Highland EDA July 2023 Meeting

The Highland EDA held it’s monthly meeting on July 17.

EDA Economic Development Officer Betty Mitchell reported on the Economic Recovery Corp program.  Right after the last EDA meeting, she received information from the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission about this new pilot program.  It provides a person to be placed in a community for two and a half years to work on economic development projects.  The person is paid by the program and there is no local match required.  An application for communities to indicate possible interest in the program was due June 30.   Mitchell said she spoke with EDA Chair George Hogshead about the program and he agreed with applying.   Mitchell submitted an application and announced via email on July 19 that Highland was selected for the Economic Recovery Corp program.  It was one of 65 communities across the country selected, chosen from over 500 applicants.   The person that may be placed in Highland through the program would help carry out the Rural Community Development Initiative Strategic Plan, which has been in development for the past three years.

The EDA currently has one open seat and at the meeting it was announced that six applications have been received, but two of those have not submitted all the required information.  Betty Mitchell said she had contacted those two applicants, but had not heard back.  There was discussion on how to review all the applications, including a suggestion to interview each applicant individually.  Betty Mitchell clarified that the EDA cannot hold discussions in closed session about the applications, since the EDA does not appoint members, but recommends someone for appointment.  The Board of Supervisors makes the appointment, based on the EDA’s recommendation.   Two of the applicants attended the EDA meeting.  After discussion, the EDA voted to close the application window and it also voted to set a deadline of July 24 for the two applicants to submit their additional information, in order to still be considered.  The applicants will be contacted again and after that deadline, all applications will be distributed to EDA members for consideration.  The EDA will vote on the applications at it’s next meeting on August 21.

There was discussion on the EDA’s strategy list that is part of the Strategic Plan developed by the Rural Community Development Initiative workgroup.  The EDA has already approved its strategy list and will vote on setting priorities at it’s next meeting.  The list contains a number of strategies and sub-strategies under four main areas: a revitalized Highland Inn, a well supported and encouraged small business community, broad and shared civic leadership, and a coordinated marketing and messaging campaign.

And it was reported that the installation of fiber optic in Bath and Highland Counties is continuing.  MGW is doing installation funded by two grants, one awarded in 2021 for installation in the McDowell area and the other in 2022 to complete the fiber installation in the remainder of Highland and Bath Counties.  All installation is scheduled to be done by June 30, 2024.

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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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