Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What is the innovation economy?
A. The terms new economy, creative economy, and innovation economy are often used interchangeably.
Narrow definition: The innovation economy involves industries and job roles involving the creation, use, expansion, and distribution of intellectual property or information. Examples include creation, maintainance and extension of technology, and design of all types: architectural, technical, engineering, arts, media, education, management of businesses or operations, and research and development.
Broad definition: The application of entrepreneurship and innovation to expand opportunities and improve quality of life. Social and commercial entrepreneurs both figure into the innovation economy even if their specific field isn't within one of the categories above. For example, tourism isn't usually considered as part of the innovation economy, but if an entrepreneur is creatively developing a new tourism opportunity, this would fit in the broader definition.
Q2. It seems that Create WV's strategy involves improving communities by encouraging and developing local innovators, and attracting innovators by improving communities. This is a classic chicken/egg challenge. Which comes first, the place or the people? And where do you begin?
A. That's the challenge, to simultaneously attract and retain "early adopter" creatives who can get a foothold in West Virginia, while also working to help communities and institutions embrace creatives and innovators as valuable resources. Working both ends of the equation is very challenging, and there is much skepticism to overcome. Creatives want to be around other creatives, so we have to build both community and confidence. Communities, institutions, and elected political officials need confidence that this is a winning strategy and that there is support for it, versus more traditional "jobs with benefits" approaches, such as recruiting major manufacturers and other established corporations to move to West Virginia. We are working to build a "tipping point" in which there is enough buzz about something unique happening in the state to then recruit and retain thousands of innovators who will come or stay based on superb quality of life, low cost of living, and a variety of flavors in growing creative communities.
Q3. What needs to happen in the short term to realize the mission?
A. Since 2007, Create West Virginia has been building the vocabulary of innovation economy and exposing a broad variety of West Virginians to the concepts through statewide conferences and regional workshops and summits. Creatives in communities such as Buckhannon, Fayetteville, Huntington, Point Pleasant, Princeton, Richwood, and Shinnston have welcomed creative economy concepts and incorporated them in their thinking, actions and planning. In 2015, Create West Virginia is inviting West Virginia's creative communities to showcase their moxie, and, for starters, we're inviting creatives from everywhere else outside our borders to come get acquainted with us through these displays, and to join the conversation about how to rehab West Virginia so it suits 21st century needs--while maintaining its essential character.
Q4. What do you mean by "rebranding Appalachia"? How would you do this and maintain respect for the region's distinctive heritage and traditions?
A. We know it's a big job, but we feel we have a responsibility for sharing in the rebranding of Appalachia since West Virginia is the only state that is entirely within what most people think of as the Appalachian region. We are keenly aware that, in the minds of many Americans, Appalachia is synonymous with poverty, ignorance, disaster and despair. We acknowledge the challenges, and we also know there are riches to be found behind the formidable wall of stereotypes and bad news stories that reinforce these stereotypes.
We're not out to sweep anything under the rug. We're for throwing out that threadbare rug, and revealing the precious hardwood underneath.
It has been said that if you don't know West Virginia is different, then you've never been here, or never left. First time visitors often remark that they had no idea the place was so beguilingly beautiful. They say the people are exceptionally friendly and welcoming in a nation that thinks of itself as having both those qualities. There is art in the best of our craftsmanship, and the music that has evolved here is known world-wide for its haunting, lilting melodies. The traditions and foodways of the many different ethic peoples who have settled here since the mid-18th century continue to enrich and delight us.
There is a first quality, healthy, "premium" version of our piece of Appalachia that can be further expanded. It can be found at such establishments as Tamarack in Beckley and Mountain Made in Thomas, wherever Mountain Stage goes or when it's at home in Charleston on the Culture Center stage, at the Augusta Heritage Workshops in Elkins and Allegheny Echoes in Marlinton, and at the Appalachian String Band Festival at Clifftop. You'll find it at several cafes throughout the state-- Terra in Morgantown, the Cathedral in Fayetteville, Cimino in Sutton, The Stardust Cafe and The Spring among several great eateries in Lewisburg, Tari's in Berkeley Springs, Barista's in New Martinsville, CJ Maggies in Elkins and Buckhannon... Wow, the list could go on and on.
In case you don't already know, West Virginia owns America's Best Whitewater in its some 2,000 miles of paddle-worthy streams crowned by the queen and king of three-season rivers, the New and the Gauley. Rock climbers come from all over the world for the challenge of the New River Gorge's Nuttal Sandstone; mountain bikers from all over the nation say that West Virginia's cycling is the most superb in the East; bikers extol the winding backroads, and ATV riders flock to the rugged Hatfield & McCoy trails.
So we've already got a leg up on cool. We just want more of it.
Q5. What is hindering innovation in West Virginia?
A. Low awareness and skill levels in business and entrepreneurship inhibit the development of healthy deal flow. West Virginia has scant resources for early stage entrepreneurs. Its small venture capital community rarely risks investment in social or commercial entrepreneurship. The Benedum Foundation supports worthy social innovation, and several organizations and institutions have created programs to promote entrepreneurship, including Create West Virginia's annual Pitch Your Idea contest, so the climate is improving. Still, some highly successful startups have made it to a viable stage in West Virginia, but have left because their management can't attract talent or sufficient investment here. Input and demands from a well-informed, engaged citizenry could impact strategy in tax incentive policy, education, and various economic and community development programs that might focus on broad support for entrepreneurship and small business rather than on recruitment and tax breaks for large manufacturers and call centers.
Q6. What defines a creative community? What does a community do to earn this designation?
A. In the broadest sense, creative communities embrace creativity and innovation as a growth and quality of life strategy. Citizens in creative communities reward growth and development in the five pillars of innovation economies--diversity, education, entrepreneurship, quality of place, and technology. Excellent examples of creative communities include Create Huntington, Create Buckhannon and Princeton Renaissance, among a handful of others that have received national attention for some aspect of their community, including Berkeley Springs, Fayetteville, Lewisburg, Morgantown, New Martinsville, Shepherdstown, and Thomas. Most communities acknowledge that they are works in progress. Create West Virginia is working on a formal designation that communities can seek to further develop their brand through meeting specific criteria. Communities will define benchmark commitments and performance levels within the innovation economy pillars to become officially certified as a Creative Community.