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ONE ECONOMY: SUSTAINABLE BROADBAND ADOPTION PROJECT

 

One Economy Partners on all sides of technology have gathered to support One Economy Corp.'s Sustainable Broadband Adoption Project (SBAP). The two-year project is far reaching. It will enhance digital literacy skills and provide technology training throughout West Virginia. One Economy's goal is "creating a digital information ecosystem that drives demand among local businesses, community organizations and individual consumers."

 

"As a project partner," explains Marcel Fortin, Alliance Executive Director, "the Alliance will be helping to set up advisory panels in each community to plan local outreach strategies and ways to sustain the project's training components." Other partners include Workforce West Virginia, the Education Alliance,
Marcel Fortin
Marcel Fortin
Executive Director of
the Alliance of WV
Champion Communities
the Library Commission, Mission West Virginia, WV Community Development HUB, WV Department of Commerce, WorkForce West Virginia, WV Department of Health and Human Services, and the Family Resource Network.

 

"This project is so important to our communities because it addresses core issues that prevent our residents from embracing technology and enjoying its benefits," said Mr. Fortin. Here are some highlights of the SBAP:

 

A.   "Make It Easy Where You Are"

Regardless of income levels, people demand access to information on a 24/7 basis in ways that accommodate their schedule, location, language and skill level. One Economy's approach considers available internet content, technology training and affordable connection options.

 

B.   Digital Connectors 

In other One Economy projects, youths from 14 to 21 have been serving as technology trainers and ambassadors in underserved communities for the past seven. As a result, 2,800 youths have provided more than 56,000 hours of training to others in their communities. The SBAP will use this proven model to put 825 youths to work training 81,000 people across 55 West Virginia counties as Digital Connectors.

 

C.    Digital  Educators

Three full time Digital Educators will be hired to train at least one resident Digital Educator in each public school. By educating teachers, administrators, students and parents about technology, ongoing learning from school into homes will be stimulated.

 

D.   Relevant  Content

One Economy has established a series of websites, called "Beehives," that provide information about healthcare, jobs, finance, education and local government. The website for West Virginia information (wv.thebeehive.org) is kept current by the Family Resource Network offices. The SBAP will allow One Economy to improve relevance by creating a zip code-based resource locator function and public-purpose applications for computers and mobile devices.

 

E.    Public  Awareness

Through a statewide public education and awareness initiative, a media campaign and on-the-ground activities, will be conducted to reach about 350,000 homes. Project partners will be involved in developing and delivering the message to West Virginia communities.

 

F.    Access  @ Home

Most people wish to access the internet from their homes. If SBAP receives the federal grant applied for, One Economy will wire 7,000 units of low-income housing in West Virginia with affordable broadband service.

 

The role of the public library system in the SBAP is to provide service and training locations. "In the 173 public libraries across the state there are 1,286 patron internet terminals. There are fewer than 20 public libraries without wireless networks. Every public library has at least one T1 service line," said James Waggoner, Executive Secretary of the West Virginia Library Commission. "The SBAP's use of laptop computers will allow training to be mobile throughout the public library facilities."

 

According to the library system's reporting, there were 1,608,829 users of electronic resources in 2009. The number of patrons using computers at public libraries increases consistently each year. "Citizens will immediately benefit from SBAP by having access to training in their local public library," said Mr. Waggoner. "No matter how rural the community, or what its economic situation may be, the local public library provides access to unlimited resources."

 

The WV Department of Commerce has worked with One Economy over the past three years. "One Economy has been active in the state pursuing its initiatives and enhancing sustainable broadband adoption during that time," said Kelley Goes, Commerce Secretary.

 

"The Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has awarded WorkForce West Virginia a $1.9 million Recovery Act grant to enhance and expand public-use computers, connection speeds and wireless capabilities at 20 of their field offices across the state," Ms. Goes continued. "WorkForce WV will purchase new equipment for each Public Computer Center (PCC), upgrade to faster broadband connections, and add video conferencing at each site."

 

"In the short-term, WorkForce WV's public computer centers will provide access to job opportunities and job training for unemployed or under-employed residents. Specifically, West Virginians will be able to utilize the video conferencing capabilities at the centers to participate in job interviews or training, and connect to specialized medical care. Each PCC will have special equipment to provide broadband access to the disabled," said Ms. Goes. "In the long-term, these Recovery Act investments will help bridge the digital divide in West Virginia, improve access to education and healthcare services, and boost economic development for communities held back by limited or no access to broadband."

 

WorkForce WV has shown its commitment to technology training by offering its participants vouchers for the Microsoft Elevate America training program, which provides free online training for Microsoft Office applications. People can access the training from home computers, at WorkForce WV centers, public library computer centers or Mission West Virginia technology centers. The end of the program is coming up – get your vouchers before AUGUST 23, 2010. "Of particular note, the Elevate America program targets West Virginians who may not have access to a home computer," explained Russell Fry, Acting Executive Director of WorkForce WV. "Our data indicates we are reaching unemployed or under-skilled workers. An initial breakdown of the vouchers issued indicates that 38.5 percent of participants are unemployed. Twice as many women participate as men. Most participants are between 36 and 65 years of age, with a cluster in the 76 to 85 age group."

 

"Commerce at the state level is served every time broadband is adopted and incorporated into the lives of our citizens," said Ms. Goes. "Adoption improves the quality of life of our citizens and creates demand for broadband, which in turn brings investment for technology."

 

Project partner Mission West Virginia (MWV) initially connected with One Economy when the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation (Benedum) called several technology stakeholders together to discuss ways to increase broadband adoption in the state and improve resident's technology skills. "In 2009 MWV was approached to become involved with the Digital Connectors program," said David Rogers of MWV. "From the moment we started training in Washington, DC I have been sold on its benefits."

 

MWV established 53 community technology centers in counties the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) designated as distressed. These counties faced high unemployment, low per capita earnings, and other barriers to success. "In those labs we experimented with using local mentors, then AmeriCorps members, to teach classes and keep the labs maintained," explained Mr. Rogers. "We were able to serve 60,000 people. A result of the labs was a 7 percent increase in demand for broadband. Ours was a very small and diffused effort when compared to the focused approach of the Digital Connectors program. The training these youths receive, not just in technology, but in other core areas of development such as team building, financial literacy and leadership, is incredible."

 

"We will link MWV's network of computer technology centers with the SBAP, providing places to hold training and hopefully, Digital Connector sites," said Mr. Rogers. "We have had young volunteers working in our senior centers and with summer youth programs. The kids really love teaching. It gives them a sense of worth and validates that they have nurtured skills in technology that others don't have. For the first time in many of their lives, these youths are looked up to for guidance."

 

Mr. Waggoner agrees with the value of the Digital Connectors program. "Libraries often use the multi-generational approach, especially with technology. Because young people are so comfortable with using technology, the older library patrons become more at ease and it becomes easier for them to learn. The young teachers are excited about being the ‘authority' on a particular subject. Too often they feel they are not listened to and their opinions are disregarded. In these situations, youth quickly develop pride for the knowledge they can share."

 

How will this project roll out? West Virginia Community Development HUB (HUB) will provide logistical support for the SBAP, housing for the One Economy project team, mapping of technology assets in each community and information updates and project promotions across the state. Its focus communities will be the first to experience the SBAP and will assist in fine-tuning the process. "We work to build effective partnerships that can bring the HUB's focus communities real value in their community development efforts," said Kent Spellman, Executive Director for the HUB. "As we work with communities, we hear and see the challenges they face through 1) a lack of understanding the opportunities technology can bring, and 2) their frustration with inadequate access to broadband service."

 

"A number of low income residents will benefit by gaining broadband access (initially free, then affordable) that they lacked before," said Mr. Spellman. "The Digital Connector teams in each community will learn valuable skills -- and even more important – valuable lessons about personal character development, civic engagement, community service and more. The adoption of technology as a tool for community development will lead to increased access, then to increased entrepreneur development (hopefully among Digital Connectors) and ultimately diversification of our economy."

 

"The Alliance will keep everyone informed of the SBAP progress," promised Mr. Fortin. "Watch our website for postings once funding has been received to start the project. We will work closely with the pilot communities in helping to develop strategies that can be easily adapted as the SBAP spreads across the state."

 

For more information or to become a project participant or partner, contact Marcel Fortin at 304-756-2264.

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SUMMERS COUNTY DEVELOPS COMPREHENSIVE PLAN
Rick Moorefield   Anna Ziegler
Rick Moorefield (left) and Anna Ziegler (right)
are co-chairs of the Summers County
Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee.

 

Summers County is near completion of a comprehensive plan, which will provide an overview of the county's current situation and establish a vision and goals for its future. "I did some research when we started this project," explained Rick Moorefield, WVU Extension Agent for Summers County." I was surprised how few counties in West Virginia had prepared comprehensive plans." Summers County has a strategic plan in place, which provides an action plan to address the vision.

 

The Commissioners decided to run the comprehensive planning process from within the county rather than hiring an outside firm to conduct a study. "By doing this project ourselves, we believe we will achieve a plan that is well suited to our county's needs," explained Mr. Moorefield. "We also know that it will take longer to accomplish than if we invested in an outside firm. My role is to provide leadership and technical assistance throughout the process."

 

The project was started in 2007 when the Summers County Commission decided to examine their strategic plan and measure the progress that had been made since its last update. "Our analysis was presented to the County Commissioners," said Mr. Moorefield. "We also presented the analysis at a series of public meetings so our residents could make comments and contribute their ideas."

 

A retreat was held at Twin Falls State Park where the volunteer committee could focus on the discussions. People who were involved in making the original strategic plan were invited to participate. Those who were no longer available were replaced with new people who provided similar knowledge and experience. "We used the feedback from the County Commissioners and the public meetings to plan discussions and activities for the comprehensive plan retreat," said Mr. Moorefield. Terrell Ellis facilitated the retreat's discussions.

 

Some of the goals identified for the comprehensive plan are to protect the county's beauty and natural environment, to provide guidelines for the appearance of the towns, and to preserve property values. One way to approach these goals is to consider establishing zoning laws for the county.

 

A steering committee of community volunteers was formed. Mr. Moorefield is Co-Chairperson along with Anna Ziegler, a local attorney specializing in real estate law. "Ms. Ziegler's expertise has been invaluable to our committee and her dedication to this project is admirable," said Mr. Moorefield. Other members of the steering committee include: Chris Chanlett, Debbie Darden, Dwight Emrich, Patrick Fern, Jamie Fields, Joe Garcia, Thomas Key, Proctor Kirk, Randall Kleit, Ted and Cheryl Lowry Kula, Steve Lipscomb, Fred Long, Cleo Mathews, Toni and Wendell McQuaig, Richard Segars, Andy Steele, Steve Trail, Geof Tuckerman, and John Vuolo.

 

"Because our committee volunteers have other obligations to work and families, it does take some staff to accomplish a big project like this," explained Mr. Moorefield. "We hired an intern who has been invaluable in compiling information and assisting our committee members. " As the Summers County Intern Brandon Saddler drafted the comprehensive plan document, which was presented for County Commission input early in July. Mr. Saddler is a Concorde University Student majoring in Geography and Mapping.

 

Once the County Commissioners have provided their input, public meetings will be held to solicit feedback from residents. A final draft will be submitted to the Summers County Planning Commission for approval and recommendation for adoption by the County Commission.

 

"Counties are not required to have comprehensive plans," explained Mr. Moorefield. "But if they do, then West Virginia law requires updates every five years." People who want to find out more about state laws can visit the West Virginia Code Chapter 8A, Land Use and Planning. According to state law, comprehensive plans must meet the following objectives.

 

-          Statement of goals and objectives for a governing body, regarding present and future land development

-          Timeline for both short and long term goals

-          Action plan for implementation strategies (a strategic plan)

-          Recommend to the governing body a financial program for goals and objectives

-          Recommendations concerning future land use and development

-          Program to encourage regional planning, coordination and cooperation with other governing bodies, etc.

-          Maps, plats, charts and descriptive material present basic information on land in jurisdiction, including present and future uses.

 

In this case, community volunteers chose topics to research and led subcommittees to get the work done. "Staff often gets involved with subcommittee tasks because the volunteers have limited time available," said Mr. Moorefield. "Some groups worked faster than others, and some topics had more information to gather than others. Our staff helped to complete some loose ends and now we have our draft document complete."

 

Mr. Moorefield welcomes questions or advice from other cities or counties regarding comprehensive or strategic planning. He can be reached by phone at 304-466-7113 or by email at Rick.Moorefield@mail.wvu.edu.

 

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Barry Mullens and Bob Johnson
Barry Mullens (left) and Bob Johnson (right)
shake hands at the Workshop Service Center
where job training will take place for years to come.

 

JOB TRAINING FOR AUTO REPAIR CAREERS

 

The Sheltered Workshop of Nicholas County, Inc. (SWNC) trains people to work and provides jobs for disabled people of all ages. "We currently employ 80 people in such jobs as water delivery, making and delivering bundled firewood, commercial lawn care and snow removal," explained Bob Johnson, Executive Director of SWBC. Mr. Johnson is also Vice President of the Alliance.

 

Workshop Service Center, an auto repair and detailing shop, is the latest expansion of SWNC's job training programs. It will be used to train workers through the SWNC and students from Nicholas County VoTech. The shop is located at 16194 Webster Road (Hwy. 55) in Craigsville, near the Ranch House Restaurant.

 

"Our expansion into auto repair services opens opportunities for people to train for jobs in high demand within Nicholas County," said Mr. Johnson. "The shop also provides a new resource to the public for oil changes, air conditioning repair, tune-ups, brake work, detailing and hand washes."

 

A surprise green benefit, instead of paying to send used oils to an incineration service, the Workshop Service Center plans to heat its facility with an oil furnace using recycled engine and transmission oils from cars it maintains and repairs.

 

Barry Mullens, owner of Barry's Used Cars, leased the auto shop building to SWNC. "I'm very pleased to lease to the Sheltered Workshop," Mr. Mullens said. "My daughter had a brain tumor. She worked at SWNC during her recovery and it helped her quite a lot."

 

Because the car lot is just next door to the Workshop Service Center, they will be sending cars to be repaired as needed. "SWNC has a fleet of 8 vehicles that will be maintained by our auto shop," said Mr. Johnson. "We also have a contract to maintain Federal vehicles that are assigned to the Summersville area."

Kevin Hall
Mechanic Kevin Hall works to repair
the air conditioning system in this
SWNC fleet vehicle.

 

The auto shop is open to the public on Tuesday through Saturday 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. "We invite you to come and get your car fixed, maintained or cleaned," said Mr. Johnson. "All trainees are fully supervised by experienced mechanics."

Workshop Service Center employees include:  Duane Bragg, SWNC Director of Operations; Jodi Bailey, Job Coach Supervisor; Kevin Hall, Mechanic; J. D. Hanna, Service Writer, Mechanic Assistant and Job Coach; Kim Thomas, Office Manager; Logan Bailey, Detailer; and Diana Hinkle, Custodial Services Supervisor and Job Coach.

 

"For those wishing to help our auto repair training succeed and grow," said Mr. Johnson, "we could really benefit from additional equipment and resources." Anyone with questions or wanting to help the job training effort at SWNC, call Bob Johnson at 1-800-404-0053 or email him at swnciwvstateuse@verizon.net.

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Dick Bartlett
Dick Bartlett
Shares his talents in
Barbour County

 

MEET DICK BARTLETT

 

Though not originally from West Virginia, Dick Barlett and his wife Faenell decided to make Moatsville their home for retirement. "I believe West Virginia is one of the most beautiful and interesting states," said Mr. Bartlett, who has traveled across the world during his high technology career.

 

"My wife and I met through a mutual friend," he explained. "I am from Massachusetts and she is from California. Our telephone bill became so high we decided to get married." The Bartletts have become strong members of the Moatsville community, where they attend church and participate in hands-on activities. Mr. Bartlett teaches Sunday School and enjoys playing piano.

 

"Being a member of the Alliance has helped me to stay active and has enhanced my retirement," said Mr. Bartlett. His involvement with the Alliance began when Marcel Fortin made a presentation to Barbour County Community Development Corporation (CDC) to discuss some ways to get high speed internet service expanded throughout the state. Mr. Bartlett was serving as a Boardmember for the Barbour County CDC. The Alliance was just becoming an organization.

 

Barbara Weaver from Barbour County was among the leaders who were forming the Alliance. CDC Director Eddy Canterbury called Mr. Bartlett a few days later and asked if he would like to participate. "We spent a couple of days in Summersville, where a group of us from various parts of West Virginia worked together to form the Alliance and to establish goals," said Mr. Bartlett.

 

Mr. Bartlett, working with CDC Executive Director Jerry Edens, has been instrumental in many Alliance projects that have resulted in increased usage and demand for technology across the state.

 

Always looking for ways to help his community, Mr. Bartlett has volunteered at the Together-In-Recovery Clinic to council substance abusers, at the Chestnut Ridge Water Board serving as a Boardmember, at the Youth Program located at Chestnut Ridge for at-risk children, and at the Philip Barbour High School Foundation to help establish the Foundation and as a Boardmember. "I was also a Member of the Silver Haired Legislature where I was Chairman of the committee investigating nursing homes in West Virginia," said Mr. Bartlett.

 

But Mr. Bartlett is most pleased with his volunteer efforts to establish a network of computers at the Barbour County Senior Center located in Philippi. "I teach the center's employees how to maintain computers and the seniors how to use them," he said with a smile. The Clarksburg Exponent TELEGRAM, dated Friday, February 16, 2001, published an article about Mr. Barlett's work at the Senior Center. Click here to view the article (540 KB graphic).

 

During his career as a computer engineer for Honeywell and Raytheon, Mr. Bartlett helped to develop the first air traffic control system, worked with maritime military navigation, and worked with the Patriot Missile.

 

Mr. Bartlett invites people in communities across West Virginia to contact him if his experiences and knowledge would be helpful with their own projects. He may be reached by phone at 304-457-1041 or by email at faenell@wildblue.net.

 

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