SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The first-ever Small Communities, BIG Solutions Conference was such a success in 2018 that leaders from the West Virginia Community Development Hub, Coalfield Development and Alliance for the Economic Development of Southern West Virginia decided to do it again and keep it going in future years. 

More than 120 individuals from different walks of life including higher education, state offices and southern West Virginia business leaders gathered in South Charleston on Monday for the second annual event geared towards showcasing successes and highlight what is working. 

“It is a good opportunity for people in higher education and workforce development and community development to all come together and get these updates,” Stephanie Tyree, the Executive Director of the West Virginia Community Development Hub said. 

The conference got underway inside Bridge Valley’s Advanced Technology Center with remarks from U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin. Other state participants include the Tourism Office, Department of Commerce and Secretary of State’s office. 

Strategy sessions took place in morning and afternoon sessions that featured topics such as addiction, recovery, and re-entry, driving workforce progress and development, and diverse approaches to economic strategies. 

Presidents of Bluefield State College, Concord University, New River Community and Technical College, Marshall University, and West Virginia State University led a discussion revolving around higher education creating jobs. 

The conference ended with the crowning of several awards, including the Small Communities, BIG Solutions, 2020 Advocate Award. 

“We know that there are a lot of problems in southern West Virginia but we think that small rural communities are leading forward solutions to build a stronger better, future for themselves and we want to celebrate that,” Tyree said.