The NRGRDA’s third Outdoor NRG public forum was held at The Grove in Fayetteville Monday evening. Around 75 local leaders and changemakers from Fayette, Raleigh, Nicholas, and Summers counties were all in attendance, itching to talk about the potential the outdoor industry has on the economy in Southern West Virginia. We fleshed out several topics from our November 2019 forum at Weathered Ground Brewery in Ghent, such as recruiting new outdoor businesses to the area, helping existing businesses expand, discussing what products or services need to spur growth, and the possibilities of assisting new startups in the outdoor economy.
After hearing from Noah Wilson, president of our partner Emergent Opportunities, attendees broke into five specific focus groups to expand discussion in the following areas: infrastructure, marketing and re-branding, events and cultural opportunities, policy/advocacy, and education and workforce development. Outdoor retailers, vendors, enthusiasts, guides, manufacturing companies, industry leaders, and economic development leaders all had valuable information to bring to the table. Maura Kistler, co-owner of Waterstone Outdoors, was vocal about her support for diversifying the local economy.
“Our outdoor recreational sources (are) one of arguably the strongest things we have to market in our state, and if we can have a framework that talks about using those resources not to attract tourists but to build a diverse economy, it’s a whole different ball game. Tourism is part of that; it’s not the be-all and end-all, it’s just a part of it. That’s where, I think, West Virginia’s future lies.”
Our own Director of Communications and Strategic Initiatives, Lisa Gale, said “We have a really good foundation for the outdoor industry here in our four-county region. It can be redefined and made better. It can be diversified and made stronger. It can be enticing to entrepreneurs to begin new growth.”
The NRGRDA is incredibly thankful to our consulting partner Emergent Opportunities from Asheville, NC for co-hosting these events with us. We’re also thankful for everyone who has attended one of our public forums – the information and data you’ve helped us gather is vitally important, and we’re excited to formulate a plan of action from your ideas. Stay tuned for more on the remaining public forums!
Special thanks to WOAY, The Register-Herald, and WVNS for covering our event.
By Tyler Barker