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The Alliance of Champion Communities is a community-based, citizen-led partnership that assists West Virginia communities in becoming more economically competitive by providing education, technical assistance, and the sharing of best practices in community development.
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Empowerment from within...
The Alliance of West Virginia Champion Communities inspires leadership by example. Those who participate learn how to facilitate meetings, develop agendas, conduct surveys and network with other leaders. Members mentor emerging community leaders in structuring projects, writing grant applications, organizing volunteers and other important leadership skills.
McDowell County Champion Community McDowell County map


Rachel Lester
McDowell County Economic Development Authority (EDA), Executive Director
92 McDowell Street, Suite 100
Welch WV 24801
Office: 304-756-2264

About McDowell County Champion Community Organization

McDowell County Families, Agencies, Children Enhancing Services (FACES) was the original organization working to achieve Champion Community designation, which was accomplished in 1994. McDowell County Champion Community's (McDCCC) purpose was to assess the area's readiness for advanced telecommunication opportunities.

A broadband interest assessment was made of the Bradshaw area using in-school surveys of 5th grade students and their parents. It identified internet services being used and ways the citizens would like to use the internet. As part of the Blueprint Communities project, the McDCCC paid the printing expenses for McDowell County's Blueprint, a 10-year strategic plan for economic development. It also printed 1500 resource directories that were provided to families as booklets, using websites and on diskettes.

Now the county maintains a current plan of action to work with that encompasses economic development, capacity building, environmental initiatives, systems of care for children and families, healthcare advancements, infrastructure and education. The Blueprint plan provides goals, objectives, activities, responsible parties and target dates. It also has an overview of what activities were currently happening in the county, statistics, history and a prioritization of goals.

McDowell County Champion Community Committee Members

Kathie Whitt, Executive Director, McDowell County FACES
Sharon Walden, Executive Director, Stop Abusive Family Environments, Inc. (SAFE)
Gordon Lambert, President, County Commission
Donald Reed, WVU Extension
Rachel Lester, McDowell EDA
Violet Lester, McDowell County Redevelopment Authority
Mike Mitchem, King Coal Highway Authority
Kathleen Roberts, Pioneer Community Bank

Independently, members of the group progress the goals and objectives of the county's plan. To receive a copy of the McDowell County Blueprint plan, contact Kathie Whitt at 304-436-5255.

Community Projects in McDowell County

Coal Heritage Economic Development Incubator
Travel Beautiful Appalachia, Inc. (TBAI) generates business activities centered around the unique history, character and culture of Southern West Virginia's coal heritage. The Ashland Company Store is home to TBAI's business incubator. Miners and their families once shopped in this building using "scrip" issued as currency by the mining companies. Now local businesses use the store's retail and work spaces to make and sell products of their own.

Ashland Company Store

The success of the Hatfield-McCoy ATV Trail System (HMT) has opened new business opportunities in Southern West Virginia. By 2015 HMT plans to connect McDowell, Wyoming and Mercer Counties with more than 300 miles of ATV trails - all converging at the Ashland trailhead. Development plans in the community of Ashland are targeted at serving the trail sports tourists with campgrounds, service stations, grocery stores, car washes, ATV service and ATV rentals.

Tina on ATV

Under Executive Director Sharon Walden's leadership, TBAI nurtures entrepreneurial ventures rising from its service area to become strong businesses, which will provide new jobs for their owners and employees. The Ashland Store facility provides small office rental spaces, commercial kitchen timeshares, business mentoring and networking, marketing assistance, technology training, business management skill development, and most importantly - a retail location with tourism traffic. To get involved with the Ashland Company Store's Incubator contact Sharon Walden at 304-436-6181.