The Times West Virginian


September 1, 2013

Create West Virginia encouraging, helping communities to build in innovative ways

FAIRMONT — Create West Virginia is encouraging and helping communities to build their futures in innovative ways.

A lot of small working groups were created under Vision Shared, a nonprofit community and economic development organization officially formed in 2000. One of those groups was investigating principals of creative economies, and Create West Virginia — established in June 2007 — grew out of that effort.

Rebecca Kimmons, a partner at Katalyst Development Strategies and communications director of West Virginia GreenWorks, both in Charleston, has been involved in Create West Virginia since it was started. She is serving as director of this year’s Create West Virginia Conference, which is focused on the future.

The vision of this nonprofit grassroots organization is to develop a state “that is creative, confident, diverse, technologically advanced and able to compete among the most innovative, dynamic, prosperous, and creative communities in the world.”

Its mission is focused on supporting “the development of creative communities, companies and centers of learning that thrive in the global innovation economy,” according to information from Create West Virginia.

The organization offers conferences, workshops and other events to teach local leaders about innovative economy principals and how these ideas can become part of plans to grow their communities.

Create West Virginia also leads projects related to commercial and social entrepreneurship and works with businesses.

The five pillars of the creative economy are diversity, entrepreneurship, education, quality of place and technology. All of these concepts are necessary in order to have a healthy, vibrant, innovation economy, Kimmons said.

“I think it’s so important to encourage West Virginians’ native inventiveness,” she said. “I know how incredibly inventive we are in our own lives.”

However, people in the state often don’t translate that creativity to businesses, and they are conditioned to wait for a job, she said. This helps explain why West Virginia has a low rate of business startups.

In this new world economy, Create West Virginia is encouraging citizens to reinvent themselves and not just wait for someone else to save them. West Virginians are just as smart as people anywhere else in the country, Kimmons said.

“Create West Virginia really doesn’t take any credit for starting anything really,” she said. “What we’ve done is create a conversation and start talking about these innovation economy principals.”

Kimmons said this work and energy has led to some amazing, tangible results in several places around the state.

For instance, groups of volunteers like Create Huntington, Create Fayetteville and Create Buckhannon are establishing movements that incorporate these ideas into their community’s long-range plans and concentrate on collaboration, rehabilitation and energy. In addition, a group from Princeton called the RiffRaff Arts Collective has been involved in economic development through the arts, she said.

“They have been busy making these principals real of creative economy,” Kimmons said. “We’re seeing a remarkable difference. We hope that we are a part of expanding that and augmenting that.”

Also, a collaborative effort between Create West Virginia and West Virginia State University has led to the development of the state’s first community co-working space, called DigiSo, she said. This digital and social media incubator is headquartered in Charleston.

Another successful Create West Virginia initiative was the Block Project, which connected children in Rand with kids from Harlem, N.Y., via the Internet with Skype and other programs, Kimmons said.

In the past, Create West Virginia has taken its annual training and education conference to places like Stonewall Resort near Weston, Snowshoe Mountain Resort, Huntington, Wheeling and Charleston. The event has drawn as many as 400 people in the past.

When looking for a location for the sixth annual event, Kimmons contacted seven West Virginia towns that she knew were distressed. Mayor Robert Johnson of Richwood in Nicholas County was very interested and urged Create West Virginia to come to his city.

Conference attendees will gather in Richwood from Thursday, Oct. 24, through Saturday, Oct. 26. Kimmons said this is the most ambitious conference that Create West Virginia has ever planned because they are going to a place that has no real conference facilities, which presents a creative challenge.

“But I knew it could be done, and I knew it should be done,” she said.

Keynote speeches will take place in the auditorium of Richwood High School, which will be renamed “Create School” for the duration of the conference.

“The keynotes have been very carefully chosen to speak to different aspects/challenges in West Virginia,” Kimmons said.

Five speakers will offer their insights during the conference.

Dr. Thomas Frey, founder, executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute, will talk about “Creating a Remarkable Future,” and Thomas Worlledge, an architect who is accredited in the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, will give a presentation titled “Don’t Touch that Town — Yet.”

Dr. Gregory Bowman, associate dean of academic affairs at the West Virginia University College of Law, will speak on “Going Global: A West Virginian’s Journey from Local to Global (and Back),” and a session called “Get a Job, or Make a Job?” will be delivered by Dr. Naomi Stanford, an organization design and development consultant, teacher and author. Jon Gensler, a consultant with Cambridge Leadership Associates in New York City, will address “Reprogramming Appalachia through Changing the Approach to Leadership.”

For the breakout sessions, people will walk no more than five minutes to different nearby locations.

“That way we get to involve the town in a very intimate way,” Kimmons said.

The sessions will focus on topics like how a city can package and sell what it offers; how places earn the “coolest town” designations; how filmmakers and writers present West Virginia and why; and collaborative efforts between towns. Also, a panel of leaders from West Virginia’s energy sector will talk about the future of coal, natural gas, water and solar in the state.

Kimmons explained that the buildings that make up Richwood’s old commercial district are mostly empty, and Tamarack artists and other entrepreneurs and retail businesses are working to fill those spaces during the conference.

Members of the public, whether they come to the event or not, are invited to check out the merchandise and the food that is available. A farmers’ market will also be part of the festivities.

Each day, the company Adventures on the Gorge will transport the participants from their hotels in Summersville to Richwood, and Kimmons promised an interesting and entertaining 30-minute commute.

“What is wonderful about this is it’s doing exactly what I hoped it would do, which is get everybody’s improvisational skills going,” she said.

The conference will give people an idea of what a community of the future might look like, and is highlighting opportunities that exist and issues that need remedied for the success of communities.

“It’s like a huge demonstration project” Kimmons said. “Yes, it’ll be over by Sunday, Oct. 27, but the energy and the imagination and the can-do spirit will just be starting.

“I think it’s going to be an experience they won’t forget.”

To find out about the conference cost or to register, visit Create West Virginia is also looking for sponsors. Companies that are interested in being a part of this movement can call Kimmons at 304-205-5287.

“We need progressive businesses who understand how cultivating a creative economy in West Virginia is going to help our economy grow,” she said.

In addition, Create West Virginia has developed new ways of raising funds.

People can go to, started by Scott Depot businessman Shane Richardson, to support Create West Virginia’s campaign to build a trellis-mounted solar energy system in Richwood, and also to contribute to other West Virginia enterprises. The organization is using the website to raise money for the conference and Richwood, too.

Email Jessica Borders at or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.

Text Only
  • ‘L-gov’ program of West Virginia Treasurer’s Office providing many benefits

    The “L-gov” program of the West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office is providing many benefits to governmental entities across the state, including the City of Fairmont.
    L-gov, which is an abbreviation for local government, helps cities, towns, school boards, public service districts and other entities process their bills in a streamlined, efficient way.

    July 27, 2014

  • Cardinal Tax Services-JB.jpg Helping people focus of Cardinal Tax Services

    At Cardinal Tax Services LLC, Wendy Cutlip is doing what she enjoys — helping people.
    Cutlip, owner and Registered Tax Return Preparer, opened her new business in White Hall at the beginning of June. It is located in the Mountain Gate Business Park, which is along Route 250 South just past Fabric and Foam and next to the Sunoco.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Your chocolate addiction is only going to get more expensive

    For nearly two years, cocoa prices have been on the rise. Finally, that's affecting the price you pay for a bar of chocolate - and there's reason to believe it's only the beginning.

    July 22, 2014

  • Wal-Mart to cut prices more aggressively in back-to-school push

    Wal-Mart Stores plans to cut prices more aggressively during this year's back-to-school season and will add inventory to its online store as the chain battles retailers for student spending.

    July 22, 2014

  • Morgantown’s housing expenses exceed national average

    The housing prices in Morgantown are driving the city’s cost of living above the national average, a new survey reports.
    John Deskins, director of the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics’ Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER), explained that the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) orchestrates data collection in 288 cities across the country.

    July 20, 2014

  • JA Used Furniture-JB.jpg J.A. Used Furniture has valuable variety

    J.A. Used Furniture in Fairmont carries items that people need — all at low prices.
    Owner Ron Dray officially opened the doors of his new business, located at 10 Locust Ave., toward the end of December. He explained that the “J.A.” initials in the store’s name stand for the names of his two granddaughters, Jordan and Adriauna.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Backbone Security, T&T Pump Co. among 37 state companies recognized

    Two Marion County companies were recently celebrated for their continued successes in exporting.
    Backbone Security and T&T Pump Co., both in Fairmont, were among the 37 West Virginia companies that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Cabinet Secretary Keith Burdette, the West Virginia Development Office and the West Virginia Export Council recently acknowledged for expanding their business to new parts of the world. An awards presentation was held in Charleston on June 24.

    July 13, 2014

  • All Things Herbal-JB.jpg All Things Herbal health and wellness shop

    All Things Herbal Local Market is a one-stop, health and wellness shop.
    Owner Christa Blais officially opened her new business in downtown Fairmont at 327 Adams St., across from Veterans’ Square, on June 6 during Main Street Fairmont’s First Friday event.

    July 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • 3-D printing continuing to revolutionize manufacturing

    As 3-D printing is revolutionizing manufacturing, the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing continues to stay at the forefront of this technology.
    RCBI has three Advanced Manufacturing Technology Centers, located in Bridgeport, Charleston and Huntington.

    July 6, 2014

  • Blackheart International -JB.jpg Blackheart International bringing high-quality services

    Blackheart International, a firearms manufacturer and provider of logistics and training solutions, is bringing high-quality services to the local community.
    At the beginning of April, the company moved from Philippi, where it had been located since 2005, to its new home in Fairmont.

    July 6, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
NDN Business
House Ads