WV on my mind

Happy August! Hard to believe that we’re halfway through summer. Here in Maine, we hold onto each day, as summer is so fleeting. But I did leave for a few days to present at the Development District Association of Appalachia’s professional development seminar in Charleston, WV. This meeting of economic developers in Appalachia was organized by my friends and colleagues at the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC), so I had to say yes.

Needless to say, Appalachia still encompasses many rural, distressed communities, even more distressed than many of the places I usually work. It was uplifting to see so many people dedicated to making things better in their communities, often against long odds. These are places where the decline of coal has hit home, where opioid addiction is rampant and where it’s easy to lose hope.

I was especially interested in a presentation by Ann Barth of TechConnect WV, a statewide economic development organization dedicated to the advancement of science, technology, and the innovation economy in West Virginia. She talked about the innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives in the state, one way that the organization is helping change the narrative in the state. One resource that inspired me was ChemCeption, the nation’s only incubator-accelerator focused solely on commercializing chemistry-based technologies, including traditional and green chemistry, biotechnology, advanced materials and more. Located in the former Union Carbide campus in South Charleston, ChemCeption has made the necessary pivot from being about producing chemicals to chemistry as an enabling technology. This means that breweries, distillers and CBD producers are potentially part of the mix, not just traditional chemical companies.

Talk about turning lemons into lemonade…

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