The New River Gorge Regional Development Authority (NRGRDA), in developing its Strategic Plan, identified two key initiatives to diversify the economy in coal impacted communities. Creating a nurturing environment for entrepreneurs and improving the health of the workforce are critical to retaining home grown talent and increasing economic activity in southern West Virginia.
In 2015, the NRGRDA established two new organizations – the WV Hive and Active Southern West Virginia. Both organizations are based in Beckley, initially serving Raleigh, Fayette, Nicholas and Summers counties. Today, both organizations are fully staffed with professionals with a passion for supporting entrepreneurs and providing physical activity programs within local communities and workplaces.
The NRGRDA also identified the need to provide funding for entrepreneurs to kickstart their ideas and businesses. Unable to attract traditional financing, fledgling businesses need early stage, seed funding to bring their creations to market. After consulting evidence-based models, the Country Roads Angel Network (CRAN) was established as a non-profit corporation, also based in Beckley. Supported by the NRGRDA and the WV Hive, CRAN recruits qualified investors to evaluate, invest in and mentor individual start-up businesses. CRAN completes the ecosystem of innovation and health, attracting a new economy to a region of boundless natural beauty and possibilities.