Friday, September 26, 2008

WV Creative Communities Project: New Martinsville and Bethany

West Virginia's Creative Communities Under Construction project is underway to promote the Create West Virginia Conference set for October 20-22 at Snowshoe Mountain Resort. The viral campaign is being spread by West Virginia bloggers. If you are creatively curious, attend the conference and check out the Create WV Blog.

I'm promoting the conference because the future of West Virginia lies in creating a "new" intellectually-based economy using the creative skills of our people. Focusing our efforts on this type of economy creates a "wonderful" environment to live in where "wild" ideas can thrive. I want to attract similarly minded people to West Virginia who believe intelligence, creativity, technology, innovation, arts and culture are the foundation for our future.

The viral campaign asked that we each highlight an element of the new economy in our hometown or county. Since others will cover Charleston, I thought I would share information about my hometown, New Martinsville, and Wetzel County. New Martinsville is a community where a kid named Greg Babe (related story from Wheeling Intelligencer) can grow up "out Doolin" to become the first American to lead a German-based global chemical and pharmaceutical company, where a girl named Sandra Block, who ran around the local newspaper with her mom, can grow up and write about Money for USA Today, where a kid named Ralph Baxter can grow up to lead a global law firm, and where a boy named Bill Stewart, who played high school football, can realize his dream of leading the Mountaineers.

Although New Martinsville, like many West Virginia communities, has struggled economically, one bright example of entrepreneurship is Baristas Cafe & Pub on Main Street where you can drink locally and think globally. Baristas is a great place to hang out any time of the day or night and get a coffee, have some brick oven pizza or sip a Guiness.

How many baristas can claim a feature article in the New York Times written by Rebecca Skloot who sometimes escapes to the hills of Wetzel County to write (and blog)? Skloot's article captures the early essence of Baristas' opening in New Martinsville, and although probably an over simplified view of my howetown, gives a glimpse at the comparison between the old and new economy existing in West Virginia.

Another shining example of creative entrepreneurship in Wetzel County is Thistle Dew Farms and Mountain Craft Shop located "out Proctor." Thistle Dew is owned by Ellie and Steve Conlon who left Philadelphia with two bee hives in 1974.
Today they operate an environmentally friendly beekeeping business with over 700 bee hives and produce some of the sweetest stuff that West Virginia offers. In 2002, they acquired the Mountain Craft Shop, a business founded in 1963 by folk toy master Dick Schnacke. Thanks to the Conlons', the amazing vision, creativity and tradition of Mr. Schnacke continues -- employing local woodworking artisans and giving children around the globe (including my own) the experience of a whimmydittle or flipper dinger.

Below is a guest commentary by the President of Bethany College, Dr. Scott D. Miller, highlighting the new economy opportunities being developed at Bethany College in Bethany, West Virginia.

I approached President Miller with this project because I thought it important to highlight what I think is the best kept educational and community experience in West Virginia -- the Bethany Community. My undergraduate years (1984-88) were spent at Bethany and provided me with education and experience to become a successful health care and technology lawyer. President Miller's latest editorial in the West Virginia State Journal, "It's Time to Get Serious About Global Awareness," is the type of innovative and progressive thinking that goes on at Bethany. The editorial is timely in light of the topics to be discussed at the Create WV Conference.

Below is guest commentary provided to me by Dr. Miller:

"West Virginia in the 21st Century: A World Without Borders - A Future Without Limits."

At Bethany College, we are preparing students to participate in a new world defined far more by intellectual limitations than geographic boundaries. The majestic mountains and raging rivers that created West Virginia’s borders stood as barriers to progress in the past. But as our state moves forward into the 21st Century, technology has given us the opportunity to play a major role in a world without borders and a future without limits.

I devoted my September Higher Education column in the State Journal to exploring how our state’s colleges and universities could best groom our students to compete in a marketplace where Beijing is a mere mouse click away from Buckhannon. The success of three alumni illustrates the unlimited potential that awaits individuals who are willing to embrace the concept of global awareness with innovation and creativity. Thomas Buergenthal is the only American Judge on the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands. Gregory Jordan, Chairman of our College’s Board of Trustees, is Global Managing Partner for Reed Smith, LLP, one of the largest law firms on the planet. George “Ken” Bado helps shape how we view the world – literally – he serves as Executive Vice President of Sales and Service for Autodesk, a company whose computer technology helps build the largest dam in the world in China, and provides special effects for most of the movies you view.

We believe it’s important to be on the cutting edge of providing new and challenging opportunities for students to expand their academic horizons. John Osborne, our Director of Career Counseling and Placement, has a “been there, done that” style. After graduating from Bethany, he spent 16 years in a variety of senior management positions with Apple Computer and another decade in management at IBM. There’s no substitute for a counselor with personal experience when your son or daughter is trying to chart out the next 40 years of his life.

We’ve put these ideas into practice outside our classrooms, as well, with the Camp Canyon youngsters who visit our campus each summer. Our unique staffing arrangement, which utilizes local college-level coaches and instructors along with American and international “skill-specific” professionals, gives us the flexibility to create multiple specialty camp experiences in a traditional “summer camp” setting.

The 21st Century offers opportunities and challenges for West Virginia and West Virginians. It’s time for us to realize that borders are nothing more than lines on a map in this increasingly global economy.

Dr. Scott D. Miller
Bethany College


Skip Lineberg said...

Let's go to Barista's. I'm buying. Great post. I learned several new, exciting things about New Martinsville and the norhtern region of W.Va. Thanks for being a part of this.

I've posted, too, over at Marketing Genius.


Jeff said...

Great post Bob...This is what it's all about! Great stories, makese me want to go visit Wetzel County very soon.

You know, we underestimate how much locally-grown innovators and entrepreneurs build pride within the community. That's why it's critical that WV have more "home grown" success stories like the ones you shared.

Pat B said...

Enjoyed your post. You might also want to mention that New Martinsville has an arts council with more than 300 members, including your dad, and which has a full range of artistic events throughout the year.

Bob Coffield said...

Thanks Pat B. for mentioning the Arts Council. Didn't realize you had over 300 members.

New Martinsville has one of the richest history and most well developed theater/arts programs in the state. Products of the program have become seeds for other locations - Jeff Haught and his wife, Debbie, are the cornerstones of one of Charleston's theater groups, Kanawha Players, and for years Dan Henthorn was a leader in the theater scene in the Beckley area.

While working on the post I contacted my sister, Jennifer, who currently runs a major arts and cultural center in Michigan, and asked her to put together a short summary of the theater/arts scene. Here is what she prepared.

New Martinsville has a rich history of arts and culture. As a river town, the community welcomed Gloria Swanson in 1925 to film the movie "Stage Struck" and in the 1960's began hosting the American Wind Symphony Orchestra on a river barge performing arts center. The Lincoln Theater has been pivotal in the culture of the community hosting plays, musicals, concerts and movies.

For the citizens young and old, there have been numerous arts and cultural opportunities over the years: Civic League Children’s Theatre directed by Lee Abrahams, Variety Shows of all types, Mobay and Bayer chorus, 4-H and Town and Country Days arts and crafts events, the high school choral program, theatrical productions and partnerships with West Virginia University’s Madam Stephanie Shehatovich, Joseph Goltz and Alcine Wiltz, III orchestrated by Elizabeth Francis. Currently ArtsLink, a regional arts center, is doing a great job fostering the arts and culture. The New Martinsville Museum is also a must see when in town.