I was reminded at a meeting this week about how one of our fellow West Virginia cities worked together many years ago to define the major projects to benefit their community.
Various entities in that city had their "pet" projects. One group was focused on the arts they wanted a new facility for concerts and art displays. Another group was focused on sports - they wanted to enjoy sports competitions in a state-of-the-art stadium. A third group wanted to grow the downtown area - they wanted to launch on outdoor marketplace. All wanted enhanced infrastructure (roads and parking) to make their venue accessible and convenient.
Each would have solicited from a similar pool of major benefactors. Each would have sought the same grants and economic funding. Each wanted their project completed first. As separate projects, they essentially would have been competing against one another for funding and various resources from the get go. (I had a boss whose favorite motto was "If everything's the top priority, then nothing's a priority." So true!)
Rightfully so, and with great forethought, all the entities decided to come together to prioritize these projects. This action allowed them to back one another's projects, knowing that their show of support for each other was of great benefit to the community. Over a certain specified time period, the projects were all completed. If they had competed, it would have taken much longer to get each project done, if ever.
I remember when I returned to the Mid-Ohio Valley in 1995 how committed businessman Jim Wakley was to bringing a civic center to our community. He worked on that idea until he passed away in 2004. At the time many people supported the idea, some supported a modified version of the idea, and some said it wasn't needed for a community our size. Maybe his efforts weren't fully appreciated because of the multitude of other projects that were consuming resources and funding at the time.
I don't mention this to say it's time to relaunch the civic center debate; I use it as an example of a possible missed opportunity to get everyone together a decade ago to set our priorities and then work feverishly to make them come to fruition.
This also doesn't imply that many great projects haven't taken shape over the past decade; they most certainly have. I spoke with a developer from Pittsburgh recently. Coincidentally he grew up across the street from me in north Parkersburg but moved away several decades ago. When he asked about possible sites for a restaurant, I mentioned several areas of our community that weren't developed 10 to 20 years ago. This incited great pride in his hometown.
Can we use the process employed by our sister West Virginia city for our community? I say definitely! I don't know anyone who doesn't want to see our community grow. We all want to see development and progress - it's what makes, and will continue to make, the Mid-Ohio Valley a great place to live, work and play. And as was so eloquently voiced by one of our local bank presidents this past week, there is great value when stakeholders and outside interests (federal officials and funding sources) see us come together to identify and prioritize the projects of importance to our community.
So in 2023, do I live in a community with abundant activities for families, dog parks, no graffiti, a minor league baseball team, bike trails, a Target to shop in, all storefronts filled with vibrant businesses, strong manufacturing and chemical employer base, expansive walking trails, small business incubator, a farmers market, plenty of parking, tons of tourists enjoying our activities and filling our hotels, green spaces and parks for recreation, river activities, appreciation for the arts, delicious restaurants, sustainability, downtown loft living, a facility for large conferences and concerts, state-of-the-art health care, senior living options, new roads and sidewalks, and top notch schools? (Oh, and while I'm at it, where no one texts and drives?)
* Chamber Special Events Committee meeting, May 22, from noon-1 p.m. Chamber office. Open to all Chamber members who want to plan and coordinate the Chamber's Special Events. The majority of the May meeting will be used for Annual Dinner planning with event chairs Christina Smith (The Arc of the Mid-Ohio Valley) and Keri Dunn (Pickering Associates.) Bring your lunch. Please RSVP to Jennifer Longwell at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are able to attend.
* Belk 125th Anniversary, May 29, Grand Central Mall. Watch the Chamber website for more information.
* Biztec Bits & Bytes Lunch & Learn, Basic Computer Security and Awareness and Overall Security Posture, May 31 from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., WV Central Credit Union, 2nd floor Conference Room, 809 Division St., Parkersburg. Chamber member Biztec continues their quarterly Lunch & Learn, dealing with IT issues for all size businesses! Free for Chamber members. Register on-line at www.movchamber.org
Visit this space every other Sunday for more Chamber news. We also invite you to call us at 304-422-3588, email us at email@example.com, or stop by the Chamber office at 409 1/2 Market St., Parkersburg.
Jill Parsons is president/CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley.