Madison was recognized this past week as one of only 13 communities who have been chosen as the state’s first-ever designated ON TRAC Communities.
Gov. Joe Manchin met with representatives from all 13 communities at the Governor’s Mansion Rotunda at Charleston on Feb. 18.
First Lady Gayle Manchin opened up the afternoon ceremony with the statement, “Isn’t it amazing when Main Street comes to town the sun comes out?”
Manchin said that citizen action was the necessary first step in revitalization efforts and suggested a few goals to those in attendance: find a way to be entrepreneurial and still community-driven, renovate with historical integrity, and build consuses and protmotion and market our commercial districts through restructuring efforts.
“[ON TRAC] really puts a face to who West Virginia is,,” Governor Joe Manchin said.
Gov. Manchin began his address to the assembled community leaders by tying in their local revitalization efforts to those of newly elected President Obama.
“What the first thing the new President did was establish a day of service. There were so many of the country who felt left out [and] that’s why we’re here today- to give them the advice, support and commercial resources they need,” Manchin said.
The Governor didn’t pull any punches when talking about how necessary community revitalization projects are to the economy of the region. “People are not going to go to a garbage dump. It depends on how much pride you take in your town,” he said.
“All of us have been hit. When businesses, mines, people go out, things change,” he said.
Gov. Manchin said West Virginia will soon be seeing its share of the economic stimulus package, stating that the state is getting $1 billion in stimulus money.
“Our number one objective is to save and create every job we can. We’ve got people losing jobs and looking for new jobs,” Gov. Manchin said.
Governor Manchin shared with the crowd statistics on the businesses in the state of West Virginia. “Seventy percent of all businesses in West Virginia have less than 10 people. Fifty percent of businesses have 4 or fewer people working,” he said, adding that it indicates how important small business initiatives are to the state of West Virginia.
“We could have 30,000 new employees if every business we have is West Virginia hired just one person,” he said.
Representatives from each of the 13 communities – Belington, Beverly, Elkins, Matewan, Oak Hill, Ranson/Charles Town), Romney, Rowlesburg Shinnston, Sistersville, Sutton and Webster Springs – were then presented with a plaque that designated them as an ON TRAC Community.
ON TRAC is an acronym for Organization, Training, Revitalization and Capacity and is a new program created by Main Street West Virginia to help communities boost economic growth with evaluation, education and networking resources.
Members from the Madison Rev-Up organization, led by Kathy Hill, traveled to the Capitol earlier that morning and met with lawmakers before accepting the award presented by Gov. Joe Manchin and First Lady Gayle Manchin.
“It was a very good meeting, they are very supportive of our endeavor to refurbish the downtown area. Senator Stollings arranged the meeting for us and is spreading the word of what we are doing,” she said of the visit.
ON TRAC is the precursor to becoming a fully designated Main Street Community; participants must be an ON TRAC Community for at least two years before applying to become a Main Street Community, according to a press release issued by the organization.
To be eligible for ON TRAC, a community must be located within an incorporated area, served by downtown infrastructure and resources and have a sponsoring organization.
Communities selected for ON TRAC will receive training in downtown and neighborhood revitalization, an assessment of strengths and weaknesses, a technical design visit, action-planning services, access to an online library of databases and resources, telephone consultation, scholarship and grant information, and participation in the mentoring program from the certified Main Street Programs.
“This program helps towns get ‘ON TRAC’ to revitalization by capitalizing on the history and the resources of the community itself,” Manchin said.
However, unlike the Main Street program, ON TRAC Communities are not required to set up 501c3 nonprofit organizations or hire staff, Monica Miller, coordinator for Main Street West Virginia, said in a prepared statement.
“Participants have the flexibility to work toward becoming a Main Street Community, or they can choose to remain at the same level and continue to reap great benefits from being part of a statewide network.” Miller said in a prepared statement.
The Wellness Council of West Virginia has been instrumental in their support of the Rev-Up Madison group and representatives were on hand during the ceremony.
“Madison is doing a great job and is far ahead in many ways,” Patty Marino-Deutsch, Wellness Council of West Virginia Tobacco Policy Director shared with the Coal Valley News.
“When you’re working on these revitalization programs, it takes years; it’s not a quick fix. It takes a lot of work to revamp old buildings,” she shared.
The Wellness Council is working with Rev-Up Madison to offer educational programming such as free grant writing workshops. According to Deutsch, educational programming and activities such as Business After Hours are events that the Wellness Council can help out with for the town of Madison.
“We’re going to do our best to advance your project,” she said.
While some may say that there have already been attempts at revitalizing downtown Main Street, Madison, Deutsch comments, “Maybe other people have tried before, but perhaps it wasn’t the right set of people or the right time.”
Deutsch says the Rev-Up Madison group is comprised of a nice mix of community members. “Ideally [it’s good to have] politicians, medical groups and extension people. You have that with the Madison Rev-Up group,” she said.
Deutsch also praised Madison for reaching out to involve high school-age residents in their projects.
Other untapped resources in the area, according to Deutsch, are area seniors and faith-based community members.
“There are a lot of churches in Boone County and don’t underestimate the senior citizens. They might not be able to lift a lot when doing clean up projects or having an auction, but they can certainly do a good job at organizing things,” she said.
Rev-Up Madison is asking residents of Madison and surrounding areas to fill out a survey about the strengths and weaknesses of Main Street, Madison and is asking for ideas on revitalization projects.
Completed surveys can be dropped off at Big Eagle in Danville, the WVU Extension Office at Rock Creek, or the Coal Valley News at Madison. Look for more locations to drop off the survey in future issues of the Coal Valley News.
Interested volunteers can attend the next Rev-Up meeting, scheduled for this Thursday, Feb. 26, at 7:00 p.m. at the Massey Clinic.