From the 11/14/11 edition of the Charleston Daily Mail
Charleston Area Alliance to debut its 20-year outlook
by Paul Fallon
Daily Mail Staff
The Charleston Area Alliance will unveil its 20-year development vision for the Kanawha Valley during a launch Nov. 22.
The debut of Vision 2030 will be at the new West Side Elementary School, 100 Florida St., at 9 a.m. The 20-year economic plan outlines economic goals for the next two decades, said Cullen Naumoff, project manager with Charleston Area Alliance.
It also lists what the Kanawha Valley needs to do to reach those goals, she said.
The economic outlook is basically a strategic plan that outlines the strengths in the Kanawha Valley. The plan also details how the area can capitalize on those strengths, Naumoff said.
“One of the Kanawha Valley’s strengths is that we have great people,” she said. “And the area has incredible beauty.”
The plan also focuses on Kanawha County’s strengths, such as the chemical industry and the energy sector. Naumoff believes the area is ideally situated in the energy sector because of the natural gas drilling in the Marcellus shale.
The health care industry and educational institutions in the county will also help drive the economy in the coming two decades, she said.
Naumoff said the ideal economy 20 years down the road will be one that is very diversified. It will include energy companies that focus on coal, natural gas and green technologies.
A diversified economy will also need a combination of corporations and entrepreneurs in the area. This is already something that Charleston has, Naumoff said.
She pointed out that the city has corporations as well as unique shops and restaurants that are locally owned. She hopes the city, and the county as well, will be able to expand these sectors of the economy.
But there is no ironclad way to predict the valley’s economic future, she said. The goals are very general and help prove to businesses looking at locating in the area that community leaders and residents are looking to the future and are working on ways to expand the economy.
“Companies looking to invest in the region are wanting to see what the 10- to 20-year plan is,” she said.
Matt Ballard, president and chief executive officer of the Charleston Area Alliance, said he began to realize the area needed a 20-year plan when he started working to attract an ethane cracker to the area.
“Those companies asked us what the 20-year plan for the community was,” he said. “We were able to articulate what our plan was, but we didn’t have an actual document we could give them.”
Dates and times for community forums to discuss the 20-year plan will be announced during the launch. Community input is vital to creating the plan because it will illustrate the residents’ goals and how they hope to achieve them, Naumoff said.
“We know members of the community have great ideas,” she said. “The forums will be their chance to offer feedback.”
The kickoff is being held in an elementary school because children are the most valuable resource for the region’s future, she said. An informational “job fair” for third-graders will also be held during the event.
The energy industry, health care industry and other sectors will have representatives on hand to answer questions from the students.
In order to create “buzz” about the launch, murals designed by local artists will soon be hung around the city, Naumoff said. The murals represent the different economic drivers in the Kanawha Valley.
They were all designed and painted by local artists.
Contact writer Paul Fallon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4817.