The five-county area comprising the Potomac Highlands of West Virginia could improve economically by embracing and promoting its regional identity, according to a new study published by three West Virginia University centers.
After a year and a half of research, the plan, which recommends several strategic actions to promote economic prosperity in the region, will be released Friday at Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College in Moorefield, West Virginia.
Gene McConnell, president of the Pendleton County Commission, haled the study as a launch for the region's economy and culture.
“It is anticipated that the WVU study will provide the basis for formulating a long-term regional development strategy that will benefit the five counties of the Potomac Highlands Region, both economically and culturally,” McConnell said.
Researchers at WVU’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center, and the Regional Research Institute contributed to the plan, which was funded by Pendleton County and the Region-8 Planning and Development Council, using funds from the US Department of Defense.
“We are happy to be able to assist the Potomac Highlands counties to form a long-term plan to grow their workforce and economy,” said John Deskins, of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research.
“We anticipate that this study will provide vital data and analysis to improve economic outcomes in the region.”
The study makes six recommendations, including assistance in recruiting new workers, improving digital communications, and developing new policies to promote housing and lodging growth.
“The Potomac Highlands is region full of opportunity,” said Brownfields Center Director Patrick Kirby.
“The Strategic Action Recommendations further solidifies the value of regional economic development efforts and coordination.”
McConnell said that the recommendations in the study will require a concerted effort to implement, but he is confident that the region offers prospective business partners a diverse environment to consider as they develop business strategies.
“We fully understand there are no quick solutions to the economic challenges as defined by the study,” McConnell said.
“However, the study provides data that should allow us to focus on initiatives that are appropriate for the Potomac Highlands Region in the formulation of a comprehensive Regional Development Plan.”