West Virginia Focus - September/October 2014

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September/October 2014

Well behaved women rarely make history. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

West Virginia’s most powerful women are breaking the status quo and proving that leadership has no gender.






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2014 ROI Report



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Focus September/October 2014


West Virginia Focus is published by New South Media, Inc. Subscription rates: $20 for one year. Frequency: 6 times a year. Copyright: New South Media, Inc. Reproduction in part or whole is strictly prohibited without the express written permission of the publisher. © New South Media, Inc. All rights reserved

Editor’s Letter “Being powerful is like being a lady, if you have to tell people you are, then you aren’t.” Margaret Thatcher


would wager that none of the women we feature in this issue would tell you she is powerful. They don’t toot their own horns. They are ladies, after all. That’s where we come in. We know West Virginia women rock, and we think it is important to acknowledge those who are truly making West Virginia a better state—from championing the arts to passionately protecting our environment to everything in between. In this issue, we showcase more than 50 remarkable women. I’m sure I’ll get tons of emails pointing out those who were not included so, for the record, this list is by no means comprehensive. These women rose to the top of our list by being repeatedly suggested. Hopefully by showcasing some of our leading ladies, we will encourage more women to step up, harness their passions, and lead our state to a brighter future. Two women who have been leading our state for years— Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito and Secretary of State Natalie Tennant—are running against each other to become our state's first female United States senator. This is no small feat. Only 31 women have ever been elected to the U.S. Senate. Currently 20 are serving. No matter who receives the most votes during the election, our state wins. Recently the Institute for Women’s Policy Research analysis of Census data found that West Virginia is the worst state in the nation when it comes to equal employment and earnings. Our women are paid 70 cents for every dollar paid to men. There is no doubt this needs to be addressed. When women don’t receive equal pay, it affects the entire well-being of the state. The loss in wages means not only do families suffer, but there’s also less money spent on goods and services. More than 35 percent of family households in West Virginia headed by women have incomes that fall below the poverty line. This is a tragic statistic. Something else we urgently need to change is the way we collect data on women-owned and minority-owned businesses. West Virginia does not know how many women-owned businesses exist because when someone applies for a business license, there is no way to indicate it. We need this data and I challenge the state government to do what is necessary to start capturing it. Women business owners are starting companies at a faster rate than ever. They are an important aspect of our state’s economy. Without this data, we can’t have an accurate snapshot of our economic drivers or provide the right types of resources to help them grow. While I’m on a tirade, I have another bone to pick. Women

make 85 percent of all purchasing decisions. We spend around $20 trillion a year on consumer goods. Chances are, whether you are an attorney or a car salesman, you need to market to women. Here’s some advice. Don’t make marketing decisions based on stereotypes. We are not a homogeneous group. We don’t make decisions using groupthink. We are empty nesters, working mothers, millennials, widows, and executives. One size does not fit all. Get to know us. Understand our needs. Trust me, we have a long checklist, and we’ll share it with you. And seriously, stop already with the pink.

nikki bowman Publisher & Editor Follow us on... facebook.com/westvirginiafocus twitter.com/WVfocus

She-conomy On average, West Virginia women who are employed full-time lose a combined total of more than $3 billion every year due to the wage gap.* If the wage gap were eliminated, on average, a working woman in West Virginia would have enough money for approximately: » 112 more weeks of food for her family (2.2 years’ worth);


More than 14 more months of mortgage and utilities payments;

» »

Nearly 22 more months of rent; or

3,786 additional gallons of gas.

*Statistics compiled by the National Partnership for Women & Families

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Dialogue Feedback

Featured Contributors

Well Done

David C. hardesty, Jr

Thanks for sending copies of your New South Media publications. I really like your newest—West Virginia Focus. Like the others, it is very well done.

David C. Hardesty, Jr., [“Making Meetings More Effective”] is professor of law and president emeritus at West Virginia University, where he teaches courses related to leadership, law practice management, and trends in the legal professions. He lives in Morgantown.

Allen Staggers, FirstEnergy, via email

Healthy Living

Nancy E. Trudel

The “Healthy Living” article by Katie Griffith (May/June 2014) was absolutely splendid in terms of summing up our situation here in West Virginia and elsewhere in the land of systemic salt, sugar, and avarice.

Nancy E. Trudel [“10 Ways to Protect Your Intellectual Property”] works as general counsel to the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation and, since 1996, has provided the group with legal support in corporate governance, government contracts, small business investment, and real estate development. For six years Nancy has also worked with student-attorneys in the WVU College of Law Entrepreneurship and Innovation Law Clinic. She is currently the clinic’s interim director.

Nathaniel Maccabees, via Facebook

Filling a Void

Tim Miley

I love, love, love the new West Virginia Focus magazine that you all have started! I think it is filling a greatly lacking need in terms of journalistic-inspired publications in West Virginia. I think it is wonderful that you all addressed the appalling Elk River water crisis (March/ April 2014). The whole thing is such a tragedy for our state and I was happy to learn that small business leaders are bonding together as a result of the chemical spill. Your team is doing some great work.

Tim Miley [“Are There Jobs in West Virginia?”] serves the 48th District in the West Virginia House of Delegates, and, in 2013, was elected as the Speaker of the House of Delegates. When he is not serving in his legislative capacity, he owns and manages The Miley Legal Group in Clarksburg, a small business that employs 10 people. He currently resides in Bridgeport with his wife, Susan, and stepdaughter, Jordin.

Morgan Grice Morgan Grice [“Women in Investment” and “Tech-Savvy Women”] is a writer relatively new to the Mountain State. She graduated from Harvard University in 2006, where she was editorial chair of The Harvard Crimson. She spent the next seven years in New York, working as a journalist and film critic at Bloomberg News and Popular Science. Morgan grew up in Houston, Texas, but now calls Morgantown home. When she’s not exploring West Virginia, she can be found working on her children’s novel.

Danielle Conaway, via email

Talk To Us! 4

Focus September/October 2014

Visit us on the web and let us know what’s on your mind.

wvfocus.com facebook.com/westvirginiafocus twitter.com/WVfocus


Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito “A Balancing Act: Reflections on Family and Public Service”

October 9, 2014 7:30 - 9:00 am

Join West Virginia Focus as we launch our Sept/Oct issue celebrating West Virginia’s leading ladies.

Four Points by Sheraton 600 Kanawha Boulevard East Charleston, WV

$10 per person To register, visit: wvfocus.com/product/networking-breakfast Or call: 304.413.0104 SPONSORED BY:

The West Virginia Focus networking breakfasts are an exciting opportunity to connect with the West Virginia business community and the state’s policy leaders. Each breakfast, held at Four Points by Sheraton in Charleston, will focus on a topic of discussion centered around the cover story of the upcoming issue of West Virginia Focus. Knowledgeable speakers will add an educational aspect to the networking event. This is the first breakfast in a series of three. Look for information in the November and January issues for upcoming breakfasts. We hope you can join us for all three.


This is not a political endorsement

Contents FOCUS ON 10





Founders Ann Green encourages dialogue between companies and the communities where they work.

The Women’s Investment Group talks big money. 10

Queen For a Day

The Huntington Museum of Art’s executive director wears the crown. 13

Power Lunch

Stardust Cafe is more than great food in Lewisburg. 16

Big Idea

LignaTerra is changing the way we build, using crosslaminated timber. 19


The West Virginia State Lottery Fund is giving back. 20


Catching up on all the talk about school calendars 24


Omni Strategic Technologies helps companies tackle tech. 26


The Community Leadership Academy brings panelists from across disciplines to identify and build on community assets.


Focus September/October 2014

The Women & Technology Conference aims to fill a void in the tech industry. 28

Who’s Stepping Up

Saira Blair is no average teenager—she’s a candidate for the House of Delegates. 34


Nellie Rose Davis creates beautiful scarves from shibori silk.



Take a closer look at genetically modified crops.

Focus [ September/October 2014 ]


Lessons Learned

American Mountain Theater doesn’t just entertain crowds—it offers a great meal and lodging, too. 68


Projects aimed at bringing in more tourists are gaining steam in Grafton and Matewan.

This Fairmont native and head of social media at ABC News uses Twitter to engage audiences.



Madame Senator


Shelley Moore Capito and Natalie Tennant remember the past while looking toward the future.

Speaker of the House Tim Miley talks jobs.



Wonder Women



Turn This Town Around

These West Virginia women inspire us all with their efforts and achievements in everything from education and community development to politics and civil rights.

David Hardesty offers tips for making meetings more effective in the workplace. Editor’s Letter


Dialogue 4 Power Points


Focus wvfocus.com




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Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

How We Did It

JR’s Donut Castle transforms over the years in Parkersburg.


pg. 22


Microsoft Update

It looks like you’re trying to update your software. Can I help?

Students and teachers across the state are waving a cheerful goodbye this fall to out-of-date and incompatible software. Every computer in every public school is getting current versions of the Windows operating system and of Microsoft Office products—that’s Word, Excel, and other standard applications—thanks to the state Department of Education’s new licensing agreement with Microsoft. A unified, comprehensive email system is also part of the package. “For the first time we’re going to have email addresses for all of our students and staff,” says Department of Education Chief Technology Officer Sterling Beane. “That gives them the ability to collaborate on documents, and teachers will be able to push assignments out to students electronically.” All of that is great, but there’s more. “We wanted to be able to extend that learning enviromnent from the school into the home,” Beane adds. “We talked with Microsoft about that, and now we’re able to offer every student and staff member the ability to download free copies of MS Professional on five devices.” For 300,000 students and staff, that amounts to as many as 1.5 million free copies for the state’s residents. Proficiency with Microsoft Office products is employers’ second most requested skill, he says, “so we hope we’re going to be able to produce studnets who are more prepared to enter the workforce.” This move is a big step on the way to that shift to tablets we always hear is just around the corner. “It’s one thing to purchase the tablets but another to purchase the software,” Beane says. “This is a way to ensure we have a platform that’s consistent, whether it’s on a school-provided or a home-provided device.”

Check out these great blogs. pg. 12


Retreats across the state are aimed at helping women improve their well-being. pg. 14 Philanthropy Winning the lottery takes on new meaning with this special initiative. pg. 19

Noteworthy Launch

PLANTS LLC and Wheeling Jesuit University team up on hydroponics. pg. 30


Awarding innovation at the third annual TransTech Energy Conference pg. 32

Focus wvfocus.com



Women in Investment These women mix, mingle, and make money in the stock market.

women. She reached out to two friends, Lauren Ritchie and United Bank co-worker Abby Monson, now president and treasurer of WIG, and the three set off to recruit WIG’s first members. They had no trouble drumming up interest, receiving responses from local women of every background, from WVU executives and professors to physicians, lawyers, and family businesses owners. When it comes to choosing investments, the founders encourage members to take a common sense approach to initial stock research. “We tell them to think about what companies they spend a lot of money on. They might not even know if the company’s public or not, but that’s when we do more in-depth research,” Blair says. By the end of each meeting, every attendee contributes $50 to the investment pool and the group votes on two stocks to buy. “We are long-term investors, so we’re usually buying, not selling and trading. But that’s always an option,” Abby says. So far WIG’s investment approach is working. The group is currently invested in 12 publicly traded companies, including Michael Kors, Johnson & Johnson, GE, and Apple. As of late August, the investments were up 10.6 percent, year-to-date. “WIG gives us a chance to come together and learn about finance, the stock market, and how to invest—all while having fun,” Blair says. “At the end of the day, it’s also a bit of a confidence booster. We’re dabbling in a male-dominated industry, but a lot of women are the ones who manage the finances of the family. It’s actually really empowering.” Abby Monson and Blair Trout are making friends and money.


n the first Tuesday of every month, a group of some 30 women from all walks of life meets at a Morgantown eatery or home to catch up and talk current events. But the monthly gathering isn’t some get-together for those fabled “ladies who lunch.” These ladies are part of the Women’s Investment Group (WIG) of Morgantown, and they meet with two goals: Make friends and make money. WIG began in October 2013 as the brainchild of Blair Trout, the group’s vice president and an executive banker at United Bank in Morgantown. A native Texan, Blair was new to the area and looking for a way to meet new women. She’d always been interested in investing, so she came up with the idea for WIG: a women-only group focused on finding sound stocks to invest in and providing a social outlet for professional


Focus September/October 2014

Queen for a DAY Margaret Mary Layne is executive director of the Huntington Museum of Art. The Marshall University alum has also worked with the Boards of Arts Advocacy of WV, Inc., CabellHuntington Convention and Visitors Bureau, Tri-State Area Boy Scouts, Prestera Center for Mental Health Services, and others. She says, “If I were queen, I’d wave my scepter and make sure: West Virginia has the best infrastructure in the world. Clean drinking water, good sewer systems, money to maintain our roads, and broadband over every inch of our state. The new Expeditionary Learning School in Cabell County is a nationally known success. This model of education incorporates art in every aspect of learning for our children. The arts and humanities provide a context for us to make good judgments about the immense amount of data available to us. Everyone values diversity. I love to cook and have learned how using recipes from different cultures can enhance your menus. Imagine if everyone took this beyond food to encompass customs, traditions, and spiritual beliefs. We could enrich our own cultures by inviting others into our lives.

courtesy of margaret mary layne

Written by Morgan Grice

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What’s in Store? Will the state’s extraction of natural gas double? Will unemployment fall? West Virginia University’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research unveils its 2015 prognostications on October 2, 2014, at its annual Statewide Economic Outlook Conference in Charleston. Federal Reserve Bank Regional Economist Andy Bauer and BBER Director John Deskins will forecast economic trends, and panelists representing the state’s key sectors will discuss implications. One thing we know lies ahead: regional conferences. ›› October 16, Wheeling ›› November 6, Eastern Panhandle ›› November 18, Morgantown ›› December 4, Beckley The registration deadline for the statewide conference is September 26, 2014. bber.wvu.edu


5 Blogs We’re Following Hollow: An Interactive Documentary Elaine McMillion, a West Virginia University graduate, has received national attention and even the Peabody Award for her interactive documentary Hollow about McDowell County. This blog will keep you posted on progress of McDowell County and the effects the documentary continues to have on the community. elainemcmillion.tumblr.com The Front Porch Blog, Appalachian Voices This environmental nonprofit organization is devoted to protecting and building a stronger economy for Appalachia as well as on developing a cleaner energy future. This blog is used to inform readers about using greener methods to help preserve the region. appvoices.org/frontporchblog West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy The West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy is a statewide nonprofit policy research organization that informs the public about fiscal issues. This blog discusses tax cuts, health care, funding cuts, and other issues important to the state. wvpolicy.org Harvard Business Review Harvard Business Review’s Blog Network shows people ways to improve management. This blog gives up-to-date projections and numbers on nationwide issues. blogs.hbr.org Small Business Blog, The New York Times The New York Times’ Small Business Blog gives insight to small business owners on how to improve their businesses. boss.blogs.nytimes.com


Focus September/October 2014

Natural gas cracker plant executive promises humanitarian, environmentally responsible jobs at August’s West Virginia Chamber of Commerce summit: “We cannot think of labor as a commodity, we cannot think of labor as people that we’re going to use up and spit out.” #ResponsibleIndustry

West Virginia polling firm shows candidates for the next election are disconnected from the issues their constituents find most important. Unemployment, jobs, health care, and the federal budget ranked higher among priorities than coal, though the fossil fuel is at the center of many political ads. #OutOfTouchRepsWon’tDoMuchGood

A 1950s camp built for children of Union Carbide workers on an island in the New River has been restored for public use by the National Park Service. It opens this fall. #RestoringSummerFun

A former Huntington sheriff and mayor has admitted to campaigning with taxpayer money by stamping his mayoral campaign logo on the bills of taxpayers and to accepting gifts of Cincinnati Reds tickets as sheriff. He’s agreed to a state Ethics Commission fine of $1,500. #KeepOurOfficesCleanPlease

The West Virginia Collegiate Business Plan Competition continues to grow, this year including all nine of West Virginia’s degreegranting community and technical colleges in addition to the state’s 19 four-year colleges. #CompetitionServesInnovation

The T-Center, the state’s first stand-alone drug and alcohol treatment center, makes progress in the Kanawha County community, planning educational meetings to address concerns. #AddictionHelpIsComing

the power lunch

Honoring Tradition

Lunchtime Libation

Clingman’s Market was a favorite Lewisburg lunch spot for years, until the passing of the cook and owner, Gwen Clingman. When Stardust transformed the old grocery store and lunch counter space, the owners kept the Clingman’s logo on the window as a tribute to the beloved community gathering spot.

From microbrews to fine wines, Stardust has an endless array of beverages. Knowledgeable employees are helpful in finding the perfect pairing for your meal.

A New Project Huffman and her husband recently purchased The General Lewis Inn. “We plan to keep the theme exactly the same: southern hospitality and a beautiful, upscale environment,” she says. The Inn’s restaurant menu will get an update, change seasonally, and focus on classic southern fare.

Crazy Good With pastries from The Crazy Baker and breads from Jeff’s Breads, Stardust is taking advantage of local talent for some truly tasty baked goods. The sticky toffee pudding is a local favorite.

Three Popular choices

The Tried and True $7.95

The Trust Me Salad $9.95

Best BLT Ever $7.95

Ten years ago, Sparrow Huffman and her mother Elizabeth Destiny opened what they thought would be a small coffee shop in downtown Lewisburg. Their customers had other plans. Stardust Cafe quickly became a full-service restaurant and has been serving high quality meals with a sustainable attitude ever since. “We were the first farmto-table restaurant in the region,” Huffman says. “We are very firmly committed to buying locally.” In addition to keeping money in the community, Huffman says, buying locally prevents the pollution that happens when food is transported across great distances. The space Stardust occupies has a long history of serving up great food. It used to be home to Clingman’s Market, which served home-cooked meals as boxed lunches for many years. “We’re lucky to have that feeling—that heritage of food people love,” Huffman says. With the number of delectable and innovative dishes on the menu at Stardust, it comes as a surprise that the restaurant has no stovetop, but only two cast-iron panini presses on which to cook. Because the cafe was originally planned with a focus on coffee, they’ve had to get creative with menu items. “It makes us fun and unique.” 102 E Washington Street, Lewisburg, WV 24901, 304.647.3663, stardustcafewv.com written and photographed by Elizabeth Roth


Empowering Wellness Retreats across the state help women recognize and change unhealthy behaviors.


fter a long day of work, a mother of three turns her car into the after-work farmers’ market down the street. A month ago she didn’t know about the farmers’ market located so close to her job. Instead of trying a quick home-cooked meal, she would have turned into the drive-thru of a fast-food chain to order cheeseburgers and fries for the whole family. Her doctor warned about a family history of diabetes, while her idea of a healthy meal ended in dessert made from Cool Whip. “We want to change that thinking of what it means to be healthy,” says Betty Critch, director of West Virginia University's National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health. “Yeah, you can have a hamburger, but why don’t you think about using local meat?” As West Virginia grapples with poor health statistics—poverty, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes—the WVU Center of Excellence in Women’s Health is exploring ways to help women improve their behaviors to create healthier lifestyles. The center was established in 2004, one of 20 holistic centers of excellence in the United States encompassing female physical, spiritual, and mental well-being. Its major outreach program is the Women On Wellness retreat— daylong events around the state where women can talk about their struggles with all aspects of health and try out healthy alternatives. “We bring women together in a safe, nonjudgmental environment so they’re more comfortable talking about this stuff. They want to learn—they are learning;


Focus September/October 2014

they’re trying, but they’re challenged,” Critch says. “People today still think margarine is a healthy substitute for butter.” Retreat day starts with health screenings. “You need to know where you are to know where you’re going,” Critch says. From there participants are offered a schedule of interactive educational sessions including physical activity, healthy eating, mental health, or financial health. During the physical activity portion, participants can choose three 30-minute activities ranging from a yoga workshop to a Zumba class. The workshops are designed for women of all physical fitness levels and are led by local providers. “You leave this program with your own personal lifestyle plan,” Critch says. The WOW retreats connect the people with the resources—introducing them to nearby programs and activities like Silver Sneakers, Zumba, and meditation as well as giving them instruction on physical activity they can do anywhere, like playing the Dance Dance Revolution video game or bowling on Wii. Women leave the retreats with WOW guidebooks, journals to support their lifestyle changes, and connections to resources in their communities that can help them through those changes. Most attendees pay nominal fees, though Critch says her community partners spend time organizating, fundraising, and reaching out to women who wouldn’t attend because of the costs. Many are invited to attend the retreat, which costs about $30,000 to put on, for free. “The key is we don’t serve one socioeconomic group,”

“About 95 percent Critch says. “We find of the women going that when you get a through this program bunch of women in a are motivated to room and you take away change,” says Betty Critch. their last names and titles and they’re in comfortable clothes, the issues are all the same.” The first WOW retreat took place on Heston Farm in Fairmont in 2006. Today the center has hosted a total of 20 events, reaching hundreds of participants across 34 counties. Before bringing the retreat to a town, Critch and her team find a community partner to help organize and promote the event as well as identify what issues need to be addressed in that community. WOW retreats have been offered three times in Greenbrier County, in Lewisburg, but this year the Greenbrier WOW community partners decided to hold the event in a more remote part of the county. Health and wellness in rural areas often become low priorities for people living in rural areas, and health experts say more and more people are replacing home cooking, gardening, and canning with frozen dinners and processed foods. It’s in those areas that the community feels it needs the most support. “And that’s what the partnership should do,” Critch says. “Who knows better what a community needs than that community?”

Women On Wellness retreats for 2014 will take place on October 25, 2014, at Heston Farm in Fairmont and on November 8, 2014, in Rainelle. wowicandoit.com

courtesy of wvu’s national center of excellence in women’s health

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Big Idea


Builders are thinking big with cross-laminated timber projects in West Virginia. Written by Laura Wilcox Rote


Photographed by Carla Witt Ford

est Virginia may be at the bottom of a lot of lists, but there’s at least one list the Mountain State is coming out on top of. It’s got builders, architects, and even your average Joe talking— West Virginia is now home to the first school in the United States built of cross-laminated timber (CLT). The idea of building large commercial structures mainly of wood is mostly unheard of in the U.S., according to


Focus September/October 2014

Nick Holgorsen, one of the founding partners of LignaTerra, the North Carolina company responsible for the breakthrough project. Large wood panels for the nearly 44,000-squarefoot Franklin Elementary School were made by European manufacturers in less than two weeks and shipped to the site in 40-foot containers so a crew of six people could get to work. Using a single crane, the crew had the walls, flooring, and roofing done in 52 days. “It’s stateof-the-art. It’s beautiful,” says Pendleton

Franklin Elementary County Schools School was built Superintendent Doug in 2014 using Lambert. And it was cross-laminated timber and is the up much quicker than latest LignaTerra a regular brick-andproject in the state. City Construction mortar building. Holgorsen describes Company out of Harrison County the CLT method as worked with its sister company, Stuart placing dimensional McMunn Company, timber in the same as well as West direction, coming Virginia architect Pam Wean on the school. across it with an adhesive, then coming back across with more timber at a 90-degree angle, repeating the process layer after layer. The product is sent to a big machine press to cure, and another machine cuts out parts as needed, leaving room for windows and doors. “There is zero tolerance in the wood elements. When you ship to the site and you piece it together, it’s exact,” Holgorsen says. Building the school was highly educational, says Bud Henderson, CEO of family-owned City Construction Company, the Harrison County general

More on this house at morgantownmag.com

Benefits of CLT Fire safety. CLT is considered heavy timber, or mass timber, more comparable to concrete than stick-framed structures. “The biggest misconception we face is that it burns,” Nick Holgorsen says. “Heavy timber products such as CLT actually outperform steel buildings in terms of fire resistance. The natural charring effect of wood protects the structural integrity of the building, suffocating the fire before failure can happen. Steel will collapse much quicker.” Timber is a natural, renewable material. “When it’s harvested responsibly you’ve got a resource that continues to grow and replenish. With concrete or steel, where you extract and use raw materials, you only get to use them one time. These materials are still needed in the industry, but combined with using CLT, we believe we can extend the availability of nonrenewable resources for a much greater time period,” Holgorsen says.

contractor on the Franklin project. “We didn’t really know what to expect, but everyone was pleasantly surprised “My goal at the beginwith the beauty of ning was to show off as much of the wood as the product.” we could when we were Henderson, done,” Bud Henderson who’s been a builder says. “The gym is absolutely gorgeous.” for nearly 50 years, was introduced to CLT when he witnessed the building of Nick Holgorsen’s brother and WVU Head Football Coach Dana Holgorsen’s house in Morgantown. “I was there when they started setting the panels and I said, ‘Wow, this is a really exciting process.” School authorities could have demanded the Pendleton County school be built conventionally, but choosing CLT got them a school much more quickly. Students are expected to be in the new building for the spring semester. He says a conventional build would have taken seven more months “It’s basically like Legos. If you can follow directions, you can put one of these together,” says Nick Holgorsen, of CLT projects like Dana Holgorsen’s house and guest suite, seen above.

to complete at least, but the team saved time using the design-build method, rather than design-bid-build, which involves more parties and more back-and-forth. He says it also helped to put Franklin on the map. “They were willing to believe in us that this would be a good product,” Henderson says, adding that, now, people all over the country are looking to Pendleton County as an example. While rare, projects like the Franklin school could become more common in the U.S., Holgorsen says. LignaTerra currently works with factories in Europe, but the company hopes to have factories in the U.S.—even in West Virginia—soon. “That’s our next 12- to 18-month plan. There are plenty of resources in this country—all kinds of woods, all kinds of skilled labor, and the technology is available,” he says. Henderson also hopes to see a factory in the state sooner rather than later. “It would be a shame if we didn’t take advantage of this,” he says. “It could be a boon to our employment, our industry, and our economy. We could be first in the

Timber and carbon. The wood takes carbon out of the atmosphere and stores it over the first half of its productive life. The ideal time to cut it down is around 20 years. At that point it stops bringing in more carbon than it exudes. CLT structures are energy-efficient. Take, for example, Dana Holgorsen’s 8,000-square-foot house. Its operating costs and utility costs are on par with a conventionally built structure of around 2,500 square feet. It’s cost-saving. The lighter weight of wood compared to concrete and steel can reduce the subsurface foundation work, which saves money.

U.S. for once. I get tired of being last.” LignaTerra typically uses low-valued softwood and relies on the added technology—the adhesion, pressing, and cross-directional layers—to create strength. “If you start considering something that’s a higher-valued hardwood, your cost of that material as a raw resource will consequently add cost to the end product, making it less affordable and possibly not even competitive,” Focus wvfocus.com


Cross-laminated timber is an engineered wood panel typically consisting of three, five, or seven layers of dimensional lumber, glued to form structural panels with exceptional strength, stability, and rigidity.

Holgorsen says. West Virginia forests are mainly hardwoods, but one species that may work for CLT is the tulipwood/poplar, with characteristics of both hardwoods and softwoods. “The challenge we’re up against in West Virginia, regardless of material cost, is we have yet to be able to find a source that could supply us with enough of the tulipwood material. A factory with high demand will run through upwards of 25 million board feet annually, and a few of the places we’ve talked to maybe can supply 5 million board feet—maybe.” Still, West Virginia is ideal for manufacturing, even if it’s a small plant, Holgorsen says, given its proximity to major markets. While the company continues to spread the word about CLT’s possibilities locally, LignaTerra keeps working on other projects, like resorts in the Caribbean and a high-rise in North Carolina. In 2013 LignaTerra completed the one-of-a-kind 8,000-square-foot house for Coach Holgorsen. A guesthouse behind it served as a resort villa prototype—and the structure was assembled on-site in one day. “On an island you have to ship most everything there anyway. If you can do much of the work in a controlled setting in a factory, then ship it down where it quickly pieces together, it produces these things in 50 to 75 percent of the time,” Holgorsen says. All of the planning is already done at the factory, and the production is fast. “It’s a matter of plugging it into the computers and allowing the machines to go to work. Henderson accompanied Holgorsen to Europe to see the factories and understand the process firsthand. “It’s all new to the United States. It’s not even in the code, but it’s coming,” he says. “People always think the U.S. is on the cutting edge, but we’re not. Right now plants in Austria are running 24-7.” Holgorsen expects CLT to become mainstream in the U.S. eventually, especially as it will be included in the 2015 International Building Code. “The question becomes, ‘Where do you get it?’ We hope LignaTerra can become that supply.” And he has high hopes for the region, too. “Utilizing the local resource and employing hard-working people in rural areas is a win-win. As more projects come about and the demand is solidified, West Virginia will become a great spot.”


Focus September/October 2014


Random Acts Written by Mikenna Pierotti


hat would you do with $25,000? Buy a house? Go on a tropical vacation? Or would you do something for someone else? That’s the question the West Virginia Lottery set out to answer when it kicked off its Random Acts of Lottery advertising campaign this year. The campaign has since snowballed, through social media and word of mouth, into something of a phenomenon, with people from inside and outside the state chiming in with their own ideas on Twitter, Facebook, and the campaign website. “We had a mother who said she’d give it to her daughter, who is herself a single mother, to pay off college loans. We had an individual say he’d purchase a wheelchair ramp for a neighbor,” says Nikki Orcutt, director of marketing at the lottery. “That’s what we wanted, for the stories to grow organically.” The premise is simple. Players can purchase any draw game lottery ticket from the West Virginia Lottery—Powerball, Mega Millions, Hot Lotto, Cash 25, Travel Keno, Daily 3, or Daily 4— go online, enter the serial number from their ticket, and submit their own ideas for random acts of kindness. Entries for the contest must be submitted by December 28, 2014, online at randomactsoflottery.com. Winners receive $10,000 for themselves and $25,000 to give to their chosen recipient. Although considered an advertising campaign, the public has rallied around the initiative, and a few of the more popular ideas generated on social media have inspired the lottery’s own acts of kindness, including buying food for a Greenbrier County animal shelter and stocking the shelves at Mountain Mission, a faithbased charitable organization with a food pantry in Charleston. “The idea was to capture average people on a grassroots level and give them the opportunity to tell their stories,” Orcutt says. “We also want to change the scope of how people view the lottery and the possibilities of what they could do with their prize wins. If they won a prize, what good could they do it with it? It’s rooted in the whole ‘pay it forward’ spirit.”

Focus wvfocus.com


Time Re-Imagined Education

What happened to all the talk about year-round school? written by Pam Kasey

“What is

instructional time? It’s not necessarily just the time students are sitting in their seats.” Donna Peduto, West virginia board of education


t’s not easy, overcoming agrarian roots. But this school year, 201415, marks a step along the way. It’s the first year every county school district in the state is required to not only schedule but actually achieve 180 days of instruction—even if making up snow days means continuing well into June.


Focus September/October 2014

If you’ve paid only minimal attention to this issue you know that, although school calendars have long been set at 180 days, most districts fall short in most years—that was one of the fundamental findings of the January 2012 “Education Efficiency Audit” of the state’s public school system. State code forced districts

to squeeze the whole 180 days, plus another 20 non-instructional days for professional development and other needs, into a 43-week window, according to state code, and weather has usually made that impossible. But if we want to raise achievement, enforcing a benchmarked minimum on instructional time is one obvious place to start. Most states require 180 days, and 11 require more, we learned in the audit. European countries mandate at least 190, and Japanese students receive 240 days of instruction. Lawmakers responded to the audit in 2013 with the gift of new flexibility in school calendars, expanding the window to 48 weeks—along with a mandate to achieve, one way or another, 180 days, starting this school year. An intriguingly named Re-imagining Instructional Time Committee was tasked with helping out. “School districts had to change up their calendars, and they had to have two public meetings,” says Donna Peduto, director of operations for the West Virginia Board of Education. “This committee provided guidance and technical assistance to help them understand their options.”

With the 2014-15 year under way, here’s how calendars shook out. Almost half the state’s districts front-loaded their calendars, with 24 starting in the first half of August this year, four of those in the first full week of August—a month ahead of the afterLabor Day start many of us remember from our own childhoods. School in West Virginia started this year anywhere from August 5 to August 25. A smaller number of districts opted to back-load their calendars, with six extending instruction into the second week of June.

In 2011-2012 About 3,700, or 4 percent, of U.S. public schools operated on a year-round schedule.

Time Tweaks

But just because true 180-day calendars are now in place, don’t think instructional time has been fully re-imagined. The committee’s work has just moved to a new phase, with lots more ideas to explore. “The thought was, this committee would look outside the box,” Peduto says. “What is instructional time? It’s not necessarily just the time students are sitting in their seats.” The committee considered whether the Internet could make instructional time possible on snow days, for example. Or, if state code were revised to recognize instructional hours rather than instructional days, Internet learning might be used to extend the school day to help students who need to catch up or who want to push ahead of classroom study. The committee is also looking at incorporating professional development into instructional time—an overlap that, by combining two activities that currently take place at different times, could shorten the school calendar. “Some people call it ‘job-embedded professional development,’” Peduto says. “It requires a creative use of time, but a lot of countries like Finland that have high student achievement have built professional development into the school day.” In line with a recent emphasis on increased district-level autonomy, this could include more local control over the budgets allotted to professional development, she says, as well as over content, “rather than 500 teachers coming to Charleston and learning the same thing.” And a primary theme of the Re-imagining Time Committee’s future work is to showcase best practices with regard to the use of time. One school might work out a schedule on which everyone does planning on the same day each week, Peduto says, and other schools might like to know how that was done. “We met with a legislative subcommittee last year that said there are great things going on that nobody knows about,” she says. “There are a lot of pockets of innovation.”

The Bugaboo

No one can imagine re-imagining instructional time without considering the perennial object of angst and avoidance: year-round school. Also known less inflammatorily as the balanced calendar, it’s very much on the Re-Imagining Time Committee’s radar. The flip side of the short school year—a long summer break— has been found to result in academic backsliding. It especially hurts students from low-income backgrounds, where the family environment often provides less enrichment. Peduto eagerly

189 180 0


The average number of instructional days for year-round schools was 189 days, almost two weeks longer than the 180 days most states require. Source: “Year-Round Schools: In Brief,” a June 2014 report from the Congressional Research Service.

shares a YouTube video of a 2011 NBC spot showing cumulative summer losses that put low-income students years behind middle-income students by the end of elementary school. A state Department of Education web page promotes a balanced calendar that addresses this by redistributing the long summer break into shorter, more frequent breaks throughout the year— for example, four cycles of nine weeks on, three weeks off, with a slightly longer summer break. Opponents of the balanced calendar don’t only lament the loss of the true summer off. Other arguments include insufficient air conditioning at some schools and the sports and other extramural scheduling conflicts that would result with schools that don’t change to balanced calendars. Proponents point to minimizing summer learning loss and better consistency in nutrition for lowest-income children, as well as to the opportunities intersessions pose for lagging students to catch up and for camps and other learning enhancements. Just two schools in the state so far, both of them elementary schools in Kanawha County, operate with balanced calendars. “People at those schools like the consistency of the instruction,” Peduto says. While the state Board of Education is so far emphasizing local decision-making about calendars, it’s likely that it will also continue to publicize the advantages of yearround school. “Nationwide, I don’t know if I’d call the balanced calendar a trend,” Peduto says. “But there’s more and more research saying it’s really a good thing.” Focus wvfocus.com


“Yyourself ou have to dedicate to it—to any

mom-and-pop shop. You have to marry the business.” JR Parsons, owner

How We Did It

JR’s Donut Kingdom Come Success is sweet after more than 30 years of business at JR’s Donut Castle in Parkersburg. Written by Katie Griffith


Photographed by Nikki Bowman

e was a 22-year-old 10th grade dropout when JR Parsons took up the night shift at the Donut Castle in Parkersburg. The job was a supplement to his daytime work as a beer truck driver. It was early in the 1970s, and the Mid-Ohio Valley town was bustling with industry. Workers from DuPont and General


Focus September/October 2014

Electric crowded the local restaurants and diners between shifts. “Back when the plants were really doing good it was the working people—the guys—who would come in here,” Parsons says. “They’re the ones who really set us on fire. We were blue collar workers. Our perspective and theirs was the same.” Parsons isn’t just a shift worker at the shop anymore. He purchased

the Donut Castle, now JR’s Donut Castle, in 1977 and has been heading the bakery ever since. “I never thought for a minute that I would be a baker. I just thought I’d be a beer truck driver all my life,” he says. “I liked driving, too, but I liked baking better.” Inside the castle gray-haired gentlemen sit chatting over coffee, doughnuts, and local politics. Behind the bar, an employee shuts the cash register with the pop of a hip, while passing a bag of pepperoni rolls to customers at the drive-thru window. The wafting scent of fresh treats pervades the room from the ovens in the back. Back in 1969 the Donut Castle opened selling doughnuts and only doughnuts. When Parsons purchased the business for a grand sum of $5,000, he began expanding, adding brownies, pepperoni rolls, cakes, and muffins, finally becoming a full-service bakery. As he added menu items he added rooms to the castle, creating a maze of baking space. “Now we have 2,000 square feet of space and we do everything,” he says. “We can’t stop. You’ve got to keep going or you’ll go stale.” While the building is a bit haphazard, the business has grown out of a careful and committed work ethic. From his days as a new business owner pulling in $3,600 per month, Parsons has expanded the business to nearly $100,000 per month in revenue. “You have to dedicate yourself to it—to any mom-and-pop shop. You have to marry the business,” he says. A doughnut each morning doesn’t hurt either. When Parsons and his wife bought the business, it was just the two of them running the operation. “I made the doughnuts, my wife iced them, and I delivered them.” Day after day, the two

another challenge has regularly plagued the business. Over the years Parsons’ ingredient costs have risen, doubling at times. The family says they try to take the brunt of that, raising product prices slowly. Despite the revenue margin crunch, the product has stayed the same. “JR won’t go cheap,” Aaron says. “He keeps it the same doughnuts that people love.” Today multiple national chains specializing in breakfast foods call the Parkersburg area home, but the local residents still send visitors to JR’s Donut Castle first. Should the doors ever close, the town’s doughnut-loving patrons might riot. Employees at the store have been on staff for decades. The family is so dedicated to the business that one member even has a doughnut tattoo. “I never could get away from the business, and I don’t want to now,” Parsons says. He just turned 64. “I’ll stay here with Aaron until the day I die.”

Tips from the Parsons spent nearly every waking hour at the shop. When the kids were old enough, they started working, OPPOSITE JR’s glazed doughnuts too. As the years and maple cream passed, staff and doughnuts are his best sellers. wholesale business began to grow. “Today we have three trucks driving 50 miles into Ohio and 80 miles through West Virginia,” Parsons says. The trucks are hard to miss. They’re emblazoned with the business logo. In Parkersburg JR’s has nearly all hospitals, industry plants, hotels, and even 7-Eleven listed for delivery, and the business ships internationally. The shop is cranking out thousands of doughnuts and pepperoni rolls per day, according to Parsons’ son and co-owner, Aaron. Doughnuts still “Every year it seems like we’re growing,” Aaron says. “Our wholesale is out of this world now, and continuing that is the only goal I have.”

make up about 75 percent of business, Parsons says, but there’s such a high demand for the pepperoni rolls that the company has a buy back guarantee with its wholesalers should the rolls not sell. “It’s been pretty slick for us,” Parsons says, but it hasn’t always been that way. A few years into owning the store, a national franchise moved to town and offered all of Parsons’ wholesale customers 30 days of doughnuts for free. “Sure they all took them, but after the 30 days were up they all came back,” Parsons says. Then, in the 1990s, the industry plants that made up a bulk of Parsons’ doughnut sales closed. “We lost right around 50 dozen doughnuts per night. It was about a 15 to 20 percent loss in one year,” Parsons says. That year he started selling his doughnuts and pepperoni rolls farther out into West Virginia. As competition moved in and the customer base was forced to expand,

Raise prices slowly. “It’s a lot easier for customers to get used to it. You have to keep prices to where people can afford them.” – JR Parsons Have backup for critical functions. “At one point we didn’t realize we only had one doughnut maker. When he left I had to step in for about a year until we could train someone else.” – Aaron Parsons Get social. “We’re on Twitter and Facebook. I can’t believe Facebook is a free service. If I post a picture of fresh cinnamon rolls, we sell out of them in hours. People just run in here.” – Aaron Parsons Advertise. “Facebook doesn’t work if you don’t have a good following— if people don’t know who you are.” – Aaron Parsons

Focus wvfocus.com



West Virginia businesses face unique technology challenges in the new economy, and Omni Strategic Technologies is stepping up to meet them. Written by Mikenna Pierotti


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s if running a business wasn’t hard enough. A 2013 National Small Business Association survey found 40 percent of small business owners are not only juggling the day-to-day of their operations but have also taken on sole responsibility for their own tech support—a number that has nearly doubled since 2010, when the global recession tightened belts across the nation. Add to that rural West Virginia’s lack of both broadband access and Internet service providers—according to a 2011 study by the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy, the state ranked 48th and 45th in the nation, respectively—and you have a significant divide to cross.



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This technology lag affects businesses large and small and, as John Reasbeck, recently brought on as the new president of Wheeling-based IT company Omni Strategic Technologies, says, this often makes efficient adoption of new technology difficult. “With West Virginia companies, we see three main challenges,” he says. “The cost to get into and take full advantage of information technology services and the capabilities that are out there, a reliance on older technology and a hesitancy about which path to follow with newer technologies, and a lack of access to or communication about what’s available—especially among small businesses in rural areas.”

The problem isn’t lack of effort, Reasbeck says. “One thing you often see in smaller companies is that they will buy or invest in technology, but they don’t get the max return on it. They buy a piece of software but only use 25 to 50 percent of its capabilities. They never receive a 100 percent return on their investment, and in a lot of cases that’s because of a lack of training.” So while state and local governments make inroads into broadband and wireless Internet, business technology solution providers like Omni are working to fill the knowledge gap. Omni is the result of a multi-year series of combinations between three IT solution and development companies— HGO Technology Inc. in Wheeling; ContactPointe out of Pittsburgh and Charleston; and Terradon Communications Group (TCG), a Charleston-based company. In June 2014 the firms—now integrated in delivering end-to-end services to clients, representing a more robust and strategic set of capabilities—completed the process to become one company. Omni takes a holistic approach, bringing business expertise and cuttingedge technology to advising and training services. “We brought these companies together in order to provide first-class service in all these areas,” Reasbeck says. “The idea isn’t that you call us up and tell us you want to install a server or software. We want to encourage you to use us as less of vendor and more of a strategic partner.” In the fight to help businesses keep up with a high-tech landscape that grows exponentially every year, Reasbeck says training and advising is key. Even the most ubiquitous software programs— like Microsoft Word and Excel—aren’t always used efficiently. “That’s why we

West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey, West Virginia Broadband Mapping Program

Bridging the Gap

A 2011 study by the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy ranks West Virginia 48th in broadband access and 45th in number of Internet providers in the U.S.

do everything from training on basic products like the Microsoft Office suite all the way up to client-specific software for engineering or workflow needs.” Another important factor is ease of access to experts like those at Omni. Businesses’ tight budgets often won’t allow the cost of sending employees to workshops or classes. “In most cases we are traveling to the customer, which cuts down on their travel time and expenses. We also like to train people on their own equipment. It’s much better if, as the customer, you can be there and get hands-on instruction.” Omni’s advising services are similarly customized. “We have extensive business background, so we can sit down with you and look at your organization as a whole and help you decide what tech you want to implement and how we can help you increase profitability and efficiency. It’s a business model we have not seen in West Virginia in regards to IT. In short, we don’t just want you to incorporate the technology. We want you to improve your business through the use of technology.” Omni’s reach extends into West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The company works with organizations as large as as state government and as small as mom-and-pop stores. “Small businesses in particular are often overlooked by IT consultants because of their limited resources. We’re hoping to change that,” Reasbeck says. The Wheeling native believes organizations that are active in their communities and willing to interface with customers one-on-one are the future. “One of the great challenges and benefits of working in these communities is you tend to know the people you’re dealing with well. There’s an almost personal desire to help them. And of course they can find you when you go to dinner or when you’re at the soccer field with your kids. These aren’t just clients, they’re our neighbors. So we are providing a service, but I hope we are also helping them build a better business.”

What Does it Feel Like to Perform at Your Best?

Omni Strategic Technologies helps organizations perform at their highest levels through effective, integrated IT services. Omni Strategic Technologies is a business technology solution provider that empowers organizations in West Virginia to perform at their highest levels. We do this by enhancing your organization’s capabilities and competitive advantages through effective, integrated IT services.

• Strategic Advisory Services • Infrastructure Technology Services • Managed Services • Cloud Services • Web Design and Development • Professional Training and Development

Ask Us for a Business IT Performance Analysis (800) 300-5543 or email: sales@omniperforms.com WHEELING • CHARLESTON • PITTSBURGH


omniperforms.com Focus wvfocus.com


A Common Goal More than 100 civic leaders will come together in Morgantown to revitalize the state’s economy. Written by Morgan Grice


acing a shrinking population, an aging workforce, and a dwindling tax base, West Virginia leaders are up against daunting challenges. But some of the state’s most revered leaders say the key to solving many complex issues is simple: community collaboration. The second annual Community Leadership Academy (CLA), a regional conference developed by West Virginia University Extension Service, kicks off its three-day affair aimed at cultivating collaboration in Morgantown on October 1, 2014, at Lakeview Resort and Conference Center, bringing together more than 100 leaders, from local officials to business owners and civic-minded professionals. The event features more than 50 speakers from across the state, with sessions focusing on everything from networking to tourism to substance abuse. Identifying and building on community assets is a main focus, says Kelly Nix, a WVU Development Specialist and the director of CLA. “This event will enable leaders and their communities to take advantage of development opportunities,” she says. Past CLA attendee Norm Schwertfeger, a WVU Extension agent for the Northern


Focus September/October 2014

Panhandle, says it was one of CLA’s social events that spurred a triumph in his hometown of Wellsburg. Attendees at the event are invited to take part in a culinary tour in Morgantown’s Wharf District. Having seen the tour, Schwertfeger reached put together a similar event in Wellsburg. His goal of 10 to 20 participants was surpassed by 40 attendees, with more on a waiting list. “We had people traveling to this culinary tour all the way from northern Hancock County on down. I wanted people from outside the area to see our restaurants and bring their friends back. We gave them a tremendous evening out. And we gave restaurants visibility they otherwise may not have had,” he says. Leaders in other small towns have reached out about doing similar tours. This year each CLA panel will provide specific examples of past, present, and potential success stories and case studies where communities across the state have come together for common goals, often prevailing over political or geographical boundaries. There’s no better case study than Morgantown—one of the few West Virginia areas projected to grow in population in the coming decades. The city’s growth will be the focus of a panel

moderated by Ron Justice, current WVU community relations specialist and former mayor of Morgantown. The city made national headlines when Justice was mayor, leading the U.S. with low unemployment rates. He credits much of that to a collaborative environment. “We were able to diversify the economy by providing a lot of jobs in a lot of sectors. The stars aligned such that the economy was so diverse that the recession didn’t hit so hard.” Considering current and future projects in Morgantown, Justice points to ongoing efforts to secure funding for a community recreation center, as well as asphalt costsharing programs, which have allowed Morgantown and neighboring communities to lower costs and pave more roads. “These are examples where the goals are too big for one community. By sharing ideas between cities and among leaders, you quickly realize there’s such greater success in the power of numbers,” he says. But what may work in Morgantown’s metro, college-town economy may not work in smaller, rural communities. Justice says the panel will focus on the strategy behind building partnerships between organizations. “With the revitalization of any community, you have to have a starting point. And sessions such as this provide that starting point. It’ll give community leaders a great brainstorming session for strategies to take back to their own communities,” he says. Terri Cutright, executive director of Main Street Morgantown, says collaboration is a must as a small state. “We need to celebrate each other’s successes and play off them. We have the challenges of a shrinking population, a shrinking tax base—these collaborative workshops and exercises are probably more important to us than to any other part of the country,” she says. Early bird registration is $225 by September 22, 2014. Speakers include WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck, Douglas Smith, executive director of the Sulzberger Fellowship and blogger for the Harvard Business Review, and James Hunt, former Clarksburg mayor and president of the National League of Cities. cla-wv.org

community leadership academy


2014 WOMEN & TECHNOLOGY CONFERENCE Hosted by TechConnect West Virginia


Tech-Savvy Women

This October dozens of women will flock to Wheeling for a ladies-only tech conference.

October 16 & 17, Wheeling, WV Register now at techconnectwv.org/events

Written by Morgan Grice


here must be no shorter line for a women’s bathroom than at a so-called “Tech Meet-Up.” These trendy, much-hailed summits attract tens of thousands of up-and-coming tech professionals each month, and they’re held everywhere from metropolitan melting pots to small cities across the U.S. But no matter what tech-centric bubble you find yourself in— from San Francisco to Manhattan to anywhere in between—these hot spots of innovation often have one thing in common: Few women are anywhere to be found. This dearth of women has hardly gone unnoticed. “There’s a ton of information out there on how women are underrepresented at tech meet-ups, conferences, and events,” says Anne Barth, executive director of TechConnect West Virginia. And that lack of women at meet-ups is mirrored in the workforce. Women currently comprise less than 30 percent of workers in tech industries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and they make up only about 10 percent of tech startup CEOs and founders, by most estimates. “But efforts are under way to get more women involved in technology for a number of different reasons,” Barth says. One such effort is coming out of Wheeling in October 2014. The Women & Technology Conference, a biennial event organized by TechConnect West Virginia, will feature presentations by prominent women in the technology industry, “résumé rescue” workshops, and interactive panels on topics ranging from leadership styles and career reinvention to addressing the gender gap and investing in the common good. “The idea is to help women broaden their personal and professional networks, as well as take away some deliverables they can use in their jobs right away,” Barth says. The inaugural conference held in 2012 brought together more than 100 professional women from all sectors of technology and was a huge success. “We realized we were meeting an unmet need for women in the region,” she says. Including more women in the tech industry is more than an effort to seek gender equity for equity’s sake, Barth says. “Women need to have a bigger role in technology because it is powering change across all sectors. With better representation of women in tech, we can expect to see programs and apps created by women for women, and we can find social solutions to problems women want to solve,” she says. “The bottom line is, when women get together, they make things happen.” Kathryn Sullivan, undersecretary of Department of Commerce and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator, and Nikki Bowman, president and publisher of New South Media, Inc., are among the conference’s featured speakers. The Women & Technology Conference will be held October 16 and 17, 2014, at Oglebay Resort & Conference Center in Wheeling; registration fees are $40 for the banquet, $110 student, and $155 individual. techconnectwv.org

Learn. Network. Engage. Sponsored by: WV Department of Education and the Arts, WVU Office of Research and Economic Development, Marshall University Research Corp., WV Higher Education Policy Commission, WV NASA Space Grant Consortium, BrickStreet Insurance, AEP, WesBanco.

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814 Quarrier Street • Charleston, WV 25301 304.342.0796 • www.advantagetech.biz Focus wvfocus.com


Who’s Stepping Up

Kid Delegate Saira Blair is 18, ambitious, and has her sights set on state government. written by shay maunz photographed by nikki bowman


aira Blair is as good at interviews as almost any politician now. She answers questions easily, laughs occasionally, gets serious when the conversation calls for it, and generally seems confident and capable. Talking to her almost feels like talking to a veteran politician with years of experience. But then she’ll say something about registering a friend to vote for the first time, or signing up for the first of her college classes, and you remember—you’re talking to a teenager. “The first few interviews I did, I was so nervous,” she says. “I was just so afraid of saying the wrong thing or sounding


Focus September/October 2014

like a stupid kid.” Blair was only 17 when she registered to run for the House of Delegates—and that’s when the first round of reporters came knocking. The Martinsburg teen has been wowing adults for months now, throughout her successful campaign to win the Republican nomination for the 59th seat in the House of Delegates. When she won that race in May she unseated a two-term incumbent, Larry Kump, and inspired admiration in scores of adults more than twice her age. Blair is also expected to win the general election in November—she’s a republican in a very conservative district and has been campaigning hard. During the primaries she sent 800 handwritten letters to constituents; for the general election she plans to send 4,000 more. And she’s been giving out her personal cell phone number and email address to constituents. “I want to hear from them,” she says. Blair has been involved in politics since she was a kid—her father is a state senator, and she tagged along on the campaign trail, holding campaign signs and attending meetings. She decided she wanted to get into politics herself when she attended a youth and government seminar in Charleston during her junior year of high school. That annual, three-day seminar aims to get adolescents interested in high school—Blair is a success story if ever there was one. “I always planned that I would run for office at some point in my life, but I never envisioned it happening now—I thought I’d be 30 or even 60,” she says. “But during that weekend I saw how capable people my age are, how able to make a positive impact on West Virginia. It really inspired me.” Despite the novelty of her age, Blair’s campaign hasn’t focused on it. She’s more interested in talking about her politics. In her campaign flyer, for example, Blair touches on her youth, saying she wants to “show young people that we shouldn’t wait until we’re 40, 50, 60 to realize that conservative principles are the pathway to prosperity and success.” But she doesn’t lead with it. Instead she outlines her political views, defining herself as a fiscal conservative who is “pro-life,” “pro-family,” “pro-marriage,” “pro-second amendment,” and “pro-business.” “My views stem from my Christian faith and the way I feel about my morals and principals,” Blair says. “On an economic side my views come from history. I like to look at what worked in the past when making decisions.” Blair is a freshman at West Virginia University this fall, working toward a major in economics and a minor in Spanish. If she wins, she’ll take off the spring semester to spend the legislative session in Charleston—an arrangement not so different from other citizen lawmakers who leave their jobs each spring to attend the session. She says that with summer classes and all her AP courses from high school she should still be able to graduate in four years. She won’t say whether she plans to run for office again when her two-year term in the House is over, but she can guarantee that whatever decision she makes won’t be influenced by her age. She knows better. “When I started running I was really nervous and I felt embarrassed by my age,” she says. “But then one day I realized that age does not equal maturity, and once I came to that conclusion it got a lot easier to just be myself. And because of that this experience has already opened so many doors for me.”

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Classroom of the Future Hydroponic systems are inspiring young minds. Written by Mikenna Pierotti


n a classroom in the Northern Panhandle, students pull on gloves and start their lesson. They grab freshly harvested, hydroponically grown lettuce from trays and record their findings—size, health, number of leaves, maybe flavor. They’ll compare notes and do a cost-benefit analysis of the system as a product. They might brainstorm ways of re-engineering it to improve efficiency or productivity. They might photograph it and turn it into art. They might even be assigned creative writing about it. At the end of the year the students will know a lot about hydroponics, but they’ll also know about their capacity for creativity and invention— and they’re only in fourth grade. “Kids connect with life sciences—biology, botany, zoology. Hydroponics is a way to integrate the science with math, art, even engineering,” says Laurie Ruberg, CEO of Wheeling's PLANTS LLC and visiting assistant professor, LSHD College of Education and Human Services at West Virginia University.


Focus September/October 2014

This isn’t your typical classroom, but Ruberg hopes hydroponics will become an integral part of curricula across the state, fueling young innovators, connecting students and communities with food production, and inspiring more young people to pursue science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEM) careers, not to mention helping to mitigate the effects of commercial agriculture on the environment. “Hydroponic systems can always be adapted and made better—that’s the engineering side. You get the students involved in experiments and analysis, that’s the science and math side. The art comes in when they write about the plants or take photos,” she says. Ruberg is interested in the environmental benefits, too. “You can control what the crop is exposed to in terms of fertilizers. Hydroponics also use about two-thirds less water. And with vegetables increasing in cost, especially with the winters we have in West Virginia, it’s not easy to get fresh salad greens on regular basis. With this method

you can grow greens year-round.” Ruberg’s inspiration for hydroponics research began in space. “This really came about with my work with NASA’s Classroom of the Future at WJU. It grew out of trying to find ways of supporting astronauts, who have limited food and water supplies.” She took the idea and began translating it into curricula. Schools and organizations invested in education, like the Innovation Transfer Consortium (ITC), started getting behind the research. The ITC awarded Ruberg’s PLANTS LLC, in partnership with WJU’s Appalachian Institute, a $5,000 seed grant to develop and commercialize educational programming on this way to grow food. Ruberg and her partner at the institute, research and advocacy associate and associate professor Mary Railing, and a group of WJU student researchers worked on the funded research project from December 2013 to July 2014. With the grant, the group was able to purchase three different hydroponic systems. They evaluated each commercial product for use in educational environments, homes, and communities. “I want teachers to be able to compare systems and be able to select something at an appropriate level for their classes and have materials to integrate this into STEM education, or hopefully science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) education. Everything we’ve learned we’re making freely available.” Ruberg thinks the long-term goals are even more exciting. “When I hear China is using water from abandoned mines to grow hydroponic systems, I think there’s a lot that this technology opens up. This could spark new ways to think about how we can prepare alternative technologies for our future and ways we can engage West Virginia’s youth to become leaders in some of this technological innovation.” While the initial seed grant funded the research for a few months, Ruberg is looking to extend it and turn her findings into part of a package that addresses next generation science standards in K-12. “West Virginia has always been a state with strong agriculture and very sophisticated technologies in natural resource production, exploration, and extraction. This can continue that in a different way.”

courtesy of laurie ruberg

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Here to There The TransTech Energy Conference is paving the way for innovations in energy and manufacturing. Written by Mikenna Pierotti | Photographed by elizabeth roth

The 2013 TransTech Energy Conference featyred a display by West Virginia University’s Solar Decathlon team.


icro hydro turbines, coaxial cavity resonance ignition systems—this isn’t science fiction, it’s Morgantown’s TransTech Energy Conference. The two-day, high-tech powwow promotes new companies and products specifically for what Carl Irwin, the event’s organizer, calls “energy and manufacturing transitions”— technologies, strategies, applications, and software that further the goal of creating and promoting a lower carbon yet competitive and sustainable economy. “The big picture is about research and business development,” he says. “It’s about getting from here to there.” The conference attracts hundreds of industry leaders, government representatives, students, and academics, as well as a group of presenters each year—each hoping their big idea will be the next big thing. “Every application is carefully reviewed and we choose the toprated ones to make their pitches,” Irwin says. These innovators and entrepreneurs hold pitch sessions before a crowd


Focus September/October 2014

of investors, potential strategic partners, project developers, and the public. Top presenters earn monetary awards and more. “There are many experts and industry leaders who can provide valuable information and networking opportunities for these start-ups,” Irwin says. “The conference helps us generate enthusiasm for what new businesses, jobs, and ideas can mean for the region.” The conference is Irwin’s brainchild, but it wasn’t born from a vacuum. The light bulb blinked on in Colorado during the Industry Growth Forum organized by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. “This is where start-ups in the renewable energy space—wind, solar, biofuel—are presented with an opportunity to make pitches to investors,” Irwin says. “I went for the first time about five yeas ago and it was absolutely fascinating. The start-ups were passionate, they were actively looking for funding, and the investors were there asking the hard questions.” So when Irwin returned to Morgantown and his job at West Virginia University’s National Research Center for Coal and Energy, he brought a burning idea. “I knew we had a significant fossil energy footprint in the whole region so it didn’t make sense to focus solely on renewable energy. But we also realized we need to reduce carbon, increase efficiency,

improve manufacturing, improve the economy, add jobs, and make the economy more entrepreneurial,” he says. The idea gained traction in 2011 with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy and other sponsors, and the TransTech Energy Conference began. In its third year, Carl says applicants come from as far away as Indiana, and the number of sponsors and partners has grown. Participants now can win close to $50,000 in prizes and can team up with resources like Autodesk’s Clean Tech Partner Program, which provides qualified companies with up to $150,000 worth of digital prototyping software for $50. Josh Matheny, a design engineer at Preston Machine Enterprise in Kingwood, earned a spot at the conference in 2013 with an idea for a micro hydro turbine. “The goal of the project is to increase the efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and reliability of turbine systems,” Matheny says. He says that showed him how new ideas get evaluated by investors and businesses from an economic standpoint. “That made me a more wellrounded engineer.” He says Preston Machine is now in the process of refining its design for micro hydro turbines through a research project under way at WVU. The research will provide valuable data needed to market the finished product. Although the conference has already been successful, Irwin hopes its impact will be broader. “One thing I’d like to see over the next five years is the general public having higher expectations of start-ups coming out of research,” he says. “Research can come from national labs or it can come from a classroom lab or it can come from someone’s garage. It just takes someone who sees a problem or a challenge and looks for ways to resolve it. It’s an ecosystem. It’s made up of innovators, researchers, and the people who see the value of ideas and will help turn them into businesses and, ultimately, jobs.” The third annual TransTech Energy Conference will take place November 12 and 13, 2014, at Waterfront Place Hotel in Morgantown. transtechenergy.org

Join the Tamarack Artisan Foundation for a series of statewide benefits for the artists of West Virginia. Each event will be held in a beautiful venue that highlights the natural beauty of our state and will feature an elegant menu of locally sourced foods, wine, music, and art. “Whether it is a pep talk, brainstorming session, or help with tax and labor issues, the Tamarack Foundation eliminates the lonely, tedious process of working in a vacuum. I know I’m speaking for all Tamarack Foundation artisans when I say that the Foundation prepares us for the opportunity to compete. The Foundation’s return on investment is solid—new products, new revenue, new taxes and distinction for the state of West Virginia.”

—Joseph Elbert

Mason County Furniture Maker


A West Virginia Celebration

of Farm to Table ART by Hand


three events • One great Cause Celebration One:

Celebration three:



Celebration two:

Tickets are $150

Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014 3 PM to 6:30 PM Café Cimino Sutton, WV

Martinsburg Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014 5:30 PM to 9 PM McFarland House Martinsburg, WV

Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014 3 PM to 6:30 PM Heston Farm Fairmont, WV

for each event with limited seating.

RSVP to the Foundation: 304-926-3770 or sally@tamarackfoundation.org

      .  Sponsorships available by contacting Sally Barton: sally@tamarackfoundation.org


From Silk to Stability A textile artist in Elkins learns that art and business can work in tandem. Written by Shay Maunz | Photographed by Joel Wolpert


ellie Rose Davis reads more artist than entrepreneur, more dreamer than utilitarian, more inspired than methodical. Even the creation story of Davis herself sounds magical—she writes in her artist’s statement that as soon as she was born, in Elkins to a pair of textile artists, she was “swaddled in a smooth, silk cloth handdyed by my parents in a multitude of colors and patterns.” The creation story of her business, NellieRose Textiles, sounds


Focus September/October 2014

magical, too, lined in shibori silk, but it’s not all frills and pleated fabrics. That story is lined with pragmatism and common sense as well. Davis grew up watching her parents work with textiles in their home studio in Elkins—they started the company Shibori West together, and Davis’ father, Michael, still runs it; her mother makes art and runs a store in Virginia. She spent her childhood watching them make things and making things herself, but it wasn’t until she was in college, working toward

a degree in Asian Studies and biology, that she realized how important that facet of her life was to her general well-being. “It hit me that I wasn’t going to be my happiest until I was doing something with my hands,” she says. “And the path that I was drawn to was—I don’t want to say fashion, because I was never into trends or anything, but I love how people can animate things,” she says. “The joy of my work is that other people bring it to life and it interacts with their lives.” As college was winding down she

“The joy of my

work is that other people bring it to life and it interacts with their lives.” Nellie Rose Davis

Advice from Nellie Rose applied for a Fulbright Fellowship that let her spend a year after graduation studying Japanese textiles in Japan. She followed that with a year working and learning from her mom in Virginia. “I said, ‘I’m just going to pick up whatever I can from her,’” Davis says. “And it was a great experience, beautiful.” But her mom wasn’t paying her to work in the store, so Davis started making her own shibori scarves to sell, playing with the traditional process to make it her own. “Eventually I was making not just these standard scarves but I started experimenting and creating this whole line,” she says. The result is a lot of interesting wearables that don’t look quite like anything you’ve ever seen before. Nellie takes the shibori process and turns it on its head, playing not just with color like a traditionalist would, but also with texture. Her scarves are pleated and frilled in wonderful ways, and saturated with color. Then she was faced with a question: What does she do with all this art she’s making? “I was so lost about what to do, because I had that pull toward wanting to have my own business, wanting to be a textile designer. But then there was another part of me that was like, ‘Oh, no, I want to do health care, I want to be stable,” she says. She heard the statistics about failure among new businesses, she knew how important health insurance

can be, and she didn’t want to float through her twenties—or the rest of her life—without stability. But in the end she chose art—and entrepreneurship—anyway. “Eventually I realized it is just not right for a person in my position, who was born into this, apprenticed in Japan, can speak the language—a person like that cannot work behind the counter at a pharmacy,” she says. “It’s not that there’s anything wrong with that, I just wasn’t meant for it.” So she drew up a rough business plan—“I did it, I knew it was important, but I didn’t approach it like a homework assignment,”—and started NellieRose Textiles. After a few months she drew the attention of the Tamarack Artisan Foundation and was urged to apply for their Rural to Urban Markets Program. It gives West Virginia artists the resources they need to market their wares to urban consumers, and NellieRose Textiles was a shoo-in. Davis is in the second year of the program now, and her list of wholesale orders from galleries is growing. “It’s going so wonderfully,” she says. “I’m just so ecstatic—I feel more stable than ever, probably because I’m managing my own money. It’s like I’m becoming a real person or something—like I bought a car, which is one of those things I never thought I could do, and I can now.” She did it with art, and on her own terms.

Don’t be Afraid “There’s this scary thing that’s happening in the world in that there are all these craftsmen, incredible artists, but they are having such trouble passing on those skills to younger folks. I don’t think people realize art can be a viable career option, but it can.” Make a System “Once you get a system down for making things, it’s really awesome. I really like to produce, and there’s a lot of fun in figuring out the best way to do that.” Under Promise, Over Deliver “It was really important for me to do that this year, to not take on too many orders, because I didn’t know what I could produce. This year has been really beautiful as I’m coming to understand my limits. It allows me to create better goals.” Diversify “That means not just my income, but also what I’m doing. Wholesale is important because it makes it easier for me and it makes it easier for the buyer—but wholesale can be repetitive. So I do these retail shows like at festivals where I can connect with people and sell them different things.” Focus wvfocus.com



somebody’s bad facts look good. It’s about the idea that you can help somebody communicate.”

courtesy of Ann Green

“about This isn’t making

Ann Green Founders

president and founder of A nn Green Communications

Ann Green founded Ann Green Communications in South Charleston in 1991 when she saw an opening for a communications firm that caters to companies with unique needs—specifically companies in fields that trigger concerns regarding safety and the environment. She developed a system to create community panels that encourage dialogue between companies and the communities where they work. Clients include more than 100 companies in the chemical, petroleum, coal, phosphate, cement, and paper industries.

»» In school I was a history major. I wanted to major in journalism, but there was no program at Glenville State College. But my passion was working on the newspaper. After school I started to work in communications.

»» I started my business because I was noticing with the work I was doing with the chemical industry that there were issues in the environmental and safety realms that were beyond traditional public relations, that needed a different approach.

»» This isn’t about making somebody’s bad facts look good. It’s about the idea that you can help somebody communicate. »» You have to go beyond stockholders; you have to try to communicate with stakeholders. There’s real value in trying to develop a way for companies to try to communicate with their near neighbors.

»» These issues are often very polarizing, but what I’ve discovered is people don’t want to be polarized. They really want to work together, but they need a bridge. We try to provide a bridge to help both sides better understand each other, or at least discuss their concerns together. »» I think some of us are just wired this way, so we want to be an entrepreneur and we want to create something that is maybe a little unique and that puts a stamp on our little world.

»» To me entrepreneurship is creative. And it’s so fun to work to build something and to be able to provide jobs for

people. Sure, there’s stress in making sure those jobs are sustained, but there’s also the excitement of making it work.

»» Nobody creates a business alone. I certainly didn’t create my business by myself. I may have had the initial idea and the initial nerve to do it, but if you don’t have people to help you push your engine you’re not going to get anywhere.

Interviewed by Shay Maunz

Focus wvfocus.com



GM-No? Genetically modified crops: Friend or foe?


written by shay maunz photographed by katie hanlon

et’s talk about where our food comes from. More specifically, let’s talk about the food that comes, at least in some sense, from a laboratory. Foods containing organisms that have been genetically modified in a lab, or GMOs, have been on the market since the mid-1990s and kicking up firestorms for almost as long. Those critical of GMOs say they’re contributing to the creation of “superweeds” and “superbugs” because they let farmers use more toxic herbicides like Roundup without harming crops. They also say they’re harmful to human health or, at the very least, haven’t been tested rigorously enough. GMO supporters say the detractors’ science is shaky, that foods containing GMOs are no riskier than foods bred in traditional ways. They also say GMOs, which help farmers yield more crops more reliably, are our only option if we’re going to continue to feed the world’s growing population. In West Virginia the fight might just be heating up. During the 2014 legislative session state lawmakers passed a resolution ordering a study of genetically modified foods; the interim committee on government and finance will hear the results of that study later this year. This is on the heels of a bill targeting GMOs—if passed, it would have required that all food products sold in the state be labeled to indicate whether they contain GMOs— that was introduced in the legislature during the 2014 regular session. That bill, introduced by delegate Mike Manypenny, didn’t get much press and died in the House Finance Committee, but could signal that West Virginia is on track to join a slew of other states where the GMO


Focus September/October 2014

debate is raging—at least 20 states have introduced similar bills. Manypenny, a farmer from Taylor County, says that when he’s not eating food he grew himself he tries to only buy foods with less than five ingredients and few preservatives—he gets certified organic foods when he can, which are guaranteed to be GMO-free. He says he sponsored the GMO labeling bill because he thinks West Virginians should have an easier time eating the way he does, if they want to. “I’ve never felt real comfortable with splicing the genes of other species into plants,” he says. “And the point is that the public has the right to know whether GMOs are in the food they eat.” But Steve Butler, administrator at the West Virginia Farm Bureau, says labeling bills like Manypenny’s hurt consumers because the cost of that labeling will surely be passed on to them. If you want to avoid GMOs, he says, grow and sell—or buy and eat—products that are certified organic; extra, GMO-specific labeling is redundant. “I’m not here speaking against the organic grower,” he says. “Let them go

Genetically modified that route but don’t foods have had a put that burden on polarizing effect since everybody out here, they were introduced decades ago, and the because we can’t fight could be moving feed the world that into West Virginia. way. And I don’t want to be the one who decides who eats and who doesn’t. Not everybody can be in the niche market or else it wouldn’t be a niche—so just because you’re organic don’t force everybody to be.” In Greenbrier County, artisan distillery Smooth Ambler Spirits has taken a pragmatic approach to GMOs, walking the fine line between social responsibility and good business sense. “We can’t find any real scientific evidence that says genetically modified grains modify the product when the product is alcohol,” says John Little, the distillery’s founder. “But for us right now it’s about using ingredients we would be proud to feed our children.” Smooth Ambler uses grains that haven’t been genetically modified to make its alcohol, but for a while it was difficult for them to find growers to supply

them without paying massive shipping fees. Then, a few years ago, Little was at an open meeting about small business and started complaining about sourcing the grain he needed to make his products. “I said, ‘This is crazy. I can’t even buy West Virginia grain,’” he says. “Sure enough there was a guy there who grows grain just 30 minutes down the road from us.” Turkey Creek Farm, a family farm in Monroe County, has been growing GMO-free grain for Smooth Ambler ever since, an arrangement that helps keep the small farm alive and reassures the distillery about the quality of its products. Smooth Ambler doesn’t use certified organic grain because it’s expensive and they don’t have to. They know their farmer well enough to know he’s using seeds that aren’t genetically modified and he’s growing his crops using organic practices. “There’s this balancing act that all these businesses are trying to do,” Little says. “We’re trying to use good business practices while also being good stewards.”

Fighting Poverty with Agriculture Nearly 85 percent of U.S. counties that are persistently poverty ridden are rural counties, according to figures from the USDA, and the problems those counties face are uniquely rural. The solutions that help counter urban poverty won’t always work in places like southern West Virginia. In 2010 the U.S. Department of Agriculture rolled out a program to target poverty in rural counties throughout the country. It started with just a handful of counties in a handful of states, but in 2014 the program expanded to include 29 of the poorest counties in West Virginia. It’s called Strikeforce for Rural Growth and Development, and its goal is to use federal resources and new farming technology to give these rural economies a boost. The idea is that the West Virginia branches of USDA offices—that’s the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resource Conservation Service, and Rural Development—will work together to focus their efforts on these counties. The goals are manifold, but one is to promote awareness of federally funded food assistance among poor families. Another is to help struggling local farmers understand what services are there to help them. Still another is implementation of highefficiency farming methods—the state anticipates funding for high tunnels, which help farmers extend the growing season for fruits and vegetables. The program is new in West Virginia, but the USDA points to its success in other states as proof that it will do well here, too. Since 2010 the USDA has supported more than 80,000 projects through StrikeForce, bringing $9.7 billion in investments to rural America. Focus wvfocus.com


We’re off and running, but there’s a long road ahead. Written by Shay Maunz


ommunity development work isn’t easy. There’s a lot of waiting around for projects to get approved, for money to come in, for people to get on board. A lot of it is dependent on things that are at least partly outside of your control: Will we get approval? Will we get that grant? Is it too expensive? Is it impossible? “Community development is hard work,” says Kent Spellman, the West Virginia Community Development Hub’s executive director. “But that’s what makes it worth doing.” Our Turn This Town Around initiative has been alive in Grafton and Matewan for more than six months now, and we’re happy to say that progress has been made. There have been town cleanups and community meetings. People have volunteered for planning sessions and construction projects, to paint things and clean things and write proposals for things. Money from outside of Turn This Town Around has already started trickling in—at least partly the result of all of the momentum surrounding this project. And more money is on its way—Turn This Town Around minigrant proposals were submitted August 1, 2014, and grantees were announced in each community the second week of September. But now comes the part where these projects stop being

something people talk about and become something people do. Our resident community development experts, the team at the Hub, like to say that part of the beauty of projects like Turn This Town Around is they force accountability because they force you to go public. You can’t just quietly toil away on a pet project for years and years—or quietly quit working on it—because you’ve told people about it. And once you tell people you’re going to do something, there comes a time later when you have to tell them one of two things: Yes, I got it done. Or: No, I didn’t. In that vein, we’re going to use this issue of the magazine to profile two projects that are already gaining traction, one in Matewan and another in Grafton. They’re not alone—57 grant proposals were submitted to the Hub in August, and 38 of them were awarded some money. Most projects are receiving minigrants—cash infusions of up to $2,500. A few were identified for what we’re calling “pre-development” funds—that’s a larger sum of money that can be used to get the ball rolling on bigger projects. That means 38 projects will come to fruition because community members stepped up, donated their time and energy, and developed practical plans to make their communities better places in real, tangible ways. This is just a sampling. Focus wvfocus.com


Theater experiences are memorable, so we hope people will want to come downtown to go to the theater, then want to come back to make traditions.”

Grafton’s Manos Theater

The Manos Theater sits on Main Street in Grafton, a remnant of a livelier downtown. It’s not stately or grand, exactly—it’s a humbler breed of historic theater, with a rough stone facade on the ground level and a blank cement face on the second floor. Built in 1949, the Manos was, like so many theaters in the mid-20th century, at the heart of the town for years, but gradually fell into disrepair. Community members who are interested in revitalizing Grafton have been eyeing it for years—old theaters like the Manos are important, often iconic, elements of a downtown’s infrastructure, rife with potential if only they were operational. “Theater experiences are memorable, so we hope people will want to come downtown to go to the theater, then want to come back to make traditions,” says Gigi Collett. “And I think one important element is trying to connect the dots, using the theater to help make Grafton as a whole an experience for anyone who wants to come to town or who lives here now.” Collett is part of a team of people who are working on renovating and restoring the Manos. She’s well positioned for this


Focus September/October 2014

because she’s on the board of Grafton’s International Mother’s Day Shrine, which owns the theater. Plus she has a theater background and is as passionate about the arts as she is about Grafton’s future—you can hear the fervor in her voice when discussing either—which can only help the cause. The Mother’s Day Shrine bought the theater around 15 years ago with the help of the city and the state, with the aim of restoring it, opening it to the public, and using it to generate money for the shrine across the street. They began working on renovations with grants worth around $25,000—the Manos got a sound and lighting upgrade, the stage was extended some seven feet, renovations were made to the lobby, and an accessible bathroom was installed—but there’s still a lot more to do. “It was a good upgrade,” Collett says. “But we still can’t use it to its full potential, not even close.” Collett and her team are applying for three Turn This Town Around mini-grants to help the Manos, each built around a different goal that will improve the theater and, they hope, draw people to it—and by extension, to downtown Grafton. “We want everything to have a symbiotic

elizabeth roth

Gigi Collett, Grafton

Matewan got a good element, like we’re all connected, we can taste of fresh, local all help each other,” Collett says. produce in July, when Williamson’s Mobile The first of these projects is for the Farmers’ Market stopped movies themselves. For years people in there for the first time. Grafton have been talking about movie screenings at the Manos—the idea has come up again and again in the Hub’s community meetings. What no one quite understands is how expensive an undertaking that is. Buying the license to show a movie—even a bad movie, a B movie, or an old movie—costs a lot of money, usually around $300. Collett and the the team at the Mother’s Day Shrine would show movies at the Manos every day if they could—but they can’t afford it. So they’re applying for a mini-grant to get started. The idea is to use the $2,500 in grant money to start a movie licensing fund for the theater. They’ll use the money to show movies regularly for a while, charging a minimal fee for those viewings that they hope will generate money for more movies. Think of the grant as seed money that could grow into a regular schedule of movie showings at the Manos for years to come. The second mini-grant would help the team repair the theater’s heating and cooling system—it’s been broken for years, leaving the theater unusable in the winter months. “We’re still getting into the bones of the building and seeing what needs to be done,” Collett says. No one is quite sure what happened to it, but they all agree that its repair is critical if the Manos is going to be a viable business again. Over the summer the Manos saw at least a trickle of activity: The city purchased a few movies and showed them there, an amateur theater company from Clarksburg brought an improv comedy show to the Manos, and then a modern rendering of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. There was even a short opera. But without a working HVAC system, all of that activity will be forced to a halt when winter arrives. Collett says a $2,500 mini grant should at least put a sizable dent in the cost of the heating and cooling project. “We think all of our projects are going to need extended money, but we are hoping that once we get the ball rolling and people are actively engaging in that space and seeing the benefits of it we can get some additional money from the community,” she says. The third mini-grant would let the team at the Manos install a simple concession stand, complete with a popcorn machine— they hope to use concessions to generate more money for the theater moving forward. In the long-term, the Mother’s Day Shrine hopes to found a children’s theater company at the Manos that would give Grafton’s children a creative outlet and keep them invested in the Manos and their downtown. “Athletics have been the cornerstone of this community for so long,” Collett says. “And there’s nothing wrong with that, but some kids don’t excel at athletics. This is just a different way to build skills in kids who might not want to hit a ball out of the park or throw a touchdown pass. And it’s right in the center of town, in the center of the county, so it’s a perfect spot to draw kids in.”

Bike Friendly Matewan

The people in Matewan are intent on building an economy around tourism, taking advantage of the little town’s railroad and coal mining history and its place in the storied feud between the Hatfield and McCoy families. So a lot of people in Matewan are working on projects with a tourism bent, from geocaching courses to historic plays to walking tours. Kelly Webb, who is heading up a project to make Matewan bike friendly, wanted to come at the tourism thing from a slightly different angle. She says she was just being pragmatic—she wanted to bring in as much money for her project as she could and figured it couldn’t hurt to diversify a little. “In this county they’re on a health movement, and I thought choosing a project that would incorporate that might give me an opportunity for some great additional grants,” she says.

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ttta.wvfocus.com Visit us online for a full list of TTTA projects.

She started researching healthy lifestyle Community volunteers meet activities that could also draw in tourists and at the old high stumbled onto the bicycle tourism industry. school complex “There are so many bicycle enthusiasts across in Matewan. America, and they bike to all these places across the country all summer,” Webb says. “The majority of towns they travel to, they’re not big cities, and they want to go see things, like historic places. So sometimes these really rural communities make themselves bike friendly neighborhoods, and they work really well. There’s a huge market for bicycle enthusiasts and people want to ride bikes in this area because of the mountains.” It felt to Webb like a perfect fit for Matewan. Webb and the rest of the group working on Bike Friendly Matewan have a long list of projects they think will come together to make the town appealing to bicyclists across the country and encourage locals to take to bikes as well. They want to create a bike path running through downtown Matewan and into the outskirts of town, implement a bike safety course, create a system to keep the routes clean and appealing all the time, print up some brochures to advertise and promote the whole thing, and eventually get certified as a bike friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists. At some point they’d like to link Matewan’s bike trails to the Hatfield & McCoy ATV & UTV Trails— mountain biking is permitted on them as well—but that’s more of a long-term goal. “Right now we’re going to focus on the things we can make progress on immediately,” Webb says. Bike Friendly Matewan has already brought in some money from outside of Turn This Town Around, being awarded $3,000 from the Try This mini-grant program, and submitted applications for a handful more. Webb is optimistic, and hopes to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony next summer.

That Said...

Of those 57 grant proposals submitted to the Hub, a few of them weren’t awarded funding. The Hub will be working with those groups to see if there is another way for them to make their projects happen. In Matewan, the tiny town was able to come together to form groups around 15 different ideas, but they still left some money that could have been claimed through minigrants on the table. It’s not over yet—community members will be able to submit new mini-grant proposals for new projects later on, and we hope to eventually find enough projects to spend all that money from The Benedum Foundation. And as Mary Hunt, a senior program officer with the foundation,


Focus September/October 2014

says, success in community development can be measured in myriad ways. “I think one success would be that at the end of this we have 20 completed, tangible projects,” she says. “But I think the project is also a success if it helps frame a more positive community image, if it grows into wider community involvement and a sense of more positive possibilities within the community.”

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Madam Senator The two women vying to be our next senator open up about themselves, their backgrounds, and their thoughts on the future for women in West Virginia.


Focus September/October 2014

courtesy of capito for west virginia; courtesy of natalie tennant for senate


hat’s it like being both a woman and a politician?” They’ve both gotten this question dozens, maybe hundreds of times over the course of their careers, because they’re both powerful women in politics—and now they’re both trying to be West Virginia’s first female senator. Their answers vary depending on the mood and the occasion, but generally they’re not all that interested in talking about their status as women in power. “I’ve never not been a woman, I don’t know what it’s like,” says Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito. “I’ve just never thought it was a big deal,” says Secretary of State Natalie Tennant. “I try not to let being a woman define me.” They’re more interested in talking about how they’re going to help the state. We’re not here to talk about these women’s campaigns, or even their politics. But we are here to talk about the fact that pretty soon one of them will be West Virginia’s newest senator. She’ll be the first woman ever elected to the Senate by West Virginians, and she’ll join a short list of women senators in Congress. There are more women Senators serving in Congress now than ever before—but there are still only 20 of them. Leslie Tower is an associate professor at West Virginia University and coauthored a book on the challenges and opportunities facing women in public service. She tidily summed up the argument for diversity in politics. “We really need women to be throughout our society, not just at the lower rungs of employment, or in the home. We need women in decision-making positions,” she says. “Individuals of a single sex have a limited ability to consider or solve the problems of a diverse citizenry. What makes us who we are is in part our experiences, and men and women tend to have different experiences. To be able to serve a whole population we need all of those perspectives as part of the discussion.” So let’s talk about experiences.

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Natalie Tennant

“For me it’s

just about using everything about who I am, the experiences that I’ve had in life.”

“That’s never part of the equation for me.” Natalie Tennant likes to tell a story from her childhood growing up on a farm in Marion County as the sixth of seven children. She’s 9 years old, a tomboy who spends more time romping around the farm with her brothers than she does with her only sister, Catherine, 7 years her senior. “The rule was that the boys got a cow when they were 10 and the girls got one when they were 12,” Tennant says. “So I’m 9, it’s the summer before I turn 10, and we’re all getting rested after putting hay up into the barn, and I’m like, ‘Hey dad, I’m going to be 10 in December, does that mean I get a cow?’ And my brother Steve says, ‘Cathy didn’t get one until she was 12.’ And I shoot back, ‘Yeah, but she’s a girl.’” It’s easy to see why Tennant likes this anecdote: It touches on her rural West Virginia roots, which contribute to her status as a West Virginia girl, through and through. It gets an honestto-goodness laugh out of people, shows off her spunkiness, and highlights her tenacity. And it underscores the fact that, while we may think of Tennant as a woman who does things men usually do, that’s not how she thinks of herself. The idea is this: She didn’t want a cow when she was 10 to prove that 10-year-old girls can have cows—she just didn’t want to wait two more years. “I don’t see obstacles. That’s never part of the equation for me,” she says. “If it’s something worthwhile I don’t let obstacles stand in the way.” Tennant didn’t get that cow when she turned 10, but she did go on to be the first woman to serve as the Mountaineer mascot at WVU, then the second woman to serve as West Virginia’s Secretary of State. It’s just a short step from there to first female senator.

“What’s wrong with your hair?” It’s late June, and Tennant is at a campaign event about “women’s economic issues” at a private residence in Bridgeport. She mingles with the women for a while, then sits down in the living room to talk about health care, jobs, and education, making jokes


Focus September/October 2014

occasionally and asking often for comments. “It’s about all of us working together,” she says. “We’re talking about women and how when women are part of the equation and part of the decisionmaking, we can have all kinds of forward thinking.” In between questions she coos at the infant a new mother had brought along. Tennant has been in the public eye since she was 22 and became the first female mountaineer mascot at WVU, triggering a statewide controversy—she became a household name, and the school newspaper was flooded with letters. “This is back in the day when we didn’t have the Internet, so people wrote letters to the editor and they signed their names to them,” she says. “It’s not like this anonymous stuff now, so you knew it was true disdain for me—they took the time to write because they didn’t like me and they only didn’t like me because I was a woman.” After graduation she worked as a television reporter for 20 years, first in Clarksburg, later in Charleston, and then started a media company with her husband, Erik Wells, who is now a state senator. “I took some criticism when I was on TV, too, because I probably wasn’t the most well put together,” Tennant says. “I’m not very good at fashion, I’m not very good at hair, so there would be people writing in things like, ‘What’s wrong with your hair?’” Tennant doesn’t consider any of her tribulations to be especially related to her gender. Asked if she thinks she has to present herself as a politician differently as a woman than her husband does as a man, she seems genuinely puzzled by the question. They don’t always agree on all the issues, she says, that’s for sure. But she’s not sure it has much to do with him being a man and her being a woman. “For me it’s just about using everything about who I am, the experiences that I’ve had in life,” she says. “I think he does that, too.” She acknowledges that some of those things are uniquely female—standing up to her dad was a character-building experience, as was reading all that hate mail she’d never have received if she were a man—but she doesn’t seem to think her experiences are more important or difficult than her husband’s, or any man’s for that matter.

courtesy of natalie tennant for senate

Natalie Tennant

“We need more

Shelley Moore Capito

women in the leadership in the political sphere, and in general.” Shelley Moore Capito

courtesy of capito for west virginia

“Come on girls, we’ve got to get busy.” Shelley Moore Capito enjoys speaking to elementary schools. It gives her a chance to talk directly to the next generation of young, political, enterprising women. Over the years she’s developed kind of a bit she uses to inspire them. “I go off on a little girl thing,” she says. “I have to say to the boys, ‘I’m sorry guys, this isn’t for you,’ and they laugh, and then I say, ‘Come on girls, we’ve got to get busy.’ Because we need more women in the leadership in the political sphere, and in general. And I hope maybe some day one of them will say, ‘I remember that lady. I wanted to be like that lady.’” Capito likes to frame discussion on women in politics around the next generation of those women because, frankly, she’s a little worn out on talking about the fact that she’s a woman herself. When she was elected to Congress in 2000 she became only the second woman to represent West Virginia in the House of Representatives, when there were only 59 women serving, and now she’s running to be the first to woman to represent West Virginia in the Senate. That’s a lot of trailblazing, but trailblazing isn’t something Capito cares about. “I really kind of try to be blind to that,” she says. “With all the issues I have to address, it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, it touches everybody.” Though that’s not to say she doesn’t crave more diversity in Washington. “This would probably get me in trouble with the men, too—but women make a lot of decisions with their heart. And I think we need more of that in Congress,” she says.

“It’s a lot harder than it looks.” The desk in Capito’s Charleston office is lined with knickknacks and awards, the walls with photos. When she starts to speak about her entrance into politics, she points to one of them. “There we are, West Virginia’s first family,” she says. She’s talking about a portrait of herself with her two siblings, mother, and father, Arch Moore, when he was the governor of West Virginia, from 1969 to 1977. Capito grew up in a political family, to put it mildly—

she’s the daughter of a two-term Congressman and a three-term governor and has early memories of campaigning for her father. “I can remember decorating one of those little red wagons with my dad’s bumper stickers and putting my sister in there—we had her all dressed up like a princess or something. And we dragged her around the neighborhood,” she says. When she entered politics she started using her maiden name in addition to her married one—better to be open about it, she thought, whether the family legacy helps or hurts her. After college Capito worked for a few years as a career counselor but then decided to stay home and take care of her three kids. She did that for more than a decade until, in 1996, she ran for the state House of Delegates. Her kids were in public school and she didn’t like what she saw there; she figured she should try to fix it. “One thing I learned right away, from the minute I started, is that it’s a lot harder than it looks,” she says. “Observing my dad doing it I thought, ‘Oh, he makes it look so easy.’ It’s not so easy.” She insists she doesn’t present herself differently in politics or in public life because she’s a woman—she doesn’t try to act tougher to overcompensate for gender stereotypes, for example. And she doesn’t brush off those years working at home as inconsequential—they’re as much a part of her as her voting record and the elections she’s won. “I’m a wife, I’m a daughter, I’m a mother, I’m now a grandmother. And I find that women, we have so many things on our plate, whether it’s having to take care of our parents, worrying about our children and grandchildren, putting a load of laundry in, helping with the homework. All the things we do all day I think really help us understand West Virginia families from all the different perspectives, whether it’s opportunity in the workforce or the price of bread.” Capito wants those little girls she talks to in elementary schools to embrace all their roles as West Virginians and to try to picture themselves in new ones, too. “I really think more women’s voices are going to be much needed in the future,” she says. “Women’s lives have changed over the years and we need to have that reflection in Congress.”

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Wonder West Virginia’s

Women Appalachian women have always been strong figures. These women bring that mountain spirit to everything from technology and manufacturing to activism and law, in every part of the state. West Virginia Focus celebrates them—and expresses Great Expectations for their up-and-coming sisters.

West Virginia’s Wonder Women

living local

Alisa Bailey thinks Charleston—not to mention the state as a whole—is poised for a renaissance, and she says it’s going to revolve around tourism. “We’re going to rock and roll,” she says. Bailey was born and raised in Charleston and has a background in public relations—she was a staffer for Senator Robert C. Byrd in the 1990s and became the director of the state Division of Tourism soon after. And in 2001 she became the first woman to be appointed West Virginia’s bureau chief of what was then called the Bureau of Commerce. In 2003 Bailey moved to Virginia to work in tourism, but she spent less than a decade away

before she felt West Virginia calling her home. Her urge to come back to Charleston was one part personal—“I was really, really homesick,” she says—and one part professional. She saw big things on the horizon and wanted to be part of them. “Watching my hometown be revitalized is really exciting for me,” she says. Bailey’s most excited about major renovations planned for Charleston’s Civic Center and the renewed interest in enhancing the city’s downtown—both things that make the capital city more attractive to tourists as well as people, like herself, who call Charleston home. “Tourism is a great part of the economy because we can bring people in, give them a great time, and taxpayers don’t have to pay for their education or their health care or any other services we provide citizens,” Bailey says. “It’s also very important for quality of life—the things we invest in for tourism make our destination more attractive to other forms of business. They also make it more livable for everyone.”

clockwise: Courtesy of Alisa Bailey, techconnect, West Virginia University; Elizabeth Roth

Advancing Arts In 2003 Sally Barton became the first executive director of the Tamarack Artisan Foundation, the only organization in the state that serves artisan entrepreneurs. Since then she has directed the efforts to raise more than $4 million benefitting West Virginia’s artists and is responsible for setting the strategic initiatives contributing to an annual economic impact of $18.6 million to the people of West Virginia. Barton is a first generation American and the first in her family to attend college.

Born to Teach Joyce McConnell may never have made it to the position she’s in today were it not for the advice of her mentor given just days after graduating law school. “I feel I owe my entire career to her. She had been my supervisor at law school and she suggested I apply for a teaching fellowship at Georgetown in Washington, D.C. She said to me, ‘You’re a born teacher,’” McConnell says. “I don’t think I would have had enough confidence in myself at the time to think I would be competitive as a law professor.” Today McConnell isn’t just a tenured law professor. She’s moved up in the world of academia from a nationally recognized scholar and professor to dean of the West Virginia University Law School to, very recently, provost of the university.

Tech-Savvy Anne Barth works to encourage innovation, economic diversity, and a better economy. Barth is the executive director of TechConnect West Virginia, a coalition that encourages technology-based economic development. “What we really want to do is turn innovation into enterprise,” she says. The idea is to connect innovators with the resources they need to turn their ideas into thriving companies that will put West Virginians in sustainable, good-paying jobs. “If we can offer solutions to problems that society faces and build industries around those technologies, then we have a much better chance of keeping those jobs in West Virginia,” Barth says. “We want to reverse the brain drain and create brain gain.”

At WVU she oversees high-level academic program development spanning all disciplines, not just law. “I really want to see WVU become one integrated university,” she says. “I want the university to work as one whole organic being, particularly in terms of working on multidisciplinary studies to solve real world problems. It makes for a very exciting academic experience for students.” The school is working on several such programs now in the fields of energy and sustainable development, health care solutions, and water issues. These programs cut across all kinds of academic disciplines, from biology to law to engineering. McConnell stepped into the position in July 2014, but since taking over she’s already overseen an overhaul of the WVU Honors program and Extension Service. Her guiding philosophy as an educator? “The most important thing for students to learn is the ability to solve problems and articulate the solutions for those problems. No matter what discipline someone is in, those are key skills.” Focus wvfocus.com


West Virginia’s Wonder Women

A Grateful Immigrant “To steal a phrase, I consider myself a grateful immigrant to the state of West Virginia,” Lea Ridenhour says. Since moving to Wheeling in 1996 the senior vice president at WesBanco has been actively involved in numerous community organizations. With the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra Auxiliary she assists with fundraisers, receptions, and as a concert greeter in addition to her work on the symphony board as immediate past president. She’s now an alumni member of the volunteer organization Junior League of Wheeling, having formerly served as president. Ridenhour also just finished a six-year term on the state board of the national Girl Scouts organization. “We all have an obligation to give back to our communities in whatever capacity we’re able,” Ridenhour says. “I have two children and I think—I hope—I’m setting a good example for them about leadership and being helpful to other people. Nothing is more satisfying for me than someone saying, ‘Thank you for making this so easy for me.’”

On a Roll

Hot Dog!

In 1991 Angie Cowger and her husband bought a piece of property in Webster Springs—a car wash and three apartments. Then they took a look at that property and decided they’d rather revive the town’s old dairy bar—affectionately called “the custard stand”—than rent out that downstairs apartment. They started their own oldfashioned dairy bar on that spot and named it The Custard Stand. By 2003 enough customers had asked to buy their signature hot dog chili that the Cowgers opened a second business, Custard Stand Food Products, where they make and sell the stuff. The chili is now sold in 13 states, and there are six locations, some of them franchises. “We continue to try to develop business and employ more people in our community because we don’t want to see our community dry up and disappear like so many have,” Cowger says. They recently bought a building in downtown Webster Springs so they can move The Custard Stand restaurant downtown from its current location a mile outside of town. “We don’t want to see empty buildings, so we’re going to try to put some business storefronts in there ourselves,” Cowger says.

Helping Hand Growing up, Kristina Oliver was artsy. “But I was also the lemonade stand kid,” she says, a natural entrepreneur. So even when she started her first business, an advertising sign company, at the age of 23, she continued to show her own art. “Then when I reached a certain age I realized entrepreneurship is the ultimate in creativity,” she says. “Innovative thought and creative thought are the key to growing businesses.” That’s what Oliver helps West Virginians do now, as the state director of the Small Business Development Center. The SBDC helps connect entrepreneurs with the resources their businesses need—a project Oliver feels strongly about because of her background in small business. “If I'd had someone to help me I would have avoided a lot of the pitfalls I fell into because I didn’t have the confidence to reach out for help,” she says. “I don’t want others to have some of the heartburn that I had.”


Focus September/October 2014

Courtesy of Susan Haywood, Wesbanco, Angie Cowger, small business development center

In the mountains of West Virginia, racing through mud and over rocks, Susan Haywood started her career. She first mounted a bike in 1991, just out of her teens, but her dedication and skill proved to be competitive nationally and internationally. “When you’re a professional athlete money is often the motivating factor, but with mountain cycling there’s not a lot of money—I was motivated by better results and winning races,” she says. Haywood raced mountain bikes professionally for more than 10 years, earning four national championships and a world championship in solo racing. Today Haywood coaches budding riders across skill sets and levels and is an integral member of cycling culture around the Potomac Highlands area. Her brainchild, the annual Canaan Mountain Bike Festival and fundraiser, draws cycling enthusiasts from around the country for a weekend of group rides and trail development work. “The first year we had 15 people. This last year we had 125. We’re looking for sustainable growth. Something that can grow every year and contribute back to the community.”

West Virginia’s Wonder Women

defending the public

When a chemical that spilled in state Delegate Meshea Poore’s Charleston district contaminated drinking water for 300,000 in January 2014, she took it personally on behalf of her constituents— pressing for clean water distribution, attending town hall meetings, participating vigorously in the drafting of legislation to address the underlying problem. A Kanawha City native, Poore worked as a public defender in Kanawha

County after earning her law degree from Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Then-Governor Joe Manchin appointed her in 2009 to fill a vacant seat in the House of Delegates, and she was re-elected in 2010 and 2012. Poore is a prolific lawmaker, seeing 13 of her own bills passed in 2013 and sponsoring 117 bills in 2014. She champions low-income, family, and other social causes.

The Problem Solver

Courtesy of Meshea Poore; Ed Wade Jr; courtesy of Irene Keeley; tracy toler

As a managing partner at West Virginia’s oldest and largest public relations firm, Charles Ryan Associates, Susan Lavenski helps West Virginia businesses put their best faces forward. Now celebrating its 40th year in business, Charles Ryan has worked in every corner of West Virginia—with businesses large and small, from every industry in the state. And in her 16 years at the company, Lavenski has been a part of much of that work. “I have personally worked in every county,” she says. Lavenski specializes in issues management, which means she spends a lot of her time solving problems—and she likes it that way. “Every day presents a new and different challenge,” she says. Her formula for success is one part job satisfaction, one part drive to succeed—a combination that makes for a fiercely hard worker and iPhone addict who is still excited about her job. “I would encourage young women to find their passion. Find a career path that excites you and makes you want to get up in the morning,” she says. “Work hard, work smart, make yourself invaluable, and find a company that appreciates that.”

All Rise

Federal District Judge Irene Keeley often jokes that she began her law career in an effort to win dinner table arguments with her father, a Washington, D.C., litigator. The Brooklyn native, D.C.-raised West Virginia judge had a roundabout journey to the bench, taking 10 years off from her first year of law school to raise a family and pursue a master’s degree, but today her calling has more to do with civic duty than mealtime debates. “It’s pretty hard for a judge not

to consider their proudest moment to be raising their right hand and taking that oath of office. It’s the highest form of public service,” she says. “It’s also one of the scariest moments because you don’t know if you can do the job. You realize the awesomeness of the undertaking.” Keeley has assumed the role with zeal. She’s been appointed to multiple committees looking at federal judicial codes and reviewing sentencing procedures and served as chief judge from 2001 to 2008. In her 22 years of service, she says she’s appreciated every moment. “My criminal cases are the ones I often view as most important. They affect a person’s liberty so directly,” she says.

World-Class Activist Each year just one grassroots activist on each continent receives the Goldman Environmental Prize. In 2009 the “green Nobel” for North America went to Maria Gunnoe. Gunnoe’s Boone County home lay below one of the more than 500 Appalachian mountains that have fallen to mountaintop removal mining, their tops blasted and bulldozed into the valleys to expose the coal beneath. As a result, her property flooded repeatedly in the early 2000s. When Gunnoe, daughter of a coal miner, spoke out to protect her home and community, she faced harassment: her tires slashed, her dog shot, her face on “Wanted” posters. “She’s one of the bravest activists we’ve seen, putting her life on the line,” a Goldman spokesperson told the Associated Press. In 2012 Gunnoe received the Wallenberg Medal for humanitarian leadership, a medal previously awarded the Dalai Lama. Serving on the board of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Gunnoe now works to protect the Monongahela National Forest as natural gas extraction moves in. Focus wvfocus.com


West Virginia’s Wonder Women

A WV Storyteller Elaine Sheldon has been busy. First she spent months in rural McDowell County filming her interactive documentary, Hollow, which looks at life in southern West Virginia. Then she did the rounds with the film and gathered the accolades. Hollow has been screened more than 50 times, including at the South by Southwest Festival and the U.S. Capitol, and it won a 2013 Peabody Award and a World Press Photo award. And the accolades keep coming. This summer Hollow was nominated for a 2014 Emmy in the New Approaches for Documentary category. Sheldon left the state after college, but returned to film Hollow to answer the urge she’d always felt tugging at her, telling her to tell West Virginia’s story. “Sometimes I almost wish I was from a state that I didn’t care as much about—other people can leave their home state and never think about it again. But we West Virginians have this affliction, we have to be part of something back home,” she says. “I really care about it.”

Teaching WV

better the chance of success for them and their families.” Before she was appointed to the board that oversees the school system she spent time working within it—first as an English and language arts teacher, then as a reading specialist. Later she oversaw Gear Up, the big federal college-readiness program for low-income kids in the state. “All these experiences taught me that we have some real issues and challenges in education, and I don’t think they’re just in West Virginia; I think these issues are national issues,” Manchin says. “It got me really interested in looking at what we could do differently to make things better for our kids.”

Fair Lady

Kelly Kimble, chair of the LGBT civil rights advocacy organization Fairness West Virginia, Morgantown resident, and lawyer at Spilman Thomas & Battle, PLLC, says she’s always had an innate sense of justice. “Since I was a child, fairness has always been at the forefront for me,” she says. Kimble came on as chair of Fairness in 2013 and is using her extensive legal background— as a seasoned litigator and corporate defense lawyer—to help further Fairness’ goals of getting non-discrimination legislation passed. “I think I’ve been pretty out all my life. I’ve never been closeted, and being a professional in a town like Morgantown, where the fight for LGBT rights is perceived to have a good bit of support, the organization wanted to have a board member who would be effective in growing a base,” she says. “I also have two teenage boys. I want more than anything for my children and everyone’s children to live in a world of acceptance, equality, and fundamental fairness. I want to be a part of that legacy.”


Focus September/October 2014

The Verdict is In Robin Davis is the chief justice of West Virginia’s highest court, one of two female justices serving on that court. She’s taken part in more than 2,500 opinions, and not a single one has gone on to the U.S. Supreme Court and been reversed. She was also part of the team that revised West Virginia’s rules for appellate court procedure, making for a more transparent court system and saving taxpayers millions of dollars. When Davis started practicing law in the 1980s there were very few female litigators, and she thrived in the courtroom—so she started paying attention to the importance of diversity in the legal system early on. “It’s not that women are always right, but we look at things and see things differently than men,” she says. “My male colleagues may bring up one point and we women see it a totally different way for a different reason.” Her advice to young women hoping to succeed? Don’t hold back. “Sometimes women have to work a little harder to prove themselves but that’s OK,” she says. “Just roll up your sleeves and do it.”

elle effects photo; Courtesy of west virginia judiciary; elizabeth roth; courtesy of Gayle Manchin

As the president of the West Virginia Board of Education, Gayle Manchin presides over the body that governs all of West Virginia’s public schools—a lively and complex kingdom that includes 55 county school districts and more than 280,000 students. “I have a firm belief that education is the key to every good thing that will ever happen in West Virginia,” Manchin says. “The better the quality of education for every child the

West Virginia’s Wonder Women

Courtesy of Steptoe & johnson, April Woody; perry bennett photography; tim tilley

Stepping Up Susan Brewer lived and breathed the law from an early age. Growing up in Arlington, Virginia, she spent summers working in her father’s firm filling in for reception and, as she got older, accounting. In undergrad, the trial lawyers at the firm began assigning her legal research, case investigations, and depositions. “They were teaching me things that most law students learn when I was just in high school and college,” Brewer says. “By the time I went to law school I was very comfortable in the courtroom. It didn’t intimidate me at all.” Today, as managing partner of law firm Steptoe & Johnson, the award-winning Brewer is recognized as the first woman to lead a major West Virginia law firm. Brewer began at Steptoe just two weeks out of law school, when she and her husband moved to Morgantown to start a family. There, in addition to raising a family of four, Brewer dedicated a long and vigorous litigation career to representing community hospitals throughout the state. As managing partner, Brewer has moved away from litigation and into a leadership role, taking on the mentoring of young lawyers both male and female. “I’ve spoken a lot to younger attorneys about work-life balance and trying to have a fulfilling career while also having a personal life,” she says. “Sometimes women in particular think they have to do everything themselves. My method is always to accept help.” In her personal life Brewer has devoted herself to the Morgantown community. She serves as chair of the Pittsburgh Ballet’s regional advisory committee, is instrumental in bringing programs like Swan Lake to Morgantown, and is on the board of the West Virginia University Foundation, the fundraising arm of the university. Brewer and her husband have also been diligent in supporting programs like high school lacrosse and Boy Scouts of America.

Peace of Mind April Woody stumbled into her first yoga class around 13 years ago, when she was trying to lose the weight she gained while pregnant with her first son. “It resonated with me deeply,” she says. “It changed my life.” In 2008, after noticing the lack of options for serious yoga practitioners in Charleston, she opened her own yoga studio there, The Folded Leaf. Since then she’s brought classes to hundreds of eager yogis and started West Virginia’s first accredited program for training new yoga teachers. Around 25 people have graduated from that program already, and Woody hopes those teachers will spread across the state and the globe to help yoga change others’ lives like it changed hers. The practice of yoga has been especially dear to her lately, as she’s been dealing with a cancer diagnosis and treatment. “The definition of yoga is the cessation of the flexation of the mind—it’s peace of mind,” she says. “It’s helped me immensely, and without yoga I can’t imagine where I’d be.”

Energetic Ideas Amanda Pasdon got into Legislature because she was frustrated with it. Now she’s representing Monongalia County in the House of Delegates and is part of an influx of young politicos in Charleston— which she says signals that the state is poised to make a leap in the right direction. “Regardless of party affiliation, we all want to see West Virginia move forward,” she says. “We have a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm, and a lot of fresh ideas.”

Arts, Advocacy, and Altruism When Susan Landis was a kid, the daughter of an Army doctor who moved the family often, her father would give a familiar lecture each time they came to a new town. “He’d say we were going to be guests in the community we moved to, and as guests of the community it was important that we give back,” she says. “That was just what you did.” Landis has followed that philosophy closely throughout her life, which may be why she’s such an outstanding community organizer and advocate today. She’s the executive director of the Beckley Area Foundation—she started as a volunteer on the Board of Directors and moved into a staff position when it became vacant—and a loyal advocate for the arts in West Virginia. Her long list of civic contributions includes more than a decade on the West Virginia Commission for the Arts and time dedicated to a slew of other organizations. “I really think it’s important that everyone find a way to give something back,” she says. “I sound like a Pollyanna to say it, but I think it’s really our duty to volunteer time, talent, and treasury to help our communities.” Focus wvfocus.com


West Virginia’s Wonder Women

Break A Leg

Chelsea Staley has helped to save the lives of hundreds of animals since she took over as executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association in October 2013 and changed the animal shelter’s approach toward managing strays. “We do everything not to euthanize now unless that animal needs to be put out of its misery,” she says. In 2012 the shelter saved 35 percent of all the animals it took in, and euthanized the rest. In 2014 the organization is on track to save 92 percent.

Miss Politics Tiffany Lawrence may be young, but she already has an impressive political career behind her, and surely ahead of her, too. The 32-year-old from Jefferson County has served in the House of Delegates since 2008 and is the assistant House majority whip—she’s currently running for her fourth term in office. Oh, and she’s a former Miss West Virginia, too.

Water Warrior During one of her many visits to West Virginia, Pittsburgh native Cindy Rank learned in 1971 that a friend’s property in Upshur County was for sale. She and her husband bought the 45 remote acres and adopted a physically demanding lifestyle, building a cabin and enjoying life among the hills and mountain streams. But when a strip mine was proposed nearby, Rank’s love for her new home led her to learn about the federal and state laws and regulations that govern mining, about the responsibilities of government oversight agencies, and about the tools that enable citizens to hold agencies and corporations responsible. Volunteering with the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy for almost 40 years, Rank has been a quiet force for upholding laws that protect property and the environment. In August 2014 the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC) awarded Rank its Laura Forman Passion for Justice Award. “It would be hard to think of any other non-lawyer who knows as much about mining-related water laws and regulatory history,” says OVEC founder Dianne Bady.


Focus September/October 2014

On Kaull

There’s a good chance at least some of the things you know about West Virginia, you know because April Kaull told you. She’s been a TV news reporter for nearly 20 years—she’s often the veteran reporter on the story, and she’s a familiar face to most West Virginians, their trusted arbiter of the news of the day. Kaull hopes the work she does can, in some way, inspire West Virginians to better themselves and their communities. “I think the communities in West Virginia have a great deal to learn from one another with the challenges and the successes they’ve had, and one of the best ways to learn about those stories is through the media,” she says. “If I’m able to share a story from Weirton of a problem they are having and a possible solution they’re working on, and it’s able to help people in Beaver in Raleigh County—that’s a good day for me.”

photography by Mandi White; courtesy of greenbrier valley theatre; perry bennett photography; courtesy of april kaull, Cindy Rank

Saving Cats and Dogs

Cathey Sawyer came to the Greenbrier Valley Theatre more than 20 years ago when she answered an ad for an artistic director who would grow a summer-only company into a fully professional theater. In the two decades since, Sawyer has done just that, transforming the GVT into West Virginia’s only professional live theater company and an anchor of the arts community in Greenbrier County and across the state. “We need theater to tell our stories, to chronicle our histories, to teach us empathy, to enhance and encourage our creativity, and to feed our souls,” she says. “I truly believe theater is an investment in the health of our community.” Sawyer speaks pragmatically about the necessity of theater—pointing out that it’s an important part of the tourism industry that is so vital to West Virginia’s economic health. But she’s just as motivated by its importance to West Virginia’s people on an even more profound level. “For any community to thrive, the creative spirit must be nurtured and preserved,” she says. “That spirit connects us to each other in ways that make us stronger and better human beings.”

West Virginia’s Wonder Women

Gary zearott; courtesy of Amy Goodwin, rick lee, West Virginia University

Preserving History Driving through Wheeling’s historic districts you’ll pass well preserved remnants of 19th century life in the formerly bustling industrial town. Quaint row homes and towering Victorian spires harken back to an era of wealth. But were it not for the work of several women in the mid-20th century, much of Wheeling’s living history would be lost. Now 78 years old, Snookie Nutting is an honored matriarch of historic preservation throughout West Virginia, though her financial interests and physical preservation work have been Wheeling focused. It was a tour of an East Wheeling Victorian house in the 1960s that sparked Nutting’s first effort to restore grandeur to the city’s historic skyline. “It had been beautiful, but it was rundown quite a bit,” she says. “Wheeling at that time looked really bad. They weren’t keeping up the buildings like they should have, but what the city has is absolutely incredible. We have so many Victorian buildings.” At the time, the old Victorian home housed an odd hospital of sorts—men with nowhere else to go were kept bedridden. “I decided I would like very much to buy that building,” she says. “I had to fix the walls, the ceiling, there were cracks everywhere. But I liked doing it; it was great fun.” The first house sparked a career that landed Nutting on national and state historic preservation boards, including roles as first president of the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia, founder of the late Victorian Wheeling Landmarks Foundation, and West Virginia advisor to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Good Woman Amy Goodwin really loves West Virginia. After all, it’s where she grew up, worked much of her life, met her husband, and is raising her family. “If I look at all the photos that are in my home, they’re of me and my family members out in the state doing things we love to do,” she says. And Goodwin, the commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Tourism, is convinced that if she can help give visitors great experiences in West Virginia like the ones she’s having in those photos, they’ll leave feeling as excited about her home state as she does. “I am absolutely convinced we can create experiences that makes visitors

feel the power that a destination can have on you,” she says. “I want everyone to feel about the state the way I do long after they leave, because our lives are filled with great things, but the experiences we get to have are really imprinted on us.” Goodwin grew up in Ripley—the daughter of a father who opened a golf store after dreaming for years of owning his own business, and a mother who went back to school as an adult so she could transition out of a career in education to become a dental hygienist. “It’s empowering watching your parents take risks,” she says. She started her career as a TV news reporter, but then transitioned into a staff position in local government, which led to a staff position with then-Governor Bob Wise, which spiraled into time on Capitol Hill. Eventually she became the spokesperson for Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and then, in the summer of 2014, was appointed to the state’s top tourism job. By this point she can hardly imagine working in a field that isn’t related to public service. “I really jam on what I do,” Goodwin says. “It is such a high for me to be able to accomplish something for someone else.”

Better with Curry Working mother and Hurricane resident Mandy Curry created Healthy Kids Inc., an online healthy meal planner for parents, with her husband, Kirk. In 2014 Mandy and Kirk were selected to compete in a hackathon sponsored by the Partnership for a Healthier America to create a solution that improves childhood obesity, and their solution won the Innovation Challenge. In 2015 they’ll take their idea—Start A Garden, designed to help teachers start classroom gardens—to Washington, D.C.

Food For Thought Nancy McIntyre is the senior associate dean at WVU’s College of Business and Economics. She’s also part owner of two Morgantown restaurants: Taziki’s Mediterranean Café and Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint. But those aren’t just any business ventures—McIntyre is one of the people behind an effort to give students hands-on experience in the hospitality industry and feed graduates into the job market. Taziki’s was gifted to the college in 2010 by two alumni—it’s staffed with students from the college’s hospitality management program and donates all net proceeds to the business school. Martin’s opened in Morgantown in 2013 with the same idea in mind. McIntyre is also an active researcher. Her research interests include curiosity, perfectionism, and emotional intelligence. She wants to understand, among other things, what motivates people to seek creative, innovative solutions to problems. Focus wvfocus.com


West Virginia’s Wonder Women

Founder, president, and CEO of Action Facilities Management, Inc. (AFM) in Morgantown, Diane Lewis is proud to say she started her company in her basement in 2001. “I was always taught to be honest, work hard, do your best, and your work will be noticed,” she says. Since then AFM, a government and commercial contract firm, has grown to more than 300 employees. The U.S. Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have all been her clients. Among her numerous awards and accolades, she was the 2010 Minority Small Business Champion for the State of West Virginia by the U.S. Small Business Administration and was named the West Virginia 2013 Small Business Person of the Year by the same organization. Long-term, she wants to find time to help make others’ dreams come true. “I want to be able mentor other young entrepreneurs to be successful and possibly provide opportunities for their companies to grow as well. I want to give back to the community that believed in me enough to help me.”

A Dedicated Delegate Barbara Fleischauer is a well-known name in North Central West Virginia where she’s spent more than a decade as a state delegate fighting for both fairness issues and her career. First elected in 1994, the state’s longest serving female delegate got her advocacy start at an early age. “When I was in high school girls were not allowed to wear pants in school,” she says. “When I ran for student council president I negotiated with the school superintendent so we could.” That was in Pennsylvania where she grew up. When Fleischauer moved to her family farm in West Virginia, she began her work as a rights advocate on a broader scale, but it hasn’t been easy. “Employment issues and fairness issues have been things I’ve been interested in for a very long time. It’s important for women and minorities to have a fair shot,” she says. She speaks from experience. In nearly 20 years serving in the Legislature, Fleischauer has only just been named chair of a committee, and a minor one at that. “I’ve seen many men with less experience move ahead,” she says. “Your ability to influence things is related to whether you’re in a leadership position. It’s been very hard to raise the glass ceiling.”


Focus September/October 2014

assuming Positive intent

Growing up in Pocahontas County, Sarah Riley was frustrated by the limitations she felt in school and in the community. After leaving the state for a college career at Harvard, Riley was inspired to come home to provide West Virginia’s girls with the nurturing atmosphere she never had. Now 39 years old, Riley is the director of High Rocks, an award-winning leadership organization promoting the education and encouragement of young women in Pocahontas, Nicholas, and Greenbrier counties. There she is responsible for leading a team of staff and volunteers through a number of initiatives—summer camps to tutoring— for girls as young as 12 and as old as 25. “I’m a mentor, coach, idea-generator, and problem-solver,” she says. Her guiding philosophy: “Assume positive intent. Assume the people around you want to be successful, kind, hard-working, productive, healthy, and generous—and you should do what you can to help them get there.”

King Conquers All Before she started Strategic Resolution Experts, Inc. (SRE), Jeannette King, a Navy veteran, was already a force to be reckoned with. “In the military I was in charge of human resources, training, accounting, and IT,” she says. “With my background and military training, I was able to translate that into the core capabilities of my company.” King has been able to build her business from the product of a $10,000 tax return to a $3 million organization in less than 10 years. SRE, a Martinsburg-based company, does a little bit of everything for both government and commercial companies in the areas of IT governance, human capital and strategic planning, project and program management, and training. SRE also supports charities for the country’s military, veterans, and their children. King was recently selected as the Small Business Association’s West Virginia 2014 Veteran Small Business Champion of the Year and was chosen as a finalist Woman Vetrepreneur of the Year by the National Veteran-Owned Business Association, in partnership with JPMorgan Chase & Co.

carla witt ford; courtesy of Sarah Riley, Jeannette King; perry bennett photography

Action Oriented

West Virginia’s Wonder Women

The Long Game

eric dinova; rick lee; amberlee christey photography; courtesy of judy sheppard

Dream a Little Dream Entertainer, philanthropist, author, mother—if Dreama Denver is one thing, it’s inspiring. Wife of the late Bob Denver, the much-loved actor who played Gilligan on Gilligan’s Island, Denver now runs Little Buddy Radio (93.1 FM) in Princeton and takes care of her autistic son, Colin. She also changes lives. “I don't know what to call myself. On paper I look really good, and I’ll bet Bob is up in heaven grinning his little butt off,” she says. “But if anyone told me 10 years ago that I would be doing what I’m doing now, I wouldn't have believed it. I wouldn’t have imagined I’d get involved in so much.” She now runs The Denver Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to helping individuals and families with special needs that she and Bob started. And in 2012, together with her assistant, Pam Coulbourne, she began West Virginia’s first honor flight program—Always Free Honor Flights—a chapter of the larger nonprofit that transports veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit their memorials. If you ask her what inspired her to get involved in so much, she’ll say it’s obvious—her son and her husband. “It didn’t occur to me that Colin and our life with Colin was setting me on a particular path until years after Bob died. When it all came together, I was filled with so much gratitude—for my son, just the way he is, gratitude for the 30 years I spent with Bob, gratitude for a husband who believed I could do anything. After he died I had to find a way to believe it for myself. That was the work, deciding that to honor Bob’s memory, I had to pull myself up by the bootstraps,” she says. “I say this to everyone who’s suffered a loss. We all have different ways, but whatever you can do to honor the love you had—even if it’s not public—think about how you can be a positive force in someone else’s life.”

Carolyn Long is the quintessential educator. She’s been a teacher and administrator in West Virginia public schools and in higher education for much of her career, she was named the first female board chairperson of the West Virginia University Board of Governors, and she was the first female superintendent for Braxton County Schools. Now she’s helping revitalize West Virginia University Institute of Technology as campus president. “I am motivated by the young men and women who will take our country to greater heights,” she says. “We have to make sure we see the potential in every single one of our youth and help them move forward.” Together with the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, WVU, and the state legislature, the campus saw a 10 percent enrollment increase in fall 2013. “No matter what you do in your career, you need to find how your work makes a difference. Everyone can make a difference and we all need to ensure that we give others every chance possible to move forward and grow.”

Taylor Made “Success comes from looking forward,” says Lydotta M. Taylor, former math teacher turned nationally recognized leader in education reform. “My professional philosophy is founded on a strong work ethic with a focus on not only creating but also maximizing opportunities to make good things happen.” Taylor’s raison d’être is to inspire—a lofty goal, but one she’s actively making into reality through entrepreneurial endeavors like the EdVenture Group in Morgantown, an education consulting firm that provides customized professional development programs, and L-evation, LLC, which works to provide businesses, individuals, and government entities with strategies and solutions for improving both personally and professionally. Through highly successful training programs and competitive federal, state, and private funding sources, her efforts have impacted more than 500,000 educators, businesses, and community members. This professional development force of nature has also been vice president for workforce and education at the West Virginia High Technology Consortium (WVHTC) Foundation and the director of educational programs at the WVHTC Foundation and the Monongalia County Board of Education. “I started my career as a math teacher, and in many ways, I’m still teaching today.”

Pennies to Platinum A leading businesswoman in West Virginia and around the world, Judy Sheppard grew Professional Services of America, Inc., (PSA) from a startup with $500 to a multimillion-dollar human resources provider to many of the country’s most prominent corporations. Sheppard is president and CEO of the company, which offers services ranging from staffing and employee training to consulting and marketing services. The organization has recently celebrated 25 years of business with a client list that includes DuPont, GE, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Department of Treasury. While Sheppard has opened PSA offices around the country, she continues to maintain a headquarters in Parkersburg where she is also active in multiple professional and community organizations. Her awards and accomplishments alone could take up a full page: multiple who’s who lists, entrepreneur of the year for several years, small business person of the year, and one of the most powerful minority women in business, to name a few. Focus wvfocus.com


West Virginia’s Wonder Women

Raising the Stakes Judy McCauley rose through the ranks of business development, starting in banking and moving to real estate and then to the U.S. Department of Energy. It was there, working with businesses looking to contract with the DOE, that she found her calling. “I liked negotiating contracts for the government, but what I really enjoyed was working with the companies,” she says. “I love seeing them succeed.” Her position with the DOE launched a job with the U.S. Small Business Administration, where she’s served as West Virginia’s district director since 2004. Aside from her work at the SBA helping small businesses find their feet, McCauley has a personal drive for economic development in the state. She’s spent much of her time with boards and organizations, such as the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation and statewide collegiate business plan competitions, promoting the development of all West Virginia businesses—and winning multiple awards for her successes. “I only have one daughter,” she says. “My determination was that if my daughter chose, she could stay in West Virginia and have a high-paying job.”

Ashley Jenkins joined Rainelle’s volunteer department at 17, inspired by her father, who was an active firefighter for years. As a little girl Jenkins says she would jump at the chance to go to the firehouse with him. “As I grew up it became less about riding big red trucks and hanging out at the firehouse and became more about wanting to help others and serve my community.” Jenkins’ desire to fight fire never waned. She’s been with the department for 12 years and was elected to chief in January 2014—one of the first female fire chiefs in the state. “I want Rainelle Fire Department to be a family of brothers and sisters who the citizens of Rainelle can count on in their time of need, no matter the situation,” she says.

All Hart

Ladies First

As president of Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, Joanne Tomblin gets to watch education change lives. “I get to see students who didn’t believe they could be successful come to college,” she says. “And they come out with a skill and go on to find a great job.” As West Virginia’s first lady, she travels the state, talking about those students and about the virtues of education. “Because education is the foundation for everything,” she says. “I think it’s the solution for so many problems we have in West Virginia—it’s the key to helping our drug problem, to helping lower our prison population, to helping people have a healthier lifestyle. It’s the key to so many things.” Tomblin is a transplant to West Virginia. She came here to attend Marshall University’s journalism school, stayed a while longer to work as a reporter, then met her husband, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, then a freshman legislator, and decided to stay for the long haul. But by now she thinks of herself as a West Virginian, through and through. “When people ask where I’m from, I tell them West Virginia,” she says. “And I really want all West Virginians to be successful.”

Chef and small business owner Anne Hart can summarize her professional philosophy in three words: “Passion, drive, and education,” she says. In short, “Love what you do, believe in what you do, and be the expert in what you’re doing, and the rest is easy.” This Clarksburg native is executive chef and owner of Provence Market Café & Marketplace, a popular Bridgeport restaurant with a French bistro feel. “Opening any business certainly involves knowledge of what it is you are hoping to achieve and then being able to teach others. That being said, grit,


Focus September/October 2014

luck, a great staff, and support by our community have allowed Provence Market to continue to thrive 12 years and counting,” Hart says. “Now, being almost fully grown, projects I take on or an organization I join must support causes dear to my heart.” As chef and restaurateur, Hart has traveled extensively for events and competitions, helped found the Bridgeport Farmers Market, was on the board of Buy Fresh Buy Local West Virginia, and was recently included in the inaugural edition of Best Chefs America and Best Chefs of the South. She was also a panelist at the first Farm to Table International Symposium in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Courtesy of Ashley Jenkkins; d-max photography; tyler evert; t. michael brown

Living The Dream

West Virginia’s Wonder Women

A Cap of Many Feathers

Irrepressible Activist

Paul Corbit Brown; courtesy of Ellen Cappellanti, Diane Lewis, WV Department of Education & the arts

Since she co-founded the environmental nonprofit Aurora Lights in 1998, Jen-Osha Buysse has co-produced two compilation CDs and a website to raise funds and educate about the impacts of mountaintop removal mining. An irrepressible activist, she was a prominent coordinator in the emergency response to the January 2014 chemical leak in Charleston. The Yale Forestry grad and Switzer fellow now directs the Mountain Stewardship and Outdoor Leadership School opening in September 2014 in partnership with Morgantown Learning Academy.

A Renaissance woman with her hands in education, business, law, and the arts, Ellen Cappellanti recently earned another feather for her cap as the first female managing member of major law firm Jackson Kelly. Cappellanti was a commercial lawyer for 34 years, recognized in five disciplines, before being appointed managing partner effective January 2015. In her new position Cappellanti says she will expand the scope and depth of the firm’s practice as well as mentor young attorneys. “It’s very important for women to see other women in leadership positions. There have been a number of folks who have reached out to me and talked about joining our firm because of our female leadership,” she says. “I’ve always been well mentored and I want to pay that forward.” Throughout her career she’s also spent anywhere from 10 to 20 hours per week volunteering in the community. Cappellanti has long served on the board of Charleston’s Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences and as a member of the West Virginia University Board of Governors, where she’s been active in promoting the university’s outreach and growth. Cappellanti urges potential volunteers to be sure they’re working for a cause that inspires absolute passion or develops professional success. “A mistake people make is that they get flattered,” she says. “They get asked to boards where one of those two are lacking and they don’t do a good job. Being a bad board member can be more detrimental than not doing it at all.”

Champion of Culture Some people might consider what Kay Goodwin does to be some of the fluffier stuff of government. As cabinet secretary for the Department of Education and the Arts she’s not concerned with providing health care or safety services—but the agencies she oversees are charged with bringing public radio to the masses, increasing access to the arts, and preserving important historic artifacts, among a slew of other things. “Every day these agencies give to people in West Virginia something special enhancing their lives,” Goodwin says. “It’s good to be able to pave roads and do the things that government does, but what I get to do that is by some considered extra, I consider vital—to the spirit and to the heart. We’re enhancing the lives of our citizens.” Goodwin has loved theater since she saw her first play in the first grade—a show called “Dick Whittington and his Cat” performed in the dormitory at West Virginia Wesleyan College. “It was another world, an imaginary world,” she says. “And it was the ability to entertain—I didn’t think much about educating at the time, I just wanted the applause.” That changed as she grew up and went behind the scenes, spending years volunteering with organizations around the state and gathering lessons she uses today in her full-time position with the state. “I was fully and happily and gratefully engaged in what I considered public service,” she says. “And with this job I’ve gotten to continue that.”

Do the Salsa! Robin Hildebrand started Blue Smoke Salsa in 1993 with little more than a 10-by-12-foot kitchen in the basement of her home and vegetables from her backyard garden. In the two decades since, she’s made her salsa a state favorite and become one of West Virginia’s favorite entrepreneurs along the way. Blue Smoke Salsa is made in Ansted—it’s the largest employer in the tiny town—entirely with fresh produce from local farmers. Hildebrand’s secret is the sweet onions she uses to give her salsas and sauces body—and the recipe seems to be working. Blue Smoke Salsa has racked up an impressive list of taste awards over the years. It’s such a favorite that when, in 2011, the recession forced Hildebrand to announce Blue Smoke Salsa would close its doors, the community rallied to keep it open. State politicians reached out, as did Tamarack, and orders poured in from across the state. That boost gave Hildebrand the confidence to carry on and, in 2013, she partnered with a food product company in Virginia that is helping her move her salsa onto the national market. Focus wvfocus.com


West Virginia’s Wonder Women

Never Miss an Opportunity “It was a lot of interesting connections and running into people, plus my ability and desire to strengthen my connections,” Leah Summers says of creating her career path. Today the business executive and former Miss America contestant is using her networking skills to further the prospects of one of West Virginia’s most successful businesses as vice president of talent management at Mylan. There she’s responsible for overseeing the recruitment and retention of Mylan workers worldwide. “When I think about what I’m doing today, I feel like I’ve prepared my whole life for this job in a recruiting role,” she says. A formative organization in her life has been the Miss West Virginia Scholarship Organization. In her 25 years working with the program, first as a pageant contestant and then as West Virginia’s representative in the Miss America competition and now as executive director, Summers says she has been proud to see the impact the scholarship program has on young girls around the state in developing their personal and professional skills. “Through the program I have a chance to interact with some amazing young women that are truly making a difference in their communities, their state, and around the nation,” she says. “They are inspiring.”


Focus September/October 2014

Marshall worked full-time to pay her way through college—twice. She has a bachelor’s degree as well as an associate’s in applied science. She started working at Toyota in 1991, enticed by the company’s efficiency and the “amazing products we make—products that every family uses every day,” she says. “A vehicle rolls off our assembly lines only 18 hours after we take raw steel and mold it and stamp it—that is truly exciting.” There aren’t all that many women who work in manufacturing, and there may be even fewer who are running major automobile parts plants. Marshall hopes her successes will serve as a model for the next generation of girls who, like her, are interested in math, science, and technology. “Encouraging girls to learn and experiment—to take risks and learn by doing—helps them feel empowered and self-confident enough to try things they otherwise would not try,” she says.

Art and Soul West Virginia’s Carnegie Hall, in Lewisburg, is one of only four Carnegies in the world. Susan Adkins runs that theater, and under her careful eye the budget for this cultural gem has more than doubled in less than a decade, and programming has expanded exponentially. She was first introduced to the Carnegie as a child, when she drove 30 minutes into Lewisburg from the tiny town of Rupert for piano lessons. She returned as an adult after nearly three decades teaching music in public schools. “I’ve had two great careers,” she says. “Teaching was uplifting, seeing students take a piece of music and bring it to life. But seeing the Carnegie thrive, seeing the community embrace this place—it’s extremely rewarding.” Many credit the rejuvenation of the Carnegie for jump-starting the rejuvenation of Lewisburg in the late 1990s—which just shows what an integral part of the community the theater is. “The arts often really help these distressed areas—they nourish us soulfully, they make us feel better about who we are and our community, and they provide an outlet where we can be healthier,” Atkins says. “How does it all work together? I think that’s the mystery.”

Standard of Excellence Lewisburg native Mary Lindquist’s career started in a seventh grade mathematics classroom and later encompassed international leadership on a grand scale. Her work now affects students and teachers around the world. “It’s about valuing teachers and their roles, yet knowing we need to support them with new ideas about teaching and learning,” she says. She became president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) in 1992. She oversaw the early years of the NCTM standards, chaired the NCTM’s Commission on the Future of the Standards, became the Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Mathematics Education at Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia, and won a lifetime achievement award in 2000. She has also been an integral part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress and served on a U.S. steering committee for international mathematics and science study. These days she travels the world with the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement’s Trends in International Math and Science Study, an international math and science assessment given every four years to fourth, eighth, and 12th grade students in 80 countries.

Courtesy of toyota, Mary Lindquist; blackbird studio; courtesy of Leah Summers

she keeps going

Millie Marshall likens working at Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia to those old ads for Energizer batteries. “The bunny beating on the drum falls down, but immediately bounces back up and starts beating that drum again,” she says. “It’s the same at Toyota. There are times I fall down, but the key to succeeding is to bounce back, reflect, and learn from the experience.” Marshall is the president at the auto engine and transmission plant in Buffalo in Putnam County and is involved in every aspect of production, from safety reviews to quality checks. Right now she’s overseeing an expansion of the automatic transmission production—the eighth big expansion like this at TMMWV and a massive undertaking. Marshall grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, with her parents and three siblings, a 4-H kid who liked to show horses in her spare time. “I never imagined I would one day be a plant president,” she says.

West Virginia’s Wonder Women

bulldog creative services; kyle heeter; courtesy of Mary Hunt, Mara Boggs

The Crusader “The first time it hit me my son, Joseph, was 3 years old,” says Ruth Christ Sullivan, autism issues pioneer and longtime Huntington resident. “He was sitting in the doorway between the kitchen and another room and I’d given him a puzzle. In no time he had it together. So I turned all the pieces upside down, so you could only see the backs, with no color scheme. And in a very short time, he had it all together again—without using the pictures. That struck me as very unusual. In fact, I thought I had a genius on my hands.” A short while later, while in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Sullivan got a diagnosis. Though her son was a savant, he was also autistic (he later became one of the inspirations for Dustin Hoffman’s Rain Man character). And according to the prevailing theory of the day, the cause of autism was a cold, unloving mother. “I didn’t believe it for one minute,” Sullivan says. “But because he needed help and there was none around, I had to go after it.” She’d raised her other children successfully, attended Columbia University, trained as an army nurse, and earned a master’s degree in public health nursing—she knew she had to dig deeper. So she read all the autism literature she could find and started organizing. Together with other parents and experts, she helped found the Autism Society of America, the Autism Services Center (ASC) in Huntington, the West Virginia Autism Training Center at Marshall University, the National Association of Residential Providers for Adults with Autism, and was involved in founding a national autism society in Argentina. She was the first lobbyist for autism at the U.S. Congress as well as the New York and West Virginia legislatures, earned a Ph.D. with concentrations in psychology, special education, and speech and hearing, and has written more than 65 articles and five books on autism. And this list only scratches the surface of her 50-plus years of activism. Current ASC CEO Mike Grady says Sullivan’s accomplishments simply can’t be measured. “She’s had a major impact on lives, and people don’t even know it,” he says. “That’s the way it often is with pioneers. Families with autistic children today don’t even have to face what she faced because of what she and other pioneers did.”

Food Hero Charleston-based Chef April Hamilton believes a good meal can help fix what ails you. That’s why she began a unique series of cooking classes and lessons through her business, April’s Kitchen Counter. From children’s cooking camps to corporate teambuilding cooking classes, she uses food to bring people together. And in 2010 celebrity chef Jamie Oliver dubbed her a “food revolution hero” for her efforts at revamping the Kanawha County Schools food system.

Help Yourself The Benedum Foundation isn’t behind every good thing that happens in West Virginia, but it is behind a lot of them. And Mary Hunt has a lot to do with that. As a senior program officer with the Benedum Foundation, the largest foundation operating primarily in West Virginia, Hunt works to connect communities in West Virginia with the things they need to make positive change happen, usually through community grants. “I like to help local communities match what they see as their goals with the resources they need to advance those goals,” Hunt says. “The best of the grantmaking we do impacts all parts of life, from education and children to lifelong health care.” She was drawn into the field even before she majored in sociology and social work, when in high school she spent summers working with playgrounds across Harrison County to develop programs for young children. “For some reason that just pulled me in,” she says. Hunt grew up in Clarksburg and, after several years away, returned there to live as an adult. She loves being back home, she says, and loves living and working in West Virginia—her work puts her in touch with a lot of energetic people who make her feel optimistic about the future of the state. “West Virginia has so many assets, not the least of which are West Virginians committed to helping make their home better,” she says. “I see people working daily to help improve and create a difference in their communities. There are people volunteering and raising funds and dedicating resources who really care. I think that is the making of a very positive future for West Virginia.”

Commanding Presence

“I can’t imagine not trying to make the world better, even if it’s just in a small way,” says Mara Boggs, Senator Joe Manchin’s state director. The Keyser native spent 13 years serving her country—primarily in combat units—was the first woman commander of her unit, and has advised on defense and foreign policy issues on Capitol Hill. She has also been Senator Manchin’s chief of operations and his senior policy advisor for national security and veterans’ issues. Focus wvfocus.com




See how Twitter, journalism, and marketing fit together.

Sometimes change is as simple as getting everyone in one room.

pg. 68

pg. 72

The Right Person for the Role Leadership. It’s a buzzword plastered on resumes or shoved in the title of industry conferences. It’s written into everything from the curriculum of children’s camps to the agendas at business retreats, and yet, despite constant proclamations of leadership prowess, a good manager can be hard to find. In fact, after years of research, Gallup has found that only 10 percent of the world’s population can truly manage well. The rest can sort of manage, or can be trained to manage, but they’ll never be as effective as the one in 10 who have the raw talent for employee engagement and leadership. And that’s not good. An out-of-touch manager can do serious damage, costing businesses billions of dollars every year. Extensive Gallup studies on employee engagement showed in 2012 that only 30 percent of American employees are engaged at work— the number drops to 13 percent worldwide—and that managers are largely responsible. Anyone who reads the comic strip “Dilbert” or who has watched Office Space knows how detrimental a miserable employee can be. Gallup found businesses chose the right person for the employee leadership job only 18 percent of the time. Want to increase your chances of a managerial score? Here are a few tips:

Find a coach. Good managers need to motivate people through easy wins and rough tumbles with a direct mission in mind and a clear path for getting there. In difficult times they need to be assertive enough to get their employees through.

Find someone accountable. You need someone who won’t tolerate finger pointing when a deadline falls through, but who has the sense to understand that mistakes happen. This person is someone who will step up when the mistake is theirs and begin the steps to disaster recovery.

Find a people person. This doesn’t need to be the nicest or most talkative candidate, but the one who inspires the most trust, transparency, and respect among employees. Good managers can understand their employees as individual people with differing talents and personalities. They quickly know how to respond to employees and direct them to do their best work.

Look for a quick-thinking problem solver. The proverbial ship is sinking. Your employees have been bailing water for days. A good captain doesn’t go down with the ship. He builds a raft for everyone to jump onto and salvages what’s left of the cargo.

Promote or hire based on requirements for the new position. Leadership has often been a game of office politics. People move up in the managerial ranks because they’ve been around forever and deserve it, right? Wrong. Being a good salesperson or software engineer doesn’t mean a person has the talent for dealing with people, engaging them, and inspiring them to do their best work.

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Lessons Learned

Staging A Success To draw in bigger crowds, American Mountain Theater had to branch out.



eggan Sexton is in the process of a $5 million renovation and construction project on a hotel in downtown Elkins. She’s never run a hotel before—never even worked in one. She’s never run a restaurant either, and yet she’s doing that, too, in a newly renovated space adjoining the hotel. But Sexton’s not worried. Neither is her business partner and father, Kenny Sexton, her stepmom, Beverly Sexton, or the rest of the family members they’re in business with. After all, compared to the family’s first business venture—a Branson-style musical theater company and facility in Elkins—this is cake. “We feel confident the hotel is going to succeed—American Mountain Theater (AMT) could have failed very deeply,” Meggan Sexton says. “To me, coming in and building AMT in the first place was a whole heck of a lot riskier than what we’re doing now.” By now the creation story of American Mountain Theater is part of the local lore in



Susie Heckel scrapes together the money to start American Mountain Theater and files for incorporation.

Focus September/October 2014

Elkins—it’s a pleasing tale of what happens when you mix Brady Bunch-like family dynamics with entrepreneurial energy. The theater was founded in 2002 by Susie Heckel, Beverly Sexton’s sister. Heckel and Beverly Sexton grew up in West Virginia but as adults settled down in Arkansas, just across the state line from Branson, Missouri—a tourist destination famous for its comedic musical variety shows. In 2002 Heckel decided to move back to West Virginia and founded American Mountain Theater—she thought her home state could use a little Branson-style musical theater itself. She scraped together some money and a cast made up mainly of family members, and in 2003 AMT held its first performances in Elkins’ old armory building just outside of town. Meggan Sexton’s parents helped out with the project from Arkansas for a while— they’re both musicians and had theater experience themselves—but her father’s entrepreneurial spirit pushed him to get more deeply involved. In 2007 the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad began running


The theater holds its first shows in an old armory building in Elkins.


heritage train excursions through Elkins, bringing tourists through town by the trainful. The Sextons saw Elkins was poised to become a major tourist destination in West Virginia and positioned themselves to take advantage of that boom. They bought the theater from Heckel—she stayed involved and is still a cast member—and started building a new, $2 million facility in Elkins’ historic rail yard. “They thought, ‘If we’re going to make this work we need to be down there right in that rail yard where everything is happening,’” Meggan Sexton says. One by one the family moved to West Virginia from Arkansas and got involved in the business. The Sextons saw a big boom in business when they moved into the new facility, and then again in 2009, when their daughter ramped up efforts to create and market vacation packages to entice tourists. “We’re located in a remote, small town in West Virginia,” Meggan Sexton says. “We feel amongst ourselves that we are a big enough draw, but if you’ve not been here before then coming to see a show might not be enough of a reason to make your way into Elkins. With these packages we can offer up an entire vacation that draws people to the area.” AMT makes your dinner reservations, books your scenic train ride, and reserves your tickets to the show. Those packages were hugely successful and, within a few years, accounted for 50 percent of the company’s overall business. But a few years ago, Meggan Sexton started to notice two things. The first was that AMT’s crowds were steady and sizable, but they weren’t growing anymore. The second was that Elkins had a lodging shortage. “We saw this firsthand because we were dealing with it when we were booking hotels,” she says. “We can’t put people in the audience if there’s nowhere for them to sleep after the show.” So the Sextons got into the hotel

Kenny and Beverly Sexton buy the theater from Heckel, and Kenny Sexton moves from Arkansas to Elkins to work on it. The rest of the family eventually follows.


American Mountain Theater opens in a new theater—a $2 million, nearly 13,000-square-foot facility in Elkins’ historic rail yard.

written by

Shay Maunz

Catch one of the more than 200 Branson-style shows a year at the popular American Mountain Theater in Elkins. Then, spend the night at the new upscale Isaac Jackson Hotel.

Meggan Sexton’s

Words of Wisdom:

“You can’t let a fear of risk paralyze you. We don’t know how to do everything, but we have a lot of confidence in our ability to figure things out, which has served us well.”

connie rowe; nikki bowman

“If you don’t know what you’re doing, hire people who do. How do you run a hotel? You hire somebody who has a lot of experience working at a hotel. How do you run a restaurant? You hire someone with a lot of restaurant experience.” business. They bought an old, run-down hotel in downtown Elkins, plus the adjoining restaurant, and started a $5 million renovation project. The project is still under way, but part of the newly renovated, upscale hotel, The Isaac Jackson, opened in 2013. The restaurant, the 1863 Grill, opened in summer 2014. Since none of the family had much experience in the hotel or restaurant industry, they hired a restaurant manager with two decades of experience and an


American Mountain Theater starts offering vacation packages to draw in more tourists.

executive chef with plenty of expertise managing a kitchen. Right away the hotel’s rooms filled up and the restaurant was crowded—evidence the investment was worth it. “It’s a whole different ball game from what we were used to doing,” Meggan Sexton says. “And it’s been overwhelming. But for me it’s been an adventure that I’ve really enjoyed. It’s been fun for me to learn new things, to try my hand at something different.”


The theater starts its first television show on the cable channel RFD-TV. The company’s television show is now shown on West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

“You have to have employees who are really invested in what they do. We’re lucky in that our employees own whatever they do. They work to see that it succeeds.” “We really run with a very small team—it gives us flexibility, which has been really important as we’ve worked to grow. We’ll continue to grow as the business grows, but carefully.”


The Isaac Jackson Hotel opens for business. Part of the hotel is still under construction and slated to open in fall 2014.


The Isaac Jackson’s on-site restaurant, the 1863 Grill, reopens after a remodel.

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Curiosity The head of social media at ABC News is from West Virginia. We talked with him about Twitter, journalism, marketing, and the way they all work together.


ndrew Springer could predict how this story would begin even during the interview for it. “When you sit down to write this story about me, you’ll pick out the most interesting thing we talked about to start with,” he says. “And while you’re doing that you’re thinking about how to make people curious about the rest of the story. That’s what we do as journalists—we think about how to make people curious about something so they’ll pay attention to it. And what sets us apart from people on Madison


Focus September/October 2014

Avenue is that we need to get across important stories.” Are you hooked yet? Springer is the senior social media editor at ABC News. He lives in New York and works in an interesting space, somewhere around the intersection of marketing and journalism—he’s concerned both with gathering news and building his company’s brand, because social media is supposed to do both. The Fairmont native started working at ABC while he was still in journalism school at Columbia University. He got hired to work on social media at Good

“It’s really more about community and engaging with people one-on-one.” Andrew Springer

Morning America when a new producer took the helm there—James Goldston, now the president of ABC News—and set about reinvigorating the program, including its social media presence. “I pitched a social media plan and he liked it,” Springer says. He quickly became the first associate producer of social media at GMA and has been promoted enough times since then that, at the age of 27, his job title sounds pretty lofty. But Springer isn’t surprised by this. “When you’re young you’re a good fit for this because you don’t have this built-in idea that things always have to be one way,” he says. “You’re willing to try anything.” The staff at ABC News is trying to accomplish a few things with social media—things that are inherently different, but complementary. On one side the goal is strictly journalistic— the team uses social media to gather information and find sources, then vets that information for reliability and uses it to improve its newscasts. To that end, Andrew came up with idea for the first “social media desk” at ABC News, which they used to gather news on social media during Hurricane Sandy. The ABC News team eventually won a Peabody Award for their coverage of that storm. But there’s also a marketing element. “Our challenge as broadcasters is to build the brand of the show when our competition is everywhere,” Springer says. “When GMA started in 1975 there were three channels, maybe four if you got PBS. That’s no longer the case—so that’s been a seismic shift not only for our viewership but also for our business.

written by

Shay Maunz

We need to build out these brands, and if we can get you to think about Good Morning America after 9 in the morning that’s a win for us. If we can get you to think about Nightline before 9:30 p.m. that’s a win for us.” Springer and his team at ABC News do that by engaging with the viewership regularly, often, and with personality, in ways that wouldn’t be possible without the Internet and social media. The central ABC News Twitter account, for example, responds to its followers, retweets them, and favorites their tweets. “It’s really more about community and engaging with people one on one,” Springer says. Plus, anchors are on their phones constantly, Springer says, tweeting from their own accounts. The result is a more relatable, approachable show that viewers can really connect with—and that connection shows up in the ratings. The year Springer started developing Good Morning America’s social media strategy was the same year it overtook The Today Show as the top morning show for the first time in 16 years. That wasn’t all because of social media, of course—Goldston revamped the show in myriad ways during that period—but it’s safe to say it played a significant role. When people see their favorite morning show anchors on Twitter, quipping back and forth, they want to tune in to see what they’ll do on air. “I think what we did on social media was an extension of the GMA brand, and the GMA brand is fun and informative,” Springer says. “I think that came through and people felt a stronger connection with the show.”

@Springer talks social media, in 140 characters or less. You can’t ignore social media. Saying that social media is ruining journalism—that’s like somebody in the 1920s saying telephones are ruining journalism. I don’t know how essential social media is, but I do know it’s necessary. If Good Morning America didn’t have Twitter you’d be like, “What?” There are no experts on social media. There are only people who are willing to try and people who are willing to experiment. The real power of Twitter is that you can see what people are talking about in real time en masse. To me that’s very, very interesting. The great thing about social media is that it’s added this whole layer of engagement and interactivity to the Internet.

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C_ROP_ER_49_0714 Focus wvfocus.com


10 Things

Good Design Can Help Business

The Mills Group is an architecture, planning, and preservation firm in Morgantown. Mills Group has been transforming and preserving the built environment of West Virginia for eight years with a team of architects, interior designers, landscape planners, and historians using the principles of sustainable design. millsgrouponline.com

With the advent of online shopping, brick-and-mortar storefronts face competition from near and far. By understanding consumer behavior and incorporating architectural and interior design into your business, you can distinguish it from others. Here are 10 easy ways to incorporate good design into your business and to attract new customers.


Signage may be a no-brainer when dealing with businesses, but good design is imperative. A simple, easy-to-read sign has proven time and again to be the most effective way to attract customers off the street. The size and style of font as well as graphic composition can set you apart from your competitors.



If you’re looking for a location for your new business, try an old building. Historic buildings tend to promote walkability, are mixed-use, and are generally less expensive than newer spaces when all factors as considered. The manageable size of the buildings and interesting architecture also encourage creativity. Historic downtown buildings generally have display windows that can serve as a free advertisement for any type of business. The architecture can be part of the branding for the business.


Focus September/October 2014


Sunlight is often overlooked as an important design element. Sunshine connects us to a primal instinct associated with the circadian rhythm. Natural light has been shown to increase productivity, contentment, and alertness in people. As a result, both employees and customers bathed in natural light tend to be happier, and happy customers translate to increased sales. If your business does not have access to windows, incorporating indirect sunlight through the use of properly placed transom windows, solar tubes, or skylights can achieve the same effect. Â

Be organized. This simple design tip may be the easiest and least expensive to implement. Grouping products and materials in an efficient way allows consumers to satiate their needs while whetting their appetite for additional purchases. Look to incorporate unique shelving or display options such as apple crates or window frames. Additionally, remember that space equals luxury and clutter devalues products. Good merchandising starts with good spatial design in the floor plan and the third dimension as well.


Think about the layout. A distinctive aspect of great storefronts is a pre-determined circuitous route throughout the business. This suggested pathway introduces shoppers to new products and ensures buyers experience the whole store. In order to maximize space, incorporate verticality into your design; floor-to-ceiling draperies or artwork draw the eye upward and create the illusion of additional capacity.

written by

Mills Group


Don’t forget about lighting. In addition to sunlight, the incorporation of specific task lighting is essential in commercial businesses. Task lighting guides the consumer’s eye toward specific items. Ambient lighting also sets a mood, which can be as diverse as romantic, fun, or serious. To achieve architectural interest, incorporate different types of lighting in a space, including wall sconces, chandeliers, and task lighting to illuminate interior spaces. The color rendition of the bulbs can make a huge visual difference—the range can be from the cool (blue spectrum) to the warm (orange/red spectrum) range depending on the product or object to be lit.


Incorporate color. The introduction of color is a low-cost method to create high-impact design. Use bold, bright colors to attract attention; use a neutral palette to create a sense of calm and order. Shoppers tend to increase their purchases when presented with the color red; however, it should be used sparingly because it can also encourage aggressive tendencies.


Be accessible. As you develop your business, consider how others may experience the shop. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides standards to accommodate physically challenged individuals. Important elements to consider are ensuring the entrance is accessible, that there is an appropriate amount of space between aisles, and that restrooms are designed for equality. Consider placing products at varying heights to appeal to all customers.


Use texture. Utilizing different textures in your workspace appeals to the consumer’s sense of touch. Fabrics, wood, ceramics, and plastics provide different visceral sensations and encourage an exploration of the space.

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Use sustainable materials. Sustainability is a buzzword that is commonplace in today’s design. Incorporating recycled, reclaimed, or re-imagined materials provokes thought and demonstrates your environmental ethic to clientele. Incorporating greenery into a design also adds a healing aspect such as using fresh plants to oxygenate and purify the air. These materials contribute biophilic design characteristics, invoking the inherent connection between humans and nature. Additionally, sustainable systems like energy production (photovoltaic), water harvesting (rain), and reuse (such as flushing toilets with this captured water as well as water from sinks) will lower utility bills and use less of the world’s precious resources.


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Community Spaces Community development often starts with something simple—a regular open forum for ideas.


e spend most of our time between two places: home and work. That’s fine, but can make for a limited set of interactions—we spend most of our time talking to coworkers and family members. Again, that’s fine, until we take a hard look at our community outside of those two spaces—our town, neighborhood, or business district—and see some things we’d like to change—a neighborhood park we’d like to see built, a farmers’ market we’d like to see started, a neighborhood watch we’d like to see active again. That’s when we need what community development experts call “third spaces.” “Third spaces are places in communities where people are comfortable coming


Focus September/October 2014

together, where the environment is such that they can talk, and where people start to do some informal brainstorming about how to make things better where they live,” says Kent Spellman, the executive director of the West Virginia Community Development Hub. “We’re interested in that because we’ve found community improvement consistently begins with a conversation, and when the conversation ends generally the community improvement dwindles down and ends as well.” Third spaces can come in a slew of shapes and sizes: In some communities it’s the post office or the neighborhood grocery store, in others it might be a favorite bar or restaurant. The space doesn’t matter as much as the conversation does. “We try to think about how that conversation can be

hosted in a very specific and intentional way and we refer to that as creating a civic infrastructure,” Spellman says. “Just as we have water pipes to carry our water, broadband and cable to carry our Internet, and sewer lines to dispose of waste, we need some sort of infrastructure in each community to carry the conversation.” To make that happen more reliably and efficiently some communities have juryrigged a very deliberate civic infrastructure— they’ve established regular open meetings where people can go to talk about ideas they have to improve where they live. And in communities with meetings like this we can see actual, visible change. The results are so exciting that Spellman says every community that wants to improve itself should establish meetings like these. “The most effective thing any community can do is develop that civic infrastructure,” he says. A good example is Huntington’s Chatn-Chew series, held every Thursday in the Frederick Building downtown. Thomas McChesney founded the meetings with his wife five years ago. Since then the meetings have played a role in the creation story of more than 200 community building and economic development projects, including a new dog park, beer festival, local farmers’ market, and downtown art gallery. “It was a blind, crazy experiment,” McChesney says. “But it’s unbelievable the level of response we’ve seen from people who want to make this a really great place to be.” The key element of the Chat-n-Chews is their openness—they’re loosely structured so people can organically glom onto whatever idea they like best. But some meetings, like the 1230 Room in Fairmont— which jump-started the Marion County Coalition to End Homelessness and is now working on expanding the county’s system of rail-trails—are more structured. Community members contact the session’s organizers with their idea and do some of the initial legwork to get those ideas off the ground, and then those are put on the agenda. But the format isn’t as important as the conversation. The idea is to give good ideas a way to get some attention and gain momentum, to expedite the process so people can see real, measurable change that will, hopefully, inspire more projects later on. “Our approach is to do things today that will

written by

Shay Maunz

photographed by

Elizabeth Roth

make the town successful down the road,” says C.J. Rylands, one of the founders of the Create Buckhannon meetings that are held every week in that town. Create Buckhannon has already helped create two community gardens and gotten a lot more historic signage in town, among a ton of other things that have downtown Buckhannon looking distinctly healthier than it did five years ago—and there’s plenty more in the works. “We have accomplished a lot of small, visible things that are like brushstrokes,” Rylands says. “And now I think the larger picture being made of those brushstrokes is becoming visible.”

Start a Conversation Consider this your how-to guide, with tips for building the civic infrastructure your town needs. Find a handful of people who think like you do. The idea is to disperse the responsibility and the leadership among a small group of people, instead of placing it squarely on one individual’s shoulders—that way the momentum in the community won’t peter out, even if one person does. “Start with a handful of people who are open and not possessive about their work,” says Kent Spellman. “You want people who really want to improve their community and who are open to inviting others into the process of deciding how to do that.”



Whether you CALL or CLICK, remember 811 before you dig.

It’s a free call, and a free service.

Welcome everyone. Include elected officials in the process, too. But there’s a caveat: “This is not a process that works well when it’s controlled by elected officials,” Spellman says. “It needs to be citizen-based.” Choose a location. “Find a place where people will be comfortable,” Spellman says. “And it’s ideal if food is involved.” It can be a restaurant, a community building where people eat potluck-style—whatever works for you and your community. Schedule a time. It needs to be regular, and it needs to be often. Weekly meetings work best, so there’s no guesswork involved when someone is trying to come to a meeting. “It has to be every week and it has to be in the same place because you can’t have to wonder,” says Thomas McChesney. “It has to be exactly like church. People have to know that if they go there they’re going to get what they want every time.”

Call 811 or visit wv811.com

Be transparent. “You have to be open. You have to welcome people who are different than the traditional leaders in your community,” Spellman says. At the same time, encourage people to take on a leadership role. “We have tons of things we want to do, but until someone takes leadership of an idea, it never happens,” says C.J. Rylands. “Once someone takes it on, then everyone can get involved on some level.”

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10 Things

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10 Ways to Protect Your Intellectual Property

A crispy crust, a fruity aroma, a synchronizing software code, or a micromemory chip—at the core of any successful product or service is the inherent intellectual property. Common forms of intellectual property include copyrights, trademarks, service marks, trade secrets, patents, and customer and market data. As an entrepreneur, you spend a lot of time, energy, and money in developing intellectual property. To assure its protection, consider the following tips:


Copyrights. Does your business involve software, manuals, or other forms of written or graphic material? If so, the material is subject to copyright. To protect the work under federal U.S. Copyright Laws, apply for copyright registration.


Trademarks or service marks. Have you carefully chosen your company’s mark? Be certain the mark easily indicates your goods or services and that it will not be confusingly similar to the marks of competing businesses. Since state law offers limited enforcement protection, you will likely want to obtain registration under federal law and file with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).


Use your symbols knowledgeably. Tell the world you intend to stand by your copyrighted material and use the © symbol to indicate that protection. While a trademark or service mark registration application is pending, indicate ownership by locating the TM or SM symbol within or near the mark. Following USPTO registration, place the ® or registration symbol within or near the mark’s edge. Use these symbols on all marks within materials, publications, and commerce.


Trade secrets. Does your good or service entail a formula, computer coding, recipe, chemical component,


Focus September/October 2014

technical application, or other method vital to distinguishing your good or service from others? If so, you may have a trade secret. As a condition in employment agreements and contracts, designate the critical importance of keeping the trade secret away from competition. Nondisclosure and non-compete agreements should be signed early and renewed at least annually.


Patents. Is your good or service the result of a creation or invention that may be protected by a patent? Document the work thoroughly. Get to know the requirements for and benefits of patent protection by studying the uspto.gov site and finding patent counsel. Use resources such as the USPTO’s Inventor’s Assistance Center. There may also be marking requirements for patented inventions and you will want to work closely with your patent counsel to ensure compliance with the rules.


Customer or market data. Have you carefully identified the buyers of your good or service? With the advent of electronic customer lists, this information can easily be gathered by an employee, contractor, or third party. Protect the data as much as possible and include nondisclosure and noncompete agreements in contracts and employment agreements.

Nancy Trudel

Nancy E. Trudel is the interim director of the WVU College of Law Entrepreneurship and Innovation Law Clinic.


Market and value your intellectual property. Intellectual property is one of your company’s most valuable assets. Know the market’s competing intellectual property and be able to distinguish yours as superior. Be mindful not to infringe on others’ intellectual property rights.


Audit. At least annually, monitor the market and web to assess whether others are infringing upon your intellectual property. Monitor e-commerce and domain names to find infringing marks or products. Enforce anti-infringement conditions in your contracts with business partners. Use resources such as stopfakes.gov and Google Alerts in your web enforcement. Check resources such as the guide provided by the World Intellectual Property Organization to conducting an intellectual property audit.


Enforce. If you determine that another entrepreneur is using your property without permission, know the available legal remedies. A simple cease and desist letter may be all it takes to prevent another company from using your brand mark or trade secret. When filing a cease and desist letter, include a copy of the purported infringement.


Use available support, including experienced legal counsel, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Development Center, the WVU College of Law Entrepreneurship and Innovation Law Clinic at law.wvu.edu or the entrepreneurship services at the WVU LaunchLab, and similar resources.


For 40 years now, we’ve helped hundreds of clients in dozens of industries across the country. A lot can change over four decades, but one thing has remained constant at Charles Ryan Associates: We won’t stop until you achieve success. When it comes to communications, we’re not normal. Our team is obsessed with your practices, cultures, goals and challenges. We offer brand strategy for advertising, public relations, interactive services, reputation management and social media approaches. Brand Communications Strategy since 1974 877.342.0161 • charlesryan.com

Our oddballs are based in Charleston, W.Va., and Richmond, Va., but we’re just a click away from helping you build your business—charlesryan.com.

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written by

Tim Miley

Are there jobs in West Virginia? “W

e don’t have any jobs in West Virginia. Elect me and I will change that.” Sound familiar? It should. You likely hear that same tired phrase from every person who runs for public office in West Virginia, whether the office sought is at the local level, in Charleston, or in Washington, D.C. Frankly, I get sick of every candidate, and some in the media, tearing down our state. You cannot build West Virginia up if you are tearing it down with false statements. My point? There are thousands of jobs available to West Virginians. In January 2014 I spoke to my local chamber of commerce to provide an overview of the upcoming legislative session. Afterward I stuck around to speak privately to some of the attendees. One business owner expressed concern that he couldnt fill 50 jobs at his business, positions paying more than $60,000. The only qualification was a high school diploma. I was sure the business owner was going to say it was because applicants couldn’t pass drug tests, but that was not the case. Rather, this owner couldn’t find enough people willing to work hard, even though the jobs paid good salaries by any standards. As you might imagine, I was pleasantly surprised and somewhat disappointed to hear such jobs were available in my community and were going unfilled. Yet I continue to hear people complain about no job opportunities in West Virginia. As a result I started my quest to find out just how many jobs were available in my region. Over the past several months, I’ve been telling anyone who will listen about indeed.com. By scanning thousands of websites, indeed.com identifies the number and types of jobs open within specific distances from virtually every city. In August I found the following within a 50-mile radius of each city. In Clarksburg, more than 3,800 jobs were available—more than 1,700 of them offering $40,000 or more annually. In Charleston, there were nearly 5,000 jobs, almost 1,200 of which were offering $60,000 or more annually. In Beckley, I saw more than 3,600 jobs—more than 800 offering $60,000 or more annually. And when I looked up Parkersburg, I found more than 2,600 jobs, 1,100 of them offering more than $40,000-plus annually, not including the ethane cracker plant still to come in Wood County. It is time we stop talking in tired political phrases and start making an effort to fill the job openings we have in West Virginia.


Focus September/October 2014

Tim Miley serves the 48th District in the West Virginia House of Delegates, and, in 2013, was elected as the Speaker of the House of Delegates. When he is not serving in his legislative capacity, he owns and manages The Miley Legal Group in Clarksburg, a small business that employs 10 people.

Job Musts Retraining. There are job losses in West Virginia’s coalfields, but should we let job losses in one sector prohibit us from taking advantage of jobs in other sectors? Job fairs. Increase job fairs aimed at residents who have lost jobs. Training for young people. Students who are not college-bound need to learn skills that will create value for them in our communities. Carpentry, wiring, plumbing, and welding are all good paying careers that can’t be outsourced overseas. Encourage our young people. Whether they’ve left to explore the world or because they weren’t prepared to work here, we need to take every opportunity to encourage the next generation to acquire skills so they may become employed in one of the many jobs available in West Virginia.

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written by

David C. Hardesty, Jr.

Making Meetings More Effective Make the most of your organization’s time around the conference table.


ell run organizations have established policies and procedures for allocating their resources. Time is often the scarcest resource, yet little attention is paid to how it should be allocated. Well organized meetings can be efficient sources of collective wisdom focused on solving real problems. Here are some ways to make your meetings more effective:

Initiate organizational calendars for routine meetings. Ask if your routine obligations are all necessary

and held with the right frequency. If you want to add another routine meeting, see if another regular meeting can’t be eliminated.

Make the purpose of each meeting clear.

Stick to the purpose of the meeting and avoid meandering. To hone in on purpose, distribute an agenda. Stick to it.

Budget the time you want to invest in the meeting. If minutes are needed, note the time that the

meeting begins and end in the minutes.

Make sure the right people are in the meeting.

Many meetings are held more than once because managers whose inputs were necessary to the decision at hand were not in the meeting.

Avoid meetings that are larger than necessary.

Asking the question, “Who should be present?” will bring discipline to the meeting. Larger meetings become inefficient very quickly.

Welcome debate. Use tested facilitation techniques to get all points of view on the table and discussed efficiently. Strive to get the best outputs from diverse inputs. Learning facilitation


Focus September/October 2014

David C. Hardesty, Jr., is professor of law and president emeritus at West Virginia University, where he teaches courses related to leadership, law practice management, and trends in the legal professions.

skills can enhance decision-making, not just meetings, and make it more efficient.

Insist participants be on time and prepared.

Think about a 20-person meeting starting 30 minutes late— more than a day of time lost. Place an appropriate value on lost time. Above all, if you called the meeting, arrive on time, thus modeling the behavior you wish to see.

Summarize the main ideas of the meeting as it concludes. Ask for comments on the summary. Leave

no doubts about the action items arrived at in the meeting.

Staff appropriately. Ask assistants to find a good time to meet, distribute the agendas in advance, prepare minutes for absentees, gather and distribute read-ahead materials, and follow up as appropriate. Proper staff work, if delegated to the right person, can save hundreds of hours of executive time each year. If a meeting is going nowhere, end it. Ending a meeting before its budgeted time can send any number of messages: The agenda was wrong, the group was not prepared, the right people are not here, we needed more read-ahead materials, and so forth. There is no reason to hold a nonproductive meeting. Ending it is a sign of respect for those who value their time.

The stories of West Virginia University are the stories of West Virginia WVU’s Center for Energy and Sustainable Development promotes practices that balance the demand for energy with the need to reduce environmental impacts.

WVU astronomers, using West Virginia’s Green Bank Telescope, helped to discover a unique stellar system of two white dwarf stars and a superdense pulsar.

WVU research may lead to new drugs that could relieve the pain of arthritis— patients in a WVU clinic are part of a study to learn more.

For more WVU stories and to learn how they affect you, visit wvutoday.wvu.edu. @wvutoday @wvunewsfeed

Green Bank photo credit: Jiuguang Wang via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike.


Gayle Manchin As the president of the West Virginia Board of Education and a former teacher in Marion County and at Fairmont State University, Gayle Manchin understands the importance of quality education on the future of our state.

What needs to be done to improve education in our state? ›› There is no doubt in my mind that the only way we will succeed in breaking the cycle of poverty in West Virginia is through engaging students in thinking and learning in a meaningful way; they will realize it is a game changer, and they will change the game in West Virginia. ›› In order to do this, it will take every citizen/parent in this state accepting the responsibility that they have a role to play in assuring we level the playing field and give every child the skills to graduate from high school, college, and/or be career ready for the high-skill jobs that do exist and will increase in West Virginia. The “village” really must raise the child in a healthy, nurturing environment.

“West Virginia is ready for a

greatness that will match the majesty of its mountains.”

›› When we can establish a public-private partnership across West Virginia where private business understands the role it plays in the education cycle through mentoring, internships, and modeling success in the classroom, only then we will begin to inspire and energize our students about the unlimited possibilities for them right here in West Virginia. ›› Encouraging the creative, entrepreneurial spirit in the state will allow economic development to advance in areas where “old” industries have passed into decay and demise. Rural West Virginia begs for those young creators to rappel the mountains, raft the rivers, and zip line through the trees while immortalizing their adventures with technology they have perfected and research they have developed to renew and sustain our wealth of energy to “fuel” West Virginia and our country.

›› West Virginia is ready for a greatness that will match the majesty of its mountains, the energies of its rivers, lakes, and streams, and the strength and resiliency of its people, when we recognize our challenges as opportunities and never look back. Collaboration and vision among lawmakers, the governor, the education policymakers and implementers, and the citizens of this state are the foundation for success.


Focus September/October 2014

courtesy of gayle manchin

›› The quality of the artisans in every genre in West Virginia who never cease to amaze people around this world with their talent and eye for beauty will continue to be the heart and soul of the state where exceptional design and color abound in every curve and landscape; they will inspire others to greatness and preserve that legacy for generations to come.

West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services

The road to employment success!

Enabling and empowering people with disabilities to work! Your business resource for job retention and disability-related employment issues West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services 1-800-642-8207 • www.wvdrs.org

“The WEST VIRGINIA Small Business Development Center

HAS BEEN THERE FOR ME STEP-BY-STEP, from accessing start-up capital to my business plan,

GIVING ME CONFIDENCE TO GROW MY BUSINESS.” Supported by the West Virginia Development Office. Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.


Charleston, W.Va.

West Virginia Development Office WVSBDC.org


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