How Bluefield, WV and Weirton, WV are using Cool & Connected ideas to help their economic development

Downtown Bluefield, WV. Photo by Joseph via Flickr.

Earlier this year we joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Appalachian Regional Commission to start delivering Cool & Connected technical assistance, a workshop series designed to help rural communities find new economic opportunities by leveraging investments in broadband, or reliable, high-speed internet access.

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Connecting rural economies to the speed of broadband

Rural communities across the country have abundant natural beauty and a heritage of hard work. By bridging the gap in broadband capabilities, these communities are creating a new resource for their current residents and making themselves more competitive in the national economy.

Technical assistance

Since the workshop: Huntington, WV and a place-based approach to economic development

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Downtown Huntington, WV. Photo via UrbanUp.

Back in 2014, Huntington, WV won a free technical assistance workshop from Smart Growth America to help the city achieve its goals for housing, businesses, and its downtown. What has the city been up to in the two years since? The answer is: a lot.

“Smart Growth America’s technical assistance has provided the City of Huntington with valuable tools that have helped propel efforts within our targeted neighborhoods,” said Mayor Steve Williams when we asked what the city has been doing. “We’re excited about the progress that we have been able to achieve and the plans that we continue to develop to create a financial and sustainable city based on smart growth principles.”

Technical assistance

Tucker County communities work toward creating a collaborative vision for economic growth

Downtown Parsons, WVDowntown Parsons in Tucker County, WV. Photo by Joe Flood via Flickr.

Tucker County, WV is a rural community known for its abundant natural beauty and historic downtowns. Now, staff from the county, townships, state agencies, and federal programs are working together to plan for Tucker County’s long-term economic growth.

To help begin to articulate a vision for county planning in a regional context, Smart Growth America held a Regional Planning for Small Communities workshop with the Tucker County Planning Commission on May 27 and 28, 2015 as part of a free, grant-funded technical assistance program.

Technical assistance

Announcing the recipients of Smart Growth America's 2015 free technical assistance


The City of Franklin, TN is one of 14 communities that will receive a free technical assistance workshop from Smart Growth America in 2015.

Smart Growth America is pleased to announce the 14 communities selected to receive free workshops in 2015 as part of our free technical assistance program.

Technical assistance

Huntington, WV hosts workshop to implement Plan 2025’s vision of reinvestment

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Pullman Square in downtown Huntington, WV. Photo by Nicholas Eckhart via Flickr.

On August 5 and 6, 2014, Huntington, WV officials and local residents met with representatives from Smart Growth America as part of a free, grant-funded technical assistance program. The city recently updated its comprehensive plan, Plan 2025, and this workshop aimed to provide Huntington with tools and techniques to implement Plan 2025’s vision of reinvestment in local infrastructure, housing and businesses. The workshop focused on how shifting development patterns towards more compact, transit-oriented development could benefit the local economy and local government finances.

“The City of Huntington is committed to seeking the tools and training to help develop strategies that reduce negative outcomes from a combined stormwater and sanitary system and encourage quality housing, and business development,” Mayor Steve Williams said. “We’re excited to work with Smart Growth America to find solutions to these and other local issues that will make our city even more attractive in the future.”

Technical assistance

Congressional hearing on Safe Streets Act highlights policy flexibility and safety

“My home district of Sacramento continues to bear witness to too many pedestrian accidents,” said Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) last week. “The needless and avoidable accidents are vivid reminders of why we need Complete Streets policies.”

Congresswoman Matsui made these comments at a briefing on Capitol Hill on Thursday hosted by the National Complete Streets Coalition. Matsui was there to introduce the Safe Streets Act of 2013, co-sponsored by Congressman David Joyce (R-OH). As Congresswoman Matsui explained to the crowd, “It is far past time for the federal government to step and show it too is committed to improving the safety of our communities.”

Complete Streets

Partnership in the News: West Virginia recognized for Brownfields Redevelopment

Ranson and Charles Town, West Virginia were recently recognized for their joint brownfields redevelopment efforts at the National Brownfields Conference in Atlanta on May 16, 2013.  The cities were awarded a Phoenix Award for Excellence in Brownfield Redevelopment in recognition of the ongoing redevelopment of the Ranson & Charles Town Commerce Corridor, a 1.5 mile former industrial stretch of land across both cities. Between the two cities, the corridor is marked by at least 15 significant brownfields sites.

“The fact that we were recognized for the Phoenix Award puts Ranson and Charles Town on the map,” said Ranson City Manager David Mills. Charles Town City Manager Joe Cosentini added, “It emphasizes that all we tried to do in the last 10 years contributing to revitalization was worth it.” The corridor was recognized as the preeminent brownfields effort in a region that includes Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Ranson and Charles Town began revitalization efforts for the Commerce Corridor in 2001, partnering with a local environmental consulting firm. Since the project’s inception, major brownfields sites in both cities have been redeveloped into valuable community assets. An exemplary redevelopment of Ranson’s former Maytag Spray Painting/Dixie Narco plant transformed the distressed, vacant property into the Ranson Civic Center. The new facility houses the Ranson Parks and Recreation Commission, and functions as a venue for athletic events, social functions, trade shows and job fairs.

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Partnership for Sustainable Communities celebrates three years of groundbreaking interagency collaboration


Above: A rendering of neighborhood design for Ranson, WV. Ranson has received support from HUD, DOT and EPA to serve as a national model for how small rural cities on the fringe of a major metropolitan area can foster sustainable economic development, transit, and community livability through targeted and strategic planning and infrastructure investments. Image via Ranson Renewed.

In the three years since the Obama Administration announced the groundbreaking Partnership for Sustainable Communities – a directive which coordinates efforts across the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Departments of Transportation (DOT) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) – the innovative and effective program has helped hundreds of communities across the country address economic development, transportation infrastructure, public health and environmental concerns through through grants and direct assistance.

“Even after only three years, the Partnership has proven its unquestionable value,” says Smart Growth America President and CEO Geoffrey Anderson. “Working together, the agencies are more efficient and more effective at enabling American communities to respond to the critical challenges they’re facing in today’s economy and in the years of growth ahead.”

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