of the workforce, plus the ability to increase both of those metrics through training. Efforts to retain our current citizens while enticing new ones to the area is an example of increasing the quantity. Education and training at all levels of education through programs offered by Randolph County Schools, Davis & Elkins College, WV Wood Technology Center, Youth Build and others are examples of increasing the quality of the workforce.

The legs of the economic development stool are strengthened by a web of committed and interconnected stakeholders including nonprofit organizations, businesses, governments, schools, and citizens working together to build the local economy. There is no one entity that can do everything themselves. The vibrant community initiative strives to bring these different stakeholders together working toward common goals. Citizens play a vital role in growing the economy. Shopping local, telling others about the positive things happening in our area, and providing input that can help solve our challenges are all ways that citizens can help bolster economic activity in our communities. Randolph County is blessed to have a diversified economy with at least one employer in several different industry sectors. Randolph County will grow and succeed well into the future with the hard work and dedication of all.

This article follows the concepts outline in a book entitled “Building a Vibrant Community” written by Quint Studer. Compliments of Tygart Valley Orthopedics, the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber has free copies of the book available to those who are interested.

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