Highland County Economic Development Authority June Meeting

The Highland County Economic Development Authority held it’s monthly meeting June 21st.   As part of the Treasurer’s report, the EDA’s Economic Development Officer, Betty Mitchell, reported that the income from the transient occupancy tax is almost double from this time last year.  The county’s transient occupancy tax is 5% and that money must be used for tourism and marketing and it goes to the Tourism Council.  The county gives it’s entire 5% to the Tourism Council and the town of Monterey gives 2% to the Tourism Council and uses 3% for its own tourism initiatives.

Earlier this month Jennifer Warner Cox was appointed to the EDA, but it was announced at the meeting that she had decided to decline the appointment.  With that announcement, the EDA currently has two open seats.

The 2022 Incentive Grant Program dates were set.  Applications will be available in September, the deadline for application submission will be October 1 and grant awards will be announced in November.

EDA member Bryan Obaugh gave an update on Tourism Council work.  Plans are still moving ahead on the welcome sign at the top of Shenandoah Mountain.  He also said the Forest Service has completed upgrades to the Shaw’s Fork Campground, a primitive campground.  The upgrades include bathrooms and hiking trails.

EDA member Henry Budzinski said he felt there was a perception on the part of cell service providers that Highland is not in favor of cell service in the eastern part of the county, due to the McDowell Battlefield.    Other EDA members said they weren’t sure that perception was out there, but felt it was more the problem of low population preventing cell companies from providing service in the area.   There was discussion about asking the Board of Supervisors to create a resolution indicating they are in favor of cell service in all parts of Highland County.  Budzinski felt this would give incentive to cell companies if they know the county is in favor of having cell service.

Betty Mitchell gave an update on Highland Inn renovation.  Lantz Construction is onsite and will be doing concrete work, sanding and painting.  The architect is finishing up plans for interior work and some small demolition is underway on the interior.

There was also discussion, led by Henry Budzinski, on proposed goals he felt were important for the EDA to pursue.   Resident attraction was discussed and members agreed that has been a concern and a top priority for a number of years.   Signage at the entrances to the county was also discussed. Bryan Obaugh said any signage on Forest Service land was restricted on the type of information that could be included.  That will apply to the sign to be installed at the top of Shenandoah Mountain.  Obaugh said the creation of a welcome kiosk, containing more detailed information for visitors, is being considered, possibly to be located in McDowell.

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Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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