Highland County EDA March 2023 Meeting

The Highland County Economic Development Authority held it’s monthly meeting March 20.

The EDA reviewed a Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) document that had been prepared by members of the RCDI committee.  With the RCDI project, the EDA, The Highland Center, the Tourism Council and the Chamber of Commerce have been meeting for over three years to develop a Strategic Plan for community and business development.   Each of the four partners will approve it’s list of goals and then the plan will be presented to the Board of Supervisors for approval.  In creating the plan, it was discovered that there were gaps, and also some overlaps in goals where two partners were working on the same goal, so the plan was written to align goals with one lead partner for each one.

The EDA’s goals in the Strategic Plan include:  re-opening The Highland Inn, increasing local support and traffic in local businesses, increasing communication between area businesses, encouraging businesses to take calculated risks, supporting the Highland Business Incubation Plan, identifying new investments in businesses and identifying all Highland businesses through a business license.  It was stressed that a business license would help identify businesses, but would not imply any additional tax.  The EDA’s goals also include supporting the completion of broadband access, supporting work to get more cell coverage, working with groups to attract a State Park, creating a marketing plan for attracting businesses and younger residents, promoting remote worker attraction, continuing the Incentive Grant Program, creating a development fund for businesses and participating in the regional housing study for expanded housing options.

There was discussion on whether some of these goals should be the responsibility of the EDA or another one of the partners.  Goals such as increasing communication between businesses, increasing local traffic in businesses and creating a marketing plan.   There was also discussion on grouping goals together to combine under just one goal, such as various goals that are all supported by the Incentive Grant Program.

The EDA’s portion of the RCDI document will be revised with the suggestions made at the meeting and it will be reviewed again at next month’s meeting on April 17.

In other business, the Blue Grass Resource Center recently submitted grant applications for work on The Highland Inn.  One is a request for $700,000 through the Department of Housing and Community Development.  Another application is for $900,000 that is going through the appropriations process through Senator Mark Warner’s office.   As part of the IRF Planning Grant for the Inn, an extension was granted until the end of May to allow time to complete the operator portion of that application.  At the end of the meeting, the EDA went into closed session to discuss confidential proprietary information for a business as part of the IRF Planning Grant.

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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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