the Elkins, West Virginia daily newspaper "The
Copyright 2009 by
the InterMountain: used by permission; all rights reserved.
local communities have potential to build on efforts that have
already been taken to create economic and community growth.
Wednesday, Gov. Joe Manchin
announced Elkins, Beverly and Belington are among the 13 West
Virginia cities accepted to the state's first group of OnTrac
OnTrac is an acronym for Organization,
Training, Revitalization and Capacity and was recently created by
Main Street West Virginia to help communities boost economic growth
with evaluation, education and networking resources.
OnTrac affords communities
the opportunity to receive training on the National Trust for
Historic Preservations Four-Point Approach, which includes
organization, promotion, design and economic restructuring; an
assessment of strengths and weaknesses; access to an online library
of databases and resources; attendance to Main Street training
workshops; action-planning services; telephone consultation;
scholarship and grant information; technical design visits; and
participation in the mentoring program.
"OnTrac illustrates one way
the residents of this state have pulled together to improve the
quality of life and business opportunities in their respective
communities," Manchin said.
OnTrac also acts as a
stepping stone to become a Main Street community, which helps towns
"experience an increase in tourism through shopping and cultural and
social activities; a stabilized or improved housing market; an
increase in customers and sales; and an improved image," according
to literature about the program.
"The program is a structured
approach to strengthening and revitalizing so called 'Main
Streets,'" said Randolph County Development Authority Executive
Director Jennifer Giovannitti. "By participating in the program, the
community can take advantage of technical consultants who have a
wealth of knowledge and experience working with small downtown
retail cores to help them grow and prosper."
Randolph County Development
Authority is acting as Elkins' sponsor for OnTrac. Giovannitti said
OnTrac is important to downtown Elkins because it offers a fresh new
way to look at the commercial downtown core.
Preservation and Beverly Historic Landmarks Commission Director
Chelley Depp explained the organizations applied to the OnTrac
program in order to build on the revitalization that is already
taking place in the town. Depp said OnTrac experts will provide an
explanation of strengths and weaknesses in Beverly. Historic Beverly
Preservation and Beverly Historic Landmarks Commission will work
with OnTrac advisers to continue to develop and enhance the town.
The Beverly Town Council is serving as the OnTrac sponsor.
"To have the distinction is
great," Depp said.
Giovannitti and Depp said the two Randolph
County communities will work together to better the entire county.
"Ideally, building shared
links with the other neighboring small town Main Streets, like that
of the town of Beverly, would expand the economic model further and
create more continuity between our towns and cities," Giovannitti
said. "Randolph County has a lot to offer."
Committee Chairman Chris Sauerwein said the OnTrac program would
immensely increase the amount of revitalization resources at
Belington's disposal and open doors of opportunity that might not
otherwise be possible.
To make OnTrac a success, community
participation is vital, explained Main Street Philippi Program
Director Tammy Stemple.
Philippi became a Main Street West Virginia
city in 1997. Since then, Stemple thinks the city has become a
better place to live.
The success of Philippi's Main Street program
relied on the dedication and work of volunteers, Stemple said. Their
work has resulted in establishing events that bring tourists to the
town; enhancing streetscape; and obtaining grants for walking trails
and other activities for residents, she explained.
OnTrac is designed as a
community program and its success will depend on involvement from a
variety of people, including Elkins City Council, building owners,
residents and business owners, Giovannitti explained.
Prior to receiving the
OnTrac designation, she said Elkins merchants have worked to
strengthen and build unity downtown and the Elkins-Randolph County
Chamber of Commerce is enthusiastic about the potential of the
Giovannitti said the RCDA is counting on the
ERCCC and Elkins' Downtown Merchants Association to take the lead on
The team of people working directly on the
program will be doing community assessments, working with
consultants, scheduling interviews with building owners, meeting
with businesses, attending training workshops and generally figuring
out the best ways to promote the area based on the Main Street
"The more people trained and involved the
better, because it will be a labor intensive process that needs
commitment from all of the stakeholders," Giovannitti said.
"All the stakeholders would
have to remain committed to the OnTrac program," she said. "Since
the program requires a lot of work to develop and implement the
workplan, it is a litmus test for whether the community is ready to
take on the Main Street program."
Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ellen Spears said, "The
chamber is committed to working in partnership with the Randolph
County Development Authority, the city of Elkins and the downtown
merchants to build consensus and cooperation among all the
stakeholders as we strive together to reach a common goal."
Giovannitti added, "We have
to succeed with OnTrac before looking ahead to Main Street and that
is why the community and City Council must dedicate serious time and
effort to the program."
According to Giovannitti, state OnTrac program
directors likely found Elkins appealing because of historic
buildings, active commerce, its walkable, quaint streets and because
it "holds tremendous potential with the growth of tourism and
tourist activity in the adjoining railyard."
"We all want to see the
downtown businesses succeed and prosper and we want tourists to come
to our community and remember the specific shops and local charm,"
Giovannitti said. "I hope the OnTrac program gives the community new
ideas, new perspectives and new strategies to consider so that
Elkins can continue to diversify the economy."
Businesses will benefit from
OnTrac, Spears added, because the program revitalization protects
the existing tax base and provides an incubator for new businesses.