Take it Outside for WV Jobs and Economic Diversification
Could bird nerds, mountain and road bikers, hikers, foodies, climbers and rafters help West Virginia reinvent itself for the new economy? Turns out that in their day jobs, many are creative economy innovators who can live and work anywhere they dang well please. Where do they like to live? In places where they enjoy life, and can connect. Gigabit communities with outdoor amenities? Hmm. Before you dismiss this post as treehuggin, liberal, hippie propaganda, at least check out the economic impact that outdoor recreational activities have nationally, and in WV. Create WV maintains that if we innovate in five different areas, we'll attract and retain the world's most productive, creative, and useful folks. Read, share, then register for the Create WV Conference, hosted this year in Fayetteville. Pioneer recreational business leaders (some recognized as tops in the nation) are working strategically to make a place for the world's outdoor enthusiasts. Come see what the fuss is all about. Bring a team and get a discount. Use HOMETEAM as your promo code.
"Outdoor recreation is essential to the American economy. Every year, Americans spend $646 billion on outdoor recreation — on gear, vehicles, trips, travel-related expenses and more. This creates jobs, supports communities, generates tax revenue and helps drive the economy. Throughout America, people recognize that outdoor recreation and open spaces attract and sustain families and businesses, create healthy communities and foster a high quality of life." Source: OutdoorIndustry.org
As many mourn the long-predicted shift from traditional employment options like mining and manufacturing in Dubvee, a growing number of diverse folks are perhaps unknowingly joining the ranks of long-time conservation advocates who say we are overlooking opportunities for using our natural assets to attract the world's new job and community makers. It's interesting that conservation is starting to make business sense to conservative folks. Better late than never, right? The Create WV Conference, hosted in what many consider the East Coast mecca for outdoor sports and recreation, offers everyone a chance to experience what many local businesses and organizations have known for a while. In fact, they built their world-class reputation while neighboring communities and state leadership seemingly ignored or dismissed their regional community and economic development strategy. It's centered on leveraging our natural assets for sustainable tourism purposes.
"Economic impact studies document the many and substantial economic benefits generated by trails," according to some neighboring conservation advocates. We found this information on the Pennsylvania Land Trust site called ConservationTools.org, which offers a guide that identifies major studies, summarizes key findings of each and provides hyperlinks to the studies.
In Dunedin, Florida, after the abandoned CSX railroad was transformed into the Pinellas Trail, the downtown went from a 35% storefront vacancy rate to a 100% storefront occupancy with a waiting list for available space.
Underground utilities may provide an additional source of revenue to help pay for trail improvements and maintenance. Nationwide, 40% of rail trails do double duty as utility corridors. The Town of Lloyd in the Hudson Valley received $400,000 to allow fiber optic cable to be laid under its five-mile rail-trail.
Homebuyers ranked walking and bicycling paths third amongst 42 features they found important.
Business leaders say quality of life issues are highly important when deciding where to locate a new factory or office. Trails and greenways enrich the overall quality of life of a community, making it a more desirable place to live and work by offering residents a place to relax and exercise at lunchtime, an alternative to commuting by automobile, and safe, nearby places to spend time with their families. Source: ConservationTools.org
Many communities could polish themselves up fairly easily in West Virginia, to attract outdoor enthusiasts. Our public infrastructure needs to be upgraded anyway, along with our building stock. It's a great time to take advantage of all that is working around the world, and to avoid what hasn't worked as we rethink communities of the future. And while many are planning trails, let's see if we can lay fiber optic cable to only "dig once," and save lots of money. Placemaking for the world's creatives, including the existing and emerging rock star creatives who love this place already, will attract more of job makers. And we'll all be better off for it. We'll be talking about all this and more September 24-26. See you in the "Ville." Photo courtesy of Fayetteville CVB