New director hopes to build trust and sustainability in business development


Development in the southern coalfields has often run into issues of trust and sustainability. For the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority, business development in Nicholas, Summers, Raleigh and Fayette counties began with relationship building.

Jenna Grayson was recently appointed Director of Business Retention and Expansion at the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority. The new role positions Grayson to take the region’s economic development to the next level.

Grayson’s background is in the area of ​​economic development and community engagement.

“I would say getting people to understand that there are resources available and getting the horse to water, basically, is a real struggle sometimes,” Grayson said. “But once you’re there, it’s so rewarding. And thus make people understand that there are state, local and federal resources. And yes, they can be a little intimidating and overwhelming.

“But that’s actually why this position is so important, because I can be there to kind of hold hands, cheerleader and also take on some of that responsibility and those needs to take the burden off the owner of the company.”

Grayson says it’s fair to say people are sometimes reluctant to accept state or federal resources and people who say they have them.

“And for good reason, right. There are probably communities and businesses that have gone through something like this in the past that may not have worked out,” Grayson said. “Sometimes I get that response.”

Grayson says that with a little patience, evidence, and data, she developed many connections in southern West Virginia.

“I haven’t encountered so many things, culturally speaking, where people don’t feel like they’ve earned the resources,” Grayson said. “Not to say that people jump for joy saying that they deserve [the resources].”

“I think at this point a lot of businesses will take whatever they can get because it’s been a tough two years. I think one of the challenges I have with businesses, especially small businesses, is it’s that people say they don’t need help, they don’t need help, and I don’t know why.

Sometimes business owners are concerned about the cost of resources. A free service that Grayson shares information about is with WV Hive.

“You can do business planning, you can get marketing, HR, accounting support,” Grayson said, “there’s a whole plethora of resources available through Hive, and it’s a free service.”

The resources are intended to help southern West Virginia, a region that has been particularly hard hit economically by coal boom and bust cycles and the decline of well-paying coal jobs. This project focuses on Nicholas, Summers, Raleigh and Fayette counties.

“I would say the need is great throughout southern West Virginia,” Grayson said. “I think these four counties have proven to be where I work and we as the economic development authority have identified [these counties] as a priority but with additional resources, other communities could have a similar position that could do the same.

With new federal investments in projects to help communities diversify economically and support entrepreneurs, Grayson looks forward to helping current business owners get what they need to thrive in this region.

“To all business owners, entrepreneurs, people who are entrepreneurial or entrepreneurial, go ahead. There is no better time than now. And we have the resources,” Grayson said. “There are so many opportunities and they can seem daunting, but dive in and we’ll help you.”


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