It’s a new year with new opportunities — and new faces — at the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority, WV Hive, and Country Roads Angel Network! So far, our 2022 is already off to a great start, and we hope yours is, too.
In 2021, we experienced another exciting year filled with growth and innovation, including development stimulated by the New River Gorge’s National Park designation. Our region has seen growth in the aerospace industry, outdoor recreation and traditional infrastructure enhancement, small business development, and across new and existing industries in each of our four counties.
We take great pride in what the New River Gorge region has achieved and what we will continue to achieve in the years to come. But none of these victories, both big and small, would have been possible without the dynamic folks who work tirelessly behind the scenes within our organizations.
This month, we’d like to reintroduce you to our team and shine a little spotlight in their direction! At the NRGRDA, WV Hive, and CRAN, every staff member brings their own invaluable combination of expertise and enthusiasm to the table, and above all, a collective passion for southern West Virginia and its future.
Every organization aspires to be led by someone dedicated to their vision. But that isn’t just something Executive Director Jina Belcher does for a living — it’s who she is.
Raised in McDowell County, Jina is a graduate of Concord University who has devoted the entirety of her career to boosting economic development across her native state. She credits her tight-knit family and upbringing in McDowell County with giving her the perspective needed to branch out and “meet people where they are.”
As Executive Director of the NRGRDA, Jina oversees economic development and sustainability within our four-county region. At the NRGRDA, Jina says her team takes a “holistic approach” with clients that extends beyond recruitment and retention. All three teams — NRGRDA, WV Hive, and CRAN — are equipped to assist and support clients in every phase from start-ups to expanding manufacturers.
“The New River Gorge region is prime for growth,” Jina says. “I love being able to connect with the communities and ‘big-thinkers’ that have so many wonderful ideas for the region and help bring them to fruition with the resources we have. The work of NRGRDA can never be done in a silo – and that’s what makes it so rewarding!”
Outside of work, Jina loves exploring and visiting towns throughout the New River Gorge region. She and her family have two sphynx cats, Noodle and Nugget, whom they are “absolutely obsessed with.”
Growing up an active participant in her family’s community-building efforts, Jenna learned early on the value of responsible business management. As Manager of Strategic Partnerships, she’s putting her unique skill set to use as she manages collaborations between the NRGRDA and our network of partners as we work to propel our region forward.
For Jenna, connecting with passionate, creative, and hard-working individuals has been a highlight. Jenna is a member of the Generation West Virginia Impact Fellowship and is the Chair of Generation NRG.
“I grew up in a multigenerational social enterprise which greatly impacted where I am today,” Grayson says. “I learned and lived in community and economic development, and I’m happy to serve in the growth of the New River Gorge Region.”
Outside of work, Jenna loves renovating her 100 year old home in Summers County, exploring the outdoors with her canine companions, Doug and Clementine, whitewater rafting, and skiing.
With time comes experience, and with experience comes wisdom; something Andy Davis considers a strength of the NRGRDA. Andy, Manager of Gateway Community Initiatives, says he’s grateful to be part of a team that possesses years of knowledge and has the ability to tackle any challenges thrown their way.
As an outdoor enthusiast, Andy credits growing up with woods and wildlife within reach as a catalyst for his lifelong interest in the Great Outdoors, specifically the New River Gorge region.
“I think having a backyard in which my creative imagination had access to forests, creeks, wildlife, and sunshine led me directly to seeking out where I am today,” Andy says. “I love how dynamic the region is – four distinct seasons, varying scenery and ecology, unlimited outdoor activities, an intersection of locally grown foods and worldwide flavors, and a constant stream of cultures stopping through each day.”
Andy enjoys spending time outside and staying active, from bowling to mountain biking. His hidden talent? He’s an ambidextrous bowler.
The West Virginia Hive is a program of the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority that assists growing businesses and startups across 12 counties in southern West Virginia. At the WV Hive, the goal is to boost local businesses in leveling up their practices, marketing, and management skills as they become the most successful versions of themselves.
Judy Moore, WV Hive Executive Director, is a West Virginia native, a first-generation college graduate, and a proud coal miner’s daughter. Growing up in Nicholas County, Judy says she was fortunate to have the New River Gorge region as her playground, where she grew up in a tightly-knit family.
As a child, she experienced various aspects of farm life and learned many valuable life lessons from her grandparents along the way. She attributes her upbringing to her deeply-rooted care and love for the region.
“I love working at the NRGRDA as the WV Hive and CRAN executive director, and can say it is the most fulfilling position I’ve had the pleasure to be in,” Judy says. “Being in this position allows me to utilize all of the experience I have gained, working across multiple sectors, in many positions, to contribute to the growth of southern West Virginia entrepreneurs and small business owners.”
In her spare time, Judy enjoys spending time with loved ones, antiquing, and exploring the Great Outdoors.
At the WV Hive, we don’t just encourage existing business growth and entrepreneurial endeavors — we support the folks behind them, providing resources for best practices, advising sessions, and financial backing to boost their brands. Having the ability to offer stability and helpful resources is a highlight of the job for Mary Legg, Regional Business Advisor for Outdoor Business Initiatives. No matter where businesses are in their development process, Mary says: “We meet people wherever they are!”
Mary says she feels that her lifelong love for the outdoors has positively influenced her position as a regional business advisor.
“My favorite childhood memories are the ones that occurred in the great outdoors,” Mary says. “That love for the outdoors that was developed in those childhood years has created a greater connection to my role as an Outdoor Industry Business Advisor.”
Mary’s kind heart and love for wildlife is also illustrated through her work in animal advocacy and volunteerism at her local animal shelter. Over the last 10 years, she has fostered and rescued hundreds of animals. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, horseback riding, and hanging out with her children.
Olivia Morris, program coordinator, is the newest member of the WV Hive team. As a native West Virginian, Olivia credits her upbringing for her lifelong love of the arts, outdoor adventures, and community — all of which she channels in her current role. She is also a participant in the West Virginia Community Development Hub’s Advanced Leadership Fellowship.
“I love supporting West Virginians in bringing their entrepreneurial visions to life,” Olivia says. “The NRGRDA/WV Hive/CRAN have many different programs and support options, and being able to take part in all of them is something I take a lot of pride and joy in.”
Off the clock, Olivia enjoys watching movies, rock climbing, rafting, hiking, and swimming.
For Stephanie Sanders, regional business advisor at the WV Hive, no two days are the same — and that’s how she likes it. In her current role, Stephanie assists clients as they move forward with their business and entrepreneurial pursuits and helps coordinate events dedicated to supporting West Virginia’s network of entrepreneurs. Stephanie directly links clients to resources they need to build and sustain successful businesses.
“My parents taught me to respect others, work hard, and that I could do anything that anyone else could do,” Stephanie says. “I still live by those words today. That is why I like encouraging entrepreneurs to believe in themselves and what they are trying to achieve.”
Stephanie loves spending time with her husband, family, and friends, shopping, reading, attending church, cooking, traveling, and exercising.
As a native of southern West Virginia, Peyton Ballard says he’s grateful to work in a position where he can help support and grow businesses and communities in his home region. At the WV Hive, Peyton says he’s been fortunate to work with folks who embody West Virginia’s resilient spirit.
Growing up with both grandparents running local businesses, Peyton feels that he’s come full circle as he helps boost others’ businesses and entrepreneurial efforts.
“Growing up in southern WV, I enjoyed being able to contribute to the people and places that shaped me,” Peyton says. “The sense of pride and tradition in this place is what I bring with me from childhood that connects to my work with NRGRDA.”
Outside of the office, Peyton spends his time with loved ones, reading, writing, hiking, and tidying up his home.
Early in life, Peni Adams learned the value of courage; of stepping out of her comfort zone. As a child, she frequently traveled with her parents, stopping at various places across the United States. The Senior Business Advisor says her openness to adventure has become a lifelong philosophy, and that trait translates perfectly into her current role as she consults with and encourages clients throughout their entrepreneurial journeys.
“Working with a variety of people is my favorite part of any endeavor,” Peni says. “I really like my coworkers at the WV Hive, and to top it off, I get to work with a wide range of business owners. People are my favorite part of working at the Hive.”
In her spare time, Peni volunteers in various capacities at her church and enjoys swinging on her porch swing her husband made.
As Manager of Grants and Accounting, Sandy Olinga plays a role in helping clients find the support and funding they need. For the last three years, Sandy and her family have called West Virginia home, drawn by the allure of southern West Virginia’s “natural, majestic beauty.” Growing up in an environment where she spent lots of time with family and friends, Sandy still places an emphasis on quality time with loved ones — something she shares often with her own daughter.
“[I like] the impact that it has on entrepreneurs and ultimately the economy,” Sandy said of the Hive’s work. “By supporting entrepreneurs and their success, the Hive works to strengthen and diversify the economy in the state of WV.”
Outside of work, Sandy also enjoys cooking and reading.