WHEELING - How can 4.2 million people with diverse backgrounds, goals and ideas spread out over a 17,000-square-mile area work toward common goals?
That's what the Power of 32 "regional visioning initiative" aims to find out, and in doing so will develop a plan for a thriving regional economy through the year 2025.
The Power of 32 region encompasses 32 counties in West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland, ranging from Youngstown, Ohio, to Clarksburg, W.Va., to Altoona, Pa., and Cumberland, Md.
(Photo by Andy Lloyd)
Participating in this morning’s Power of 32 Conversation at WesBanco Arena are, from left, Maureen Zambito, public relations director for Wheeling Jesuit University; Selena Schmidt, Power of 32 executive director; and Wheeling attorneys Christina Terek and D.J. McLaughlin.
Hosted by the Community Foundation of the Ohio Valley, more than 20 participants representing both the public and private sector met at WesBanco Arena this morning for a Power of 32 "Community Conversation" to brainstorm ideas for a "prioritized regional agenda." Such events are being held around the region through October.
Discussions were held in groups of three to five participants, centered around four basic questions:
Some of the challenges participants said the local area faces included providing job opportunities; overcoming both a negative perception of outsiders and an "inferiority complex," and making the area's voice heard by government leaders.
Some of the assets they said the region must capitalize on include a wealth of colleges and research institutions; the region's natural beauty as well as its resources; the community's relative safety; and the successful preservation of the region's rich cultural heritage.
Following the event, Wheeling Planning Administrator Tom Connelly said he found the discussion "a good exercise."
"I look forward to see how (the initiative) progresses from here through the next steps," he said.
Susie Nelson, executive director for the Community Foundation of the Ohio Valley, said the conference was a natural fit for the organization's goals.
"We think regionally, and we see the importance of that," she said.