County ready for next development project

CHESTER – Hancock County residents are so excited about last year’s clean-up of the old Taylor, Smith & Taylor pottery in Chester that they’re ready for another project.

So ready, in fact, that they’ve convinced the state of West Virginia to give them funding and technical assistance.

A newly formed committee of 10 people in the public and private sector hopes to use the assistance to advance another economic development project in northern Hancock County.

The group is traveling to Morgantown today to participate in the first of several workshops led by the West Virginia Community Development Hub.

Seven West Virginia communities, including Chester, were selected this year to participate in the Hub’s Communities of Achievement Program, or HUBCAP. The program provides HUBCAP communities with training so that they can be more effective in pursuing economical development projects, said Hub Executive Director Kent Spellman.

“It was a perfect time for us to connect with them and see how they could take it to the next level,” Spellman said of the Chester community.

Spellman spoke to the Rock Springs Riverfront Redevelopment Committee a year ago about ways the TS&T reclamation project can be used to spur further development.

The committee, made up of Chester city councilmen, residents and business owners, was formed in early 2011 to spearhead the TS&T clean-up project.

With that track record, Chester was put in a good position to pursue further development opportunities, said Patrick Ford, executive director of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle. What the community needs now, he said, is training and technological and financial support.

“All (HUBCAP) wants to do is help you improve your game. With the success of one project, they want to give you the tools to have even more success on the next project,” Ford said.

The Chester steering committee will receive training on community project management, the assistance of a community performance coach and access to $12,000 worth of technical assistance “in whatever form they want,” Spellman said.

The team met on Saturday for the first time and discussed, among other things, potential development projects, he said.

Although Chester City Councilman Mike Dotson did not attend Saturday’s meeting, he plans to be part of the HUBCAP initiative, just as he was part of the TS&T steering committee.

“It’s kind of a spinoff,” Dotson said. “We’re looking for projects such as (TS&T) … to keep our community ready for business and trying to get the economy going.”

The HUBCAP initiative will require a time commitment of up to 19 months, Ford said.

Other members of the steering committee are John Brown, executive director of the Brooke-Hancock Planning and Development Council; Catherine Ferrari, president and CEO of Hancock County Savings Bank; Hancock County Commissioner Jeff Davis; Chester City Clerk Sandra Parkins; Billy Greathouse of Century 21 Greathouse Realty; community volunteer Carol Farish; developer and BDC board member Bob Reed; and BDC Assistant Director Marvin Six.