By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
City leaders from Bluefield and Princeton began mapping out plans for community and economic development Monday as part of the 2013 Blueprint Communities Summit in Beckley.
Bluefield City Manager Jim Ferguson said the city’s team was introduced to the Blueprint Communities projects and what the initiative can provide for the city. Ferguson attended Monday’s meeting along with state representatives, Blueprint Communities officials, and other city team members including Mayor Linda Whalen, Mary Turner with CASE WV, Bluefield State College President Dr. Marsha Krosteng, Daily Telegraph Publisher Darryl Hudson, Ron Hypes with First Century Bank, and city board member Pete Sternloff.
“It was basically laying out the schedule of events and an overview of the program,” Ferguson said. “We brought the six teams from southern West Virginia together for the first time to meet each other. It was a kick-off to introduce each team. We talked a little bit about Blueprint Communities and what it will mean for our individual areas.”
Ferguson said the training the initiative offers goes hand in hand with economic development plans the city already has underway.
“The leadership training coincides with the economic development plan we have laid out for Bluefield,” Ferguson said. “This will help us with planning, strategies and goal setting for the community. We talked about the tools that will help us execute our goals and strategies for our individual communities. It encourages communities and folks to take a holistic approach to revitalization, to address both physical and social needs. It goes hand in hand with a lot of the things we are already doing and strengthens the city as far as our leadership. Our plans are intact and this helps set the right goals.
Ferguson said the next step in the project is educating the local community on how the initiative can help.
“They have given us some posters and banners and other things to take back with us to start planting seeds in our community, to educate people back home about Blueprint Communities and what it does,” he said. “We are going to be starting with the promotion part. In April, we will have a two-day workshop event, another in May and then everything wraps up in November.”
Bluefield Daily Telegraph Publisher Darryl Hudson said the Blueprint Communities initiative could provide many new opportunities for both Bluefield and Princeton.
“We have high expectations that the people going through the Blueprint Communities initiative and those already working on economic development will be able to work together and use this initiative for positive success,” Hudson said. “I am confident the program will help develop jobs, community programs and the economy of both Princeton and Bluefield.”
Lori McKinney, team leader of the Princeton Blueprint Team, described the meeting as “inspiring.”
“We learn about the process we are getting ready to undertake,” McKinney said. “All of the teams will undergo a training process. We were very encouraged and inspired by our state leaders and some very special people. We are going to undertake a pretty massive revitalization in downtown Princeton. It is really exciting. They also hired my band Option 22 to compose and perform a theme song for the initiative.”
Princeton City Manager Elke Doom said the project will help bring fresh ideas to community revitalization efforts.
“A group of us is working together to take back some fresh ideas and look at things from a new approach to improve our community,” Doom said. “This is very much a team effort. It is a community effort and a regional effort. We do need to work together to improve the entire southwestern region of West Virginia. We didn’t get into a lot of detail, but we did discuss where we want to go as we move forward, how we are going to implement our plans, and what it will take for that. It is mainly focused on economic and community development, which go hand in hand. When one goes well it improves the entire community and the entire region.”
Doom said the overall program will last for ten months.
“We did have a brochure and some information we will continue to talk about,” she said. “We have people assigned to us to help us identify our goals and needs as well as take the steps we need toward achieving those goals. This is a 10-month program, and it will really start to gel after a few months.”
Doom said the Blueprint initiative is a great opportunity for the city of Princeton.
“It is absolutely fantastic for the city,” She said. “I am so excited Princeton because the leaders of the community can come together with ideas and turn those ideas into reality. This what being a part of a Blueprint Community is all about.”
— Contact Kate Coil at firstname.lastname@example.org