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Kanawha economic planners to solicit ideas from youths

By Megan Workman
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- How does a community empower youths and value their ideas?By listening to them, Cullen Naumoff says.Naumoff, project manager for the Charleston Area Alliance's Vision 2030 economic development roadmap, posed that question and answer to Rotary Club members during a monthly Rotary meeting Monday.Career and technical students in Boone, Clay, Kanawha, Lincoln and Putnam counties will get to share their visions for the valley at West Virginia's first TEDx Kanawha Valley series, which is slated for May 1.TEDx is a locally organized version of the international nonprofit speaker series TED, which is an acronym for technology, entertainment and design."What we hear from the industry is that they need students who are prepared with 'soft skills,' so providing a forum for students to hone those communication and presentation skills is important for employment," Naumoff said. "With [career and technical] students, we want to empower their good ideas on an international stage by providing that forum."They could say, 'Hey, I have a good idea, let's build off of this.' We're providing a stage to empower youth ideas."Naumoff said career and technical students from the Kanawha Valley are already organized into 25 teams. Each team has until March 1 to create a six-minute video pitch that outlines their ideas for the future of the Kanawha Valley.Twelve finalist teams will be paired with business mentors. They will give their "TED Talks" -- presentations -- at the May 1 speaker series in Charleston. The winning team will take home scholarships, she said. The TEDx series is one of a number of initiatives that have derived from the Alliance's Vision 2030 in the past year.Vision 2030 is a 20-year economic development roadmap for the Kanawha Valley. The plan's purpose is to create jobs and strengthen the economy of the region.Participants in the Sustainable Agriculture Entrepreneur Initiative (SAGE) will craft business and production plans to sell the produce they grow to local food suppliers, Naumoff said."We're teaching people how to grow food and how it can be an economic opportunity," Naumoff said.
Innovation is one of seven of the Kanawha Valley economic drivers identified in the Vision 2030 plan. The other six are the chemical industry, energy industry, education, leadership, health and downtown revitalization.For blooming businesses, the Alliance formed GROW, a program designed to foster entrepreneurship in the Kanawha Valley. GROW offers educational courses, which the University of Charleston Graduate School of Business hosts, and also offers coaching from West Virginia Small Business Development Center business coaches.
The businesses meet monthly to talk to mentors and other business owners.Businesses looking for access to cash capital benefited from the group's "crowd funding" event, Thrive."Crowd funding is a new spin on raising capital funds for businesses," Naumoff said.A blind panel selected nine Kanawha Valley-based businesses with 30 or fewer employees in September. Each business produced 60-second video pitches to promote their business and the need for crowd funds.For a $20 fee, guests were allowed to vote for one of the nine videos they wanted to support. Thrive 2012 raised $3,380, which was split between Hoopalytics and U.L Coaching and Consulting, because the two had tied votes, she said.To bring together those who employ the future work force and the educators who teach them, the Alliance hosted an eight-day seminar in July called the Educator/Industry Institute.
"A key piece of the future of an economy is education," Naumoff said. "This seminar brought educators together who learned about eight different industry sectors."Twenty educators have earned stipends for this year's seminar, which is slated for July 8-18, Naumoff said.Finally, the group's latest initiative, Energy Efficiency in the East End (E4), pits East End residents against their neighbors in a competition to conserve energy.Starting this month, residents from at least 25 East End blocks will compete to see who can save the most electricity and natural gas over the next year.For more information about Vision 2030 and its programs, contact Naumoff at 304-340-4253 or Megan Workman at or 304-348-5113.
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