On November 19th the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority (NRGRDA) kicked off their three year strategic plan development with a Regional Development Summit. Under the leadership of Board Chairman, Matthew Wender and Executive Director, Chadwick Wykle, the NRGRDA sought the input and direction of community leaders to guide their three year strategic planning process. The Summit attracted more than 150 attendees ranging from education administrators and public service organizations to local government officials, small business owners and private industry leaders. The Tamarack Conference Center was packed with community shareholders networking and brainstorming possibilities to diversify and increase regional economic and community development.
Starting with introductions of the NRGRDA Board of Directors, event facilitator, Leslie Stone, and the keynote speaker, West Virginia’s Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Commissioner of Tourism, Amy Shuler Goodwin, the event quickly exposed some regional assets and opportunities for improvement. Commissioner Goodwin explored new data with participants, providing insights into West Virginia’s tourism industry that serve as an example of some of the economic and community strengths the region can rely on to bring in new and increased commerce.
From the keynote presentation, the participants dove into small group discussions to address two primary questions as posed by the NRGRDA. These included; If we really got regional development right, what would we see in the New River Gorge region? And In the best of worlds, what would NRGRDA do to help our region achieve the ideal?
These questions along with the strategic planning process were crafted in a very intentional and inclusive way to guarantee the NRGRDA structured their priorities and strategies around the vision of their community leaders. While the Development Summit was just the first phase of that process, it exposed some very interesting suggestions. (For a summary and full list of suggestions mentioned in these breakout sessions, see below.)
Following the Regional Development Summit, the NRGRDA Board of Directors convened over the next five hours to review the feedback received, update the organization’s mission and vision statements, and to outline their priorities for the NRGRDA. The following day, the WVSU Extension Agents and NRGRDA staff gathered for an all-day strategic implementation session. NRGRDA personnel identified the measurable outcomes they will track and the strategies they will pursue to implement the priorities set forth by the Board of Directors to achieve the vision the Summit participants identified the day before.
All of this connected planning was navigated in a way the NRGRDA hopes will bring about community participation, inter-regional and multi-institutional cooperation, and a fluid and measurable guide for the NRGRDA through 2017. The NRGRDA is committed to the new vision and updated mission statements. They are:
Vision: The New River Gorge region is a collection of vibrant, prosperous, futuristic-thinking people and employers.
Mission: The New River Gorge Regional Development Authority initiates, facilitates and supports the community and economic development efforts within the counties of Fayette, Nicholas, Raleigh, and Summers located in the New River Gorge region of West Virginia.
Priorities: Improve quality of place, build community capacity, prepare a ready workforce, retain and develop existing businesses, provide support to entrepreneurs and start-up businesses, and recruit prospective businesses to the region.
The NRGRDA and its Board of Directors will work through December to finalize approve the strategic plan coming out of these planning sessions. The plan will be distributed to the Regional Development Summit participants and posted on www.NRGRDA.org. If anyone has questions or suggestions they’d like to address with the NRGRDA, they can write to info@NRGRDA.org to speak directly with a staff member.
See participants responses and feedback!
Participants were first asked “If we really got regional development right, what would we see in the New River Gorge region?”
As a follow-up, they were then asked “In the best of worlds, what would NRGRDA do to help our region achieve the ideal?”
General category responses fell within: