In 2015, Eastern commissioned an independent study by Pegasus Planning and Development to review regional economic development and entrepreneurial opportunities in the Potomac Highlands Region. As a result of this study, as well as IREED’s own extensive research, and with the assistance of regional, statewide and federal partners, IREED developed economic initiatives and continues to serve as an economic development multiplier by initiating, accelerating and launching economic development and entrepreneurship activities in the region.
The development of a "creative economy" means driving job creation by capitalizing on a region’s cultural, natural, and human assets. A Regional Tourism/Arts Initiative was identified as an essential component in Potomac Highlands' economic development. IREED expanded this to a larger vision of developing a "creative economy."
The Potomac Highlands Creative Economy Initiative capitalizes on the region’s cultural, heritage, and natural assets by encouraging collaboration among businesses and others working in the creative economy. While Eastern has a service area of six counties, the efforts of the creative economy were expanded to encompass eight counties to conform with and meet the definition of the "Potomac Highlands" as defined by the WV Department of Tourism. As a result, the counties included in the scope of work include Hardy, Hampshire, Mineral, Grant, Pendleton, Tucker, Pocahontas, and Randolph.
We welcome anyone interested in the creative economy to attend our virtual Potomac Highlands Creative Economy meetings held on the 4th Thursday of each month at 10:00 a.m. For more information about the creative economy contact Tina.Metzer@easternwv.edu.
The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation's Mission is to, encourage human development in West Virginia and Southwestern Pennsylvania through strategically placed charitable resources.
The creative economy is made possible by grant funding from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. Some of the past and current initiatives include:
- Monthly Convening of the Potomac Highlands Creative Economy Council
- Annual Tourism Conference
- Historic Masonry Preservation Workshop
- Farm to Bottle Events
- Maple Days
- Tourism Clustering Leadership and events
- Assisted with South Branch RiverFest
- Library Summit
- AmeriCorps site
With supporting funds from the USDA Rural Business Development Grant, Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, and the Small Business Administration (SBA) Eastern's IREED launched agriculture programming and initiatives to help drive new economic opportunities in agriculture. Eastern's IREED understands that successful programming and economic development could not be accomplished alone. Local, regional, and state partnerships are key to sustainability and impactful programming efforts. A few of our partners include the United States Department of Agriculture, West Virginia Department of Agriculture, West Virginia University Extension, West Virginia State, and the Robert C. Byrd Institute.
These partnerships and supportive funding have allowed Eastern's IREED to support agriculture entrepreneurs locally, regionally, and statewide to adopt and drive agricultural innovation. Several practices include the utilization of poultry bio-waste as a method of upcycling byproducts and utilizing precision agriculture technologies such as drone imaging on operations. Eastern's IREED has also led many initiatives including:
- Ag Action Council
- WV AG Showcase
- WV AG Student Challenge
- Workshops and Trainings
- Farm to Table Events
- Business Coaching
Eastern is viewed as one of the leader's in economic development specifically in Agriculture. As a result of the tremendous interest from past programming, Eastern now has a Director of Agriculture, a Potomac Highlands Food Cooperative, an Associates in Business with an Emphasis in Agribusiness, and timely workshops and programming.
IREED identified the potential of using green technology solutions to turn waste products such as poultry litter and wood waste into energy while at the same time creating a value-added product – biochar.
IREED assembled a broad range of global experts from various backgrounds, including academics, researchers, federal and state agencies, private consultants, small businesses, national biochar, and waste organizations coupled with experts experienced in entrepreneurship and commercialization and the Eastern Biochar Group was formed. Since the humble beginnings, this group now operates a "grassroots" national effort to promote biochar.
This initiative is working closely with Eastern's Biological and Environmental Technology program creating trained and knowledgeable people who will ensure responsible economic development while protecting our water, air, and biological systems for our generation and future generations.
Funding from the Regional Planning and Development Council has assisted Eastern in developing workshops, annual summit, meetings and more.
Eastern is excited to be an organizing partner for "National Biochar Week." The development of the biochar industry has the capacity to be world-changing; join us as we spotlight "Biochar in the Real World " the uses, types, and market of biochar. Join us on December 7th - 11th from 11:00 a.m. EST - 2:00 p.m. EST each day.
Current projects include:
Hydrological Soil Classification of Urban Soils Integrated with Biochar Feedstocks
The Eastern's Workforce Opportunity Regional Center and Services, Inc. (WORCS) thanks to funding from the Chesapeake Bay Trust will demonstrate and document proper soil regeneration protocols to reduce runoff volumes and maximize impervious disconnection practices by integrating biochar into existing soils.
Coal-use Pollution Mapping and Wetland Monitoring Project
Through Eastern WORCS, the B.E.T. Program received financial support from Maryland's DNR Power Plant Research Project to monitor acid mine drainage and the use of coal ash waste as a potential remediation material.
The purpose of the project is to monitor ash projects in Garrett County and acid mine drainage from the Kempton/Coketon Mine Complex and increase the scope to detect and monitor coal ash and acid mine drainage (AMD) entering the Potomac River on Maryland's southern border and the Youghiogheny River on Maryland's western border. For any questions about these project efforts will be ongoing between 2020 to 2023 contact Anthony.Oliverio@easternwv.edu.
Mid-Atlantic Sustainable Biomass for Value-added Products Consortium (MASBio)
Eastern is also excited to assist and lead components of the, "Mid-Atlantic Sustainable Biomass for Value-added Products Consortium (MASBio)" project that is being funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Sustainable Agriculture Systems program area and led by WVU's Dr. Jingxin Wang, Professor within The Division of Forestry and Natural Resources.
The Eastern Biochar Initiative is a group which concentrates on the education, expansion, and economic development of the biochar industry in the Mid-Atlantic region of the eastern United States. Eastern Biochar will provide support to the MASBio project through 1; demonstration of a commercial scale mobile biochar production unit utilizing woody feedstock within the Mid-Atlantic study region, or a comparable unit and 2; performing workforce development training sessions in cooperation with Eastern's IREED. These project efforts will be ongoing between 2020 to 2025.