IMPROVING INTERNAL OPERATIONS
Click to View full PDF, or print, the MCDA Strategic Plan ("Vision")
A community needs strong leadership to successfully undertake development activities. This leadership has to be at both the individual and the organizational level. There need to be key persons who move things forward and serve as catalysts for change. Behind these leaders, there needs to be a strong organization which provides counsel and support. Furthermore, by working together, the leadership and the organization can bring about far more positive change than if they acted independently or in an uncoordinated manner.
Of course, this does not happen without preparation work. Those who that are serving as leaders as well as those who are part of the support organization require specific education and training to gain the knowledge, skills, and abilities to make things happen. Sufficient resources must be made available so that things can happen. Policies, procedures, and processes need to be in place to ensure that the right things are done and that things are done in the right way. Finally, there must be some forethought and planning put into these actions so that guidance is in place to ensure all decisions are made to move the community in the same (desired) direction.
For the Mineral County Development Authority, this is an extremely important consideration as it is again facing the challenges of associated with having new leadership. The March 2014 hiring of a new executive director means that the authority has its fourth different full-time staff leader over the last 10 years. While the changes have been the result of retirements and voluntary relocations, they nevertheless have resulted in transitional periods where progress was slow and uncertainty was high. Combine the current change with the recent turnover in the membership of the board, it becomes obvious that the development authority could benefit from some organizational stability – both to accomplish the work agenda set forth within this plan and to forge a positive identity and direction for the MCDA.
To that end, there are several goal areas for the Mineral County Development Authority.
Support Development: The Mineral County Development Authority board needs to be supportive of those working in development. This means working with its new director to ensure his introduction to the position and the transitional phase as he begins work are as uncomplicated and unproblematic as possible. Likewise, the development authority should be encouraging and accommodating to those working on related activities, so long as those efforts are not at cross-purposes with its goals. Likely allies include the Mineral County Chamber of Commerce with respect to retail development, RCBI and the Mineral County Board of Education on workforce development, WVU Potomac State on higher education-related development, and WVU Hospitals on health care focused development. Work on these tasks should begin immediately and be undertaken continuously to ensure everyone continues to work together and in the right direction.
Undertake Training: The Mineral County Development Authority has a new executive director. It also has several board members who have served in that capacity for a short period of time. Both the director and these relatively new board members should seek training to help make them more effective in carrying out the duties of their respective positions. Likewise, more experienced board members would also benefit from additional professional education. Training in community and economic development is available from a variety of entities such as the West Virginia Development Office, the West Virginia University Extension Service, and the West Virginia Community Development Hub. Furthermore, by seeking training for the executive director and the board members, the development authority would easily meet the annual requirement of 30 hours of professional development for the state’s Local Economic Development Grant Program. Work on these tasks should begin in the next few months and be undertaken periodically (annually) to ensure the MCDA stays up-to-date with respect to development methods and trends.
Publicize Existence and Efforts: The Mineral County Development Authority has done a lot of good work and has had its share of successes over the years. Often, however, this work is done in the background and the efforts of the MCDA go unnoticed. Creating regular modes of communication should be explored. These could range from e-newsletters to regular press releases to public access and other media appearances. Meanwhile, some of the materials the development authority has to promote itself – from pamphlets to the website – could use updating. To that end, new materials should be developed that incorporate the information and ideas from this plan (including the updated mission statement). This will permit the development authority to better brand itself and ensure its materials will provide a consistent message and have a standard “look and feel.” Work on the communication tasks should begin in the next 6 to 12 months and the branding tasks in the next 12 to 24 months. In both cases, these efforts will need to be revisited periodically to ensure the message and information distributed about the development authority remains accurate and updated.
Establish Dialogue with Other Leaders: Just as the activities of the Mineral County Development Authority can be invisible to the public, it can also be unknown to the myriad of elected and appointed public officials who represent the county. Similarly, the MCDA does not always know what the leaders who serve the county think of the development authority – or what they might be able to do on its behalf. This mutual unfamiliarity is a large problem. Anonymity in the eyes of the decision-makers, the resource allocators, and the agenda-setters usually results in an organization not getting what it needs, whether that be funding, project assistance, or legislative changes.
While the general efforts to publicize the work of the development authority (discussed above) would help with the elected and appointed public officials as well, additional action is needed. The prominent persons (or positions they hold) which must be kept abreast of the development authority activities need to be identified. This would begin with the County Commission and the municipal governments in the county; they all have representation on the MCDA board but confirming those connections is always a good place to start. Then boards, elected bodies, and other entities that serve the county and may have a connection to economic development need to be kept informed. That list would include the Board of Education, the Planning Commission, the Parks and Recreation Department, the administration of WVU Potomac State College, the Mineral County Chamber of Commerce, the Potomac Valley Hospital Board, and the Potomac Highlands Airport Authority. These officials need to be asked about development efforts and how they and their organizations could benefit from them and contribute to them. Likewise, meetings with the state and federal legislators who represent the county (or parts of it) need to be held to solicit their input and seek their support. Finally, these meetings – as well as regular development authority board meetings – could be held at various locations around the county to encourage expanded public participation and to demonstrate that the development authority serves all of Mineral County. In all cases, these activities are expected to be periodic and continual once they have been started. Work on these tasks should begin in the next 12 months or so and be revisited as needed to ensure all those who need to be involved are informed and/or invited.
Standardize Practices and Record-Keeping: While most of the focus of this plan has been to direct the Mineral County Development Authority to “do the right things,” it is also necessary for it to “do things right.” In other words, because the development authority is technically a part of the county government, it must abide by the appropriate laws, such as the Open Governmental Meeting Act (WV Code §6A-9) and the Governmental Ethics Act (WV Code §6B-1). Work to confirm the development authority is in compliance with its legal requirements needs to be done immediately and should be done continually. There are also practical reasons to have a set of standard practices. Economic development is often very complicated. Some activities require confidentiality while others require cooperation of multiple entities. Board members have different strengths, and thus play different roles, with respect to such efforts. Consistent communication between all parties is essential for success. Related to this, the development authority needs to create a standard filing system and follow a standard record-keeping protocol. That would ensure reports and files need to be maintained in an orderly manner so that information on past activities can be readily retrieved when needed for background or research. Work on these tasks should begin in the 12 to 24 months. It is a long-term project and as thus should be undertaken with care so it will not need to be revisited for some time.