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

Meet Jennifer Bostian, the new director of the Upshur County Development Authority

BUCKHANNON – The new executive director of the Upshur County Development Authority hopes to utilize the Innovation Center more and tackle the broadband issues that face the county.

Jennifer Bostian, the newly appointed executive director of the Upshur County Development Authority, started her new position Aug. 23. Bostian was hired after former UCDA executive director Rob Hinton resigned to accept another position, and the UCDA board conducted a nationwide search, selecting her among a handful of top candidates following an interview process.

As she settles into her new role, Bostian is ready to begin developing a new strategic plan; exploring how the Innovation Center might be used by a broader audience; and researching some of the roadblocks to broadband internet accessibility.

“The objective of the most priority to me, and I think the UCDA Board, is to develop a new strategic plan for the UCDA. That’s something that we should have: a one-to-five-year strategic plan that gets updated every one-to-two years,” Bostian said. “We’re in a good place with our existing projects to begin looking at new opportunities, so that’s what that’s all about – making sure our vision is still consistent with where it needs to be.”

She said Region 7 Planning & Development Council, headed by executive director Shane Whitehair, helped make the transition between the previous director, Rob Hinton, and the start of her tenure as smooth as possible. Region VII is one of 11 planning and development councils in the Mountain State that focuses on infrastructure development, broadband deployment, and extending and improving utilities in the region, among other initiatives.

“They provide so much of the project management and have been keeping things running very smoothly during this transition, so everything is running very well. There’s nobody beating our door down,” Bostian said. “We’re getting ready to wrap up the booster station at the Industrial Park. We have a few final things to do to get that property conveyed to the city, but in general, I would say everything’s operating really well and the project’s moving along.”

The UCDA plans to start building the previously discussed industrial access road on Brushy Fork within the next month.

“Potesta Engineering up in Morgantown, who does a lot of that work for us, is managing that project and they’ll be putting that out to bid here very quickly,” Bostian said. “We’re hoping that is complete by sometime in the end the fourth quarter or somewhere in the first quarter of next year, if all goes well.”

She hopes to get more people interested in utilizing the Innovation Center at the corner of Spring and Main streets, which houses the IDEA co-working space as well as UCDA offices and the Small Business Development Center.

“I do want to start marketing this a lot more because I think there are people out there who don’t know about it and could get some use out of it,” Bostian said. “It’s in a great location to be able to serve the rest of downtown. I really want to strengthen the relationship with the College and create something big between us. This is an ‘Innovation Center,’ and we can easily become an Entrepreneurial Center that could work with the college here. It can include both the technical aspect, and we have a Small Business Development Center here as well, so it might be a perfect storm to bring it all together.”

In addition, she hopes to evaluate the current broadband issues so Upshur County can keep up with ever-changing technologies.

“I think it’s always a short- and long-term goal to just continue growing the relationships that are here, continuing to embed myself in the state and becoming as involved as I can,” Bostian said. “I need to do a lot of work and bring myself up to speed on the most current way to attack these broadband issues. We’re having conversations with various internet providers, and it’s very, very active, but I think there’s changes going on too, because technology continues to evolve so quickly.”

Bostian started out working for an engineering construction firm called Lockwood Greene, which became CH2M Hill when she received her M.B.A. in project/technology management from the University of Phoenix.

“I got my master’s, and I looked around and realized I didn’t know what I was going to do with this, but I found my way into their business services and site selection group, which does economic development and site selection services for their companies – sort of a foot-in-the door service – so that’s how I got started,” Bostian said. “Later, one of the gentlemen there who was a Ph.D.-level economist, and I started a consulting company.”

That company performed consulting work for economic development organizations all over the U.S. with its main focus centering on strategic planning, she said.

“I did that for a number of years, and then I went to work for CSX, a class one railroad, which primarily serves the East Coast, and I did industrial development for the Northeast region, in about 10 states, and that was quite an experience,” Bostian said.

She then moved to Arizona, where she began her work as the economic development manager for the City of Maricopa before transitioning to the position of deputy director for the Community Services Department.

“It was being in the right place at the right time when you look at it,” Bostian said. “When you work for a city, you do what you need to do, and you are where they need you to be at the time. I’ve seen economic development from a lot of different angles from the consultants, from the site selectors, and from the practitioner, so I’m really excited to be here.”

Bostian made the move to West Virginia to be closer to family, and she wanted to get back into economic development.

“My family is here in West Virginia – my son, my granddaughter and of course, my daughter-in-law, and when I was with CSX, I was in Pennsylvania, so I wanted to get back closer,” Bostian said. “Also, I had been moved out of economic development in Arizona, and I really wanted to get back into economic development as well, so it was the sweet spot – family and doing exactly what I wanted to do.”

In fact, she’s been looking forward to getting out of larger metropolitan areas in favor of settling somewhere more rural.

“Phoenix is a six-million-person mega-region and Maricopa is a small city with about 60,000 people just in that city, so yes, this is a much smaller area than that,” Bostian said. “Upshur County and Buckhannon are definitely rural, small-town areas, but I’ve done work with those kinds of communities all my life, and this is where we want to settle.”

“We were looking for a community like this to make our home,” she added, “so I didn’t want to be in a big, big place anymore; even Morgantown would have been too big.”

To learn more about the UCDA and the services it provides, click here.

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