(By Mr. Speaker, Mr. Kiss, and Delegates Poling, Boggs,

Browning, Butcher, Campbell, Craig, Ferrell, Hrutkay,

Leach, Louisos, Mahan, Morgan, Pino, Shelton, Staton,
Stemple, Sumner, Susman, Talbott, R. M. Thompson,
H. White, Wright, Canterbury and Sobonya)

[Introduced January 28, 2003; referred to the

Committee on Rules.]

Recognizing, commending and urging the support of the work, contributions and opportunities that West Virginia Rural Champion Communities can provide this state.

Whereas, The Alliance of West Virginia Champion Communities has been meeting for over a year and in the last few months has made a commitment to form a state-wide collaborative. By working together the group feels they can be more effective than working separately. Within the group, there is considerable organizational capacity as each entity has gone through a lengthy strategic planning process to produce a document to submit to the federal government. All have been operating as champions for up to seven years, since the program was introduced in 1995. While the alliance itself is new, the capacity within it is impressive; and
Whereas, The mission statement of the alliance states the following:
"The Alliance of West Virginia Champion Communities is a collaboration of citizen-led community-based partnerships that are implementing a strategic vision for change, leading to an empowered and locally-motivated people organized for mutual benefit and able to share knowledge, strategies and activities for community improvement."; and
Whereas, The Alliance of West Virginia Champion Communities is an informal network of seven federally designated Champion Communities in West Virginia. These seven Champion Communities represent portions or all of the following twelve counties: Tricounty (Summers County, Greenbrier County and Fayette County), Mountain Champion (Webster County and a portion of Nicholas County), CAEZ (Clay County, Braxton County, Nicholas County, Fayette County, and Roane County), and Lincoln County, McDowell County, Barbour County and Wyoming County; and
Whereas, Each Champion Community is established to improve the economic and community development of rural regions and to mitigate the negative effects of a lack of employment opportunities, job losses, lack of affordable housing, reduced educational resources and inadequate social services on rural communities. Each Champion Community will also create an environment for communities to find strategies to solve their own problems and gain sustainable development; and
Whereas, The Champion Community program is designed to afford communities real opportunities for growth and revitalization. The framework of the program is embodied in four key principles:
(a) Economic opportunity. -- The first priority in revitalizing distressed communities is to create economic opportunities - jobs and work - for all residents. The creation of jobs, both within the community and throughout the region provides the foundation on which residents will become economically self-sufficient and communities can revitalize themselves. Opportunities for entrepreneurial initiatives, small business expansion, and training for jobs that offer upward mobility are other key elements for providing economic opportunity and direction;
(b) Sustainable community development. -- The creation of jobs is the first critical step toward the creation of a livable and vibrant community where human initiative, work and stable families can flourish. However, economic development can only be successful when part of a coordinated and comprehensive strategy that includes physical development as well a human development. A community where streets are safe to walk, the air and water are clean, housing is secure, and human services are accessible, and where a vital civic spirit is nurtured by innovation design, is a community that can be a source of strength and hope to its residents. A community where learning is a commitment for life can foster the skills, habits of mind and attitudes that will make work reward and families nurturing. The Champion Community program seeks to empower communities by supporting local plans that coordinate economic, physical, environmental, community and human development.
(c) Community-based partnerships. -- The road to economic opportunity and community development starts with broad participation by all segments of the community. The residents themselves are the most important element of revitalization. Others are the political and governmental leadership, community groups, health and social service groups, environmental groups, religious organizations, the private and nonprofit sectors, centers of learning and other community institutions.
Communities cannot succeed with public resources alone. Private and nonprofit support and involvements are critical to the success of a community seeking revitalization. Partners also must be created within and among the levels of government. Government departments and agencies on all levels must work together to ensure that relevant programs and resources can be used in a coordinated, flexible and timely fashion to help implement the community's strategic plan and that regulatory and other barriers to sustainable growth are removed.
(d) Strategic vision for change. -- The strategic vision for change is a comprehensive strategic map for revitalization. It is a means to analyze the full local context and the linkages to the larger region. It builds on the community's assets and coordinates its response to its needs including public safety, human and social services and environmental protection. It integrates economic, physical, environmental, community and human development in a comprehensive and coordinated fashion so that families and communities can work together and thrive. A strategic plan also sets real goals and performance benchmarks for measuring progress and establishes a framework for assessing how new experience and knowledge can be incorporated on an ongoing basis into a successful plan for revitalization; and
Whereas, Rural Champion Communities are established in USDA regulations at 7 CAR 25 and are designed by USDA from among the pools of applicants seeking empowerment zone or enterprise community status. The number of Champion Communities is limited to the number of applicants that did not receive either an empowerment zone or an enterprise community designation;
therefore, be it
Resolved by the House of Delegates of West Virginia:
That the members hereby
acknowledge the opportunities that Champion Communities bring to their counties, recognize and commend them as citizen-led, community-based initiatives that are affording distressed communities real opportunities for growth and revitalization and urge the support of their mission ; and, be it
Further Resolved, That the members by adopting this resolution encourage the agencies of state government and elected officials at all levels to seek opportunities to partner with these Champion Communities to ensure that related programs and resources can be used in a coordinated, flexible and timely fashion to help implement the community's strategic plan and that regulatory and other barriers to sustainable growth within their scope of responsibility are either altered or removed.