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Jennifer Bostian, the executive director of the Upshur County Development Authority / File photo by Monica Zalaznik

Economic Development Authority focused on enhancing local broadband infrastructure, developing strategic plan

BUCKHANNON – Upshur County Development Authority officials are working on several broadband internet-related projects and developing a new strategic economic development plan.

Jennifer Bostian, executive director of the Upshur County Development Authority, spoke during the Nov. 2 Rotary Club of Buckhannon-Upshur’s virtual meeting to discuss current and future projects.

“I hope I can come back in nine to 12 months and give another update on all the projects we’re working on. As someone who’s new to the area and to the UCDA, I have been spending the first six months or so getting to know the assets of the region,” Bostian said. “I’m trying to initiate all these new relationships, and I have been meeting with many community and regional leaders to determine what was going well and what hasn’t gone so well, what’s successful and what needs to be improved.”

She thanked the previous UCDA director Rob Hinton for all of his hard work, and assistant director Melodie Stemple for her continued efforts at the UCDA.

“The Upshur County Development Authority has a number of ongoing projects, including various broadband projects, which is taking some considerable time,” Bostian said. “We have a lot of towers under construction and some waiting for final things to be in place, but the list goes on and on. We also have two new medical marijuana growing facilities in Buckhannon, and we’ve just completed the final work on the Innovation Center here on East Main Street for Klie Law.”

She has gotten involved with several groups including the Upshur County Farmland Protection Board, the West Virginia Hardwood Alliance Zone, the Corridor H Authority and the West Virginia Economic Development Council.

“The most important work I’ll be involved with over the next three to four months will be a new strategic plan for the Upshur County Development Authority,” Bostian said. “As the lead Economic Development Organization for Buckhannon and Upshur County, UCDA needs to have a very clear vision of what it needs to achieve and the goals and activities that will get us there.”

That involves clearly articulating what the UCDA’s vision is, and she has enlisted the assistance of strategic communications firm, Orion Strategies, founded and owned by Upshur County resident Curtis Wilkerson.

“We’ve engaged with Curtis Wilkerson with Orion Strategies to develop a new strategic plan starting this month, and we hope we can have it in place by February or March,” she added.

She also plans to start an Active Business Retention and Expansion Program to help small, local businesses.

“It’s far more advantageous for us, and efficient for us, to keep the businesses we have, than to go find new ones,” Bostian said.  “Most new jobs come from an ongoing, existing business, so it’s really important for us to take care of the businesses we have and I’m going to get started on that very soon.”

The UCDA has also started working with a new intern from West Virginia Wesleyan College to improve their website and social media presence.

“A big part of economic development is marketing and communication, and I’ve been working on updating the UCDA website and getting a more robust social media program going,” Bostian said. “We were lucky enough to get an intern from Wesleyan and she said we’ll be getting started very soon; she’s doing part of the project this semester and we’ll be continuing her work next semester as well.”

She also told the Rotarians to keep an eye out for a new quarterly newsletter development authority officials are developing.

“We will have information related to small business development, which, there is a real need for workforce development here like most places in the country, but I’ve been hearing a lot about workforce development in my conversations with people and other economic development-related news,” Bostian said. “That’s just a few highlights of what we’re working on right now and again, I thank you very much for the opportunity to speak and my door is almost always open.”

Bostian’s office is located on the second floor of the Innovation Center at the corner of Spring and Main streets.

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