"What is The Area Roundtable?" As president, I had been asked this question weekly, that is, until the news of hundreds of opportunities with the Marcellus Shale emerged and I found myself articulating our work and identity almost daily.
In simplest terms, we serve as a single point of contact for the county and all the municipalities within to recruit corporations as well as help retain and expand those that already exist in the county. Additionally, state, federal, and foundation funding may more easily flow through the Roundtable to corporations, business owners, and some government agencies that cannot receive needed funding through other development structures.
The streamlined model of The Roundtable is a better use of tax payers' dollars, because it eliminates the need for four duplicate services for each government entity in Wood County (i.e. Wood County, Parkersburg, Vienna, and Williamstown). Duplicating services means the expense of duplicate overhead, salaries, certifications, and potentially less expertise and community involvement. The current Roundtable design incorporates expertise of members from a vast variety of industries and backgrounds across the county.
Created in the 1970s, The Area Roundtable has served as an irreplaceable umbrella operation for the county's two tightly knit nonprofit entities for economic development: The Wood County Development Authority and The Parkersburg-Wood County Development Corp. Combining the government expertise and connections of The Authority under the same umbrella with the civic expertise and creativity of The Corporation forms a collaboration that emphasizes goals and strengths of each to contribute to The Area Roundtable's focus to retain, relocate and revive businesses for Wood County.
During my service, The Area Roundtable has celebrated the creation of more than 1,000 jobs from projects such as the relocation of Hino Motors from Japan to Williamstown, the startup and expansion of WinCore, the building of Highmark Blue Cross/BlueShield headquarters, and the expansion of Coldwater Creek to name a few; we have also been fruitful in improving civic welfare with the opening of the skate park, the construction of Point Park, the founding of the Downtown Task Force and the establishment of The Farmers' Market, as well as the revival of local companies such as Mr. Bee's Potato Chips and Fenton Art Glass.
2012 has been the busiest year since I joined seven years ago. The annual meeting on Nov. 4 will be a time to convene with members as well as showcase Wood County and the Roundtable's accomplishments in 2012.
For more information about how we might assist you in your next development project or how you might apply to join our efforts through membership of The Corporation, visit our website (www.arearoundtable.com) or our office at 409 1/2 Market St., Parkersburg.
Cam Huffman is president of the Area Roundtable.