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On November 18th through the 20th The New River Gorge Regional Development Authority sponsored a team to participate in The Coal Reliant Communities Innovation Challenge hosted by The National Association of Counties (NACO),  The National Association of Development Organizations (NADO), and the US Economic Development Administration  (EDA).  The aim of the workshop was to support community leaders with creating economic diversification strategies that expand opportunities for the region.  The event was held at The Marriott in Charleston, West Virginia.

The NRGRDA team consisted of Commissioner Byrd White of Raleigh County, Robin Morgan, The Business Services Manager for Region 1 Workforce West Virginia Workforce Development Board,  Kelly Jo Drey, Fayette County Resource Coordinator, John Tuggle,  Executive Director, Region 4 Planning and Development Council, Richard Bullins, Marketing Director, National Coal Heritage Area, and Joe Brouse, Business Retention Director for NRGRDA.  Participants were able to interact with seven other groups representative of Michigan, New Mexico, Virginia, and West Virginia.  These regions were united by the fact that they face significant economic dislocation due to the decline of the coal industry or the closure of coal fired power plants.

The NRGRDA team will constitute a working group going forward to focus on implementation of three specific goals.  These are:

  1. Develop an inventory of regional workforce skill sets in conjunction with ongoing sector strategies work
  2. Target industry clusters for recruitment to the area will utilize online assets such as cluster mapping with the goal of trying to attract those businesses to the area.
  3. Convening economic development and planning organizations on a regional basis for informational and strategy meetings ideally on a twice yearly basis.

Much of this work will be conducted in winter and spring with results being publicized as benchmarks are met.

For more information about these meetings click HERE.

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