Advantage Valley Regional Development Planning Process Moving Forward

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Advantage Valley Regional Development Planning Process Moving Forward

Charleston, W.Va. – Local officials from economic development, workforce development, education, and employer groups will soon be interviewed as an initial step in the development of a regional strategic plan for economic development, officials from WorkForce West Virginia announced today.

Earlier this year, WorkForce West Virginia received a Regional Innovation Grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.  The project is being led by a steering committee of business, education, and government leaders in the Advantage Valley region encompassing West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio. WorkForce West Virginia is administering the grant on behalf of the region.

The Regional Innovation Grant involves 12 counties:  Kanawha, Putnam, Cabell, Boone, Clay, Lincoln, Mason and Wayne counties in West Virginia; Boyd, Carter and Greenup counties in Kentucky; and Lawrence County, Ohio. The grant period ends in July 2011.

Thomas P. Miller and Associates, an Indianapolis-based economic and workforce development consulting company, has been hired to guide the strategic planning process.

The stakeholder interviews will be one of several steps taken to help the region develop a plan and implement the grant. The goal of the project is to develop a regional strategic plan to guide the region and create long term sustainable growth and employment opportunities, while better coordinating economic and workforce development and education resources.

“The interviews will provide a better view of what has taken place in the region economically, what needs exist or obstacles there are to overcome, and essentially provide a baseline understanding of the region and its unique challenges,” said Russell L. Fry, acting executive director of WorkForce West Virginia. “From this initial information, we can start developing a plan with recommendations, action steps and other ideas for the region to consider.”

“The final plan will update social and economic demographic characteristics of the region, and provide regional leaders with some recommendations on how to better improve the coordination of the education, workforce and economic development systems,” said Claude Hunt, executive director of the Southwestern West Virginia Region 2 WorkForce Investment Board. “We are hopeful that the plan will provide us with guidance and direction in light of changing economic conditions and workforce needs.” 

A round of community leader interviews is being scheduled in January. A launch meeting with key leaders will be held in late January or early February to further discuss the region’s strengths and weaknesses.  This will be followed by a series of sessions with employers to clarify needs and gaps in the region’s workforce readiness.

After the initial round of interviews and launch meeting, the consultants will review existing workforce, economic and labor market plans, review the region’s assets, update a 2005 labor market study, hold  several  input sessions, and then draft a strategic plan that will seek to better coordinate workforce and economic development and education programs and policies.

For Immediate Release       
December 28, 2010 
Contact:  Courtney Sisk, Department of Commerce