Highland EDA August 2023 Meeting

The Highland County Economic Development Authority held it’s monthly meeting on August 21.

The EDA voted to recommend Malorie Brower to the Board of Supervisors for appointment to the EDA.  The EDA has one open seat and there were originally six applicants.  Two applicants did not submit complete information when requested, and another applicant, being a Town of Monterey employee, was not eligible to serve according to legal statutes.  EDA members George Hogshead, Bryan Obaugh and Economic Development Officer Betty Mitchell met with each of the three remaining candidates individually and recommended Brower.

The EDA voted to participate in the Economic Recovery Corps program.  The EDA previously applied and had already been selected to participate.  EDA Chair George Hogshead explained that he approved the submittal of the application when first contacted by Betty Mitchell, because the application had a short deadline.  He said, in retrospect, a vote should have been taken from the Board indicating that the EDA wanted to participate. Highland was one of 65 communities selected for the program from over 500 applicants.  The program will place a fellow in each community for two and a half years, at no cost to the community, to carry out economic development work.

The EDA voted to submit a letter of interest to the Recompete Pilot Program, that is being offered through the Economic Development Administration.  This program will provide grant funding for communities with older demographics in a regional effort to spur economic recovery, to connect workers to jobs and to support long-term economic development.   The EDA discussed seeking the help of the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission on this opportunity.

The EDA also adopted it’s strategies as part of the Rural Community Development Initiative project.  The EDA, the Chamber, the Tourism Council and The Highland Center have been working to identify strategies for each group as part of the RCDI work.  The EDA’s main strategies include:  a revitalized Highland Inn, a well-supported and encouraged small business community, collective structures for success, including broad and shared civic leadership and a coordinated marketing and messaging campaign.  It was explained that all of the EDA’s initiatives under those main strategies are ongoing, except for the identification of all Highland businesses through the creation of a business registry.  Work on that initiative will not begin until after the fall election.

Economic Development Officer Betty Mitchell provided a report summarizing ongoing projects.  As part of that report, the Town Community Improvement Grant will have it’s first site visit by the consultant soon to work on the housing feasibility study for a property in Monterey.  The process is expected to be done in six months.  As part of the Remote Work & Strategic Planning Project, the RCDI group is working with Letterpress Communications on a Remote Worker Attraction Campaign for October through December.  On the Highland Inn Project, a notice was received of the Governor’s recommendation of a $700,000 ARC grant award.  Mitchell indicated that recommendation will help the application for the IRF Implementation Grant, which is due in October.

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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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