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Huntington, West Virginia, has proudly claimed the title of "America's Best Community" after being named the Grand Prize winner in the America's Best Communities competition, a $10 million community revitalization campaign sponsored by Frontier Communications, DISH Network, CoBank and The Weather Channel.
Launched in September 2014 to inspire revitalization and growth in small towns and rural communities across the country, America's Best Communities challenged local leaders to bring their neighbors together to envision a stronger future and build a strategy to improve lives and livelihoods. It has served as a catalyst for positive change by awarding seed funding to help communities turn their exceptional ideas from vision to reality.
About 350 communities entered the competition. The field was narrowed to 50 quarterfinalists, 15 semifinalists and eight finalists. Communities advanced in the competition based on the effectiveness of the revitalization plans developed, fine-tuned and implemented over the course of the three-year competition.
Huntington was named the winner of the competition on April 19, 2017, at the America's Best Communities Grand Prize Ceremony in Denver and received a $3 million prize for first place. Lake Havasu City, Arizona, won second place and a $2 million prize. Statesboro, Georgia, received $1 million for third place.
Throughout the competition, from its start through the grand prize round, an independent panel of judges reviewed and scored communities' proposals based on an objective set of criteria to select the winners.
Huntington's revitalization plan, known as the Huntington Innovation Project (HIP), will transform neighborhoods and blighted spaces where the old manufacturing and coal-sector economy has declined into hip hubs for advanced making, innovative manufacturing and healthy community improvements -- all connected by high-speed broadband. Huntington will spark this revitalization through key initiatives in its three most distressed neighborhoods â€“ the West End, Fairfield and Highlawn.
Click here to view the Huntington Innovation Project (HIP) Brochure
The West End will be revived through its "River-to-Rail Revitalization" initiative. This will be supported by the innovative social enterprise project at the West Edge Factory, which will put dislocated workers into new, highly-skilled jobs through a solar-training institute, craft furniture-making operation and other job-training programs. Surrounding the West Edge Factory, Huntington will foster the transformation of vacant properties with commercial jobs sparked by a new intermodal freight center called the Heartland Intermodal Gateway. Along with this new economic development, Huntington will revitalize traditional neighborhoods with healthy-food initiatives at The Wild Ramp and Central City Farmer's Market; modern housing; and main street renewal along 14th Street West.
In Fairfield, there will be an expansion of a healthy innovation corridor to boost health care jobs and healthy community designs along the city's main artery into the downtown, Hal Greer Boulevard. This corridor will spring from the regional medical anchors Cabell Huntington Hospital, St. Mary's Medical Center, the Center for Rural Health and the Marshall University Medical School.
In Highlawn, the City of Huntington received three EPA grants totaling $600,000 to assess "brownfield" properties that may have been adversely affected by petroleum and other hazardous substances and to conduct a market-analysis study that will evaluate varying types of redevelopment opportunities. A reuse plan, which will be completed by early 2017, will lay out a vision that could include research and development facilities, retail, recreational trails, riverfront redevelopment and storm water improvements.
This trio of initiatives will be connected by the deployment of high-speed broadband through Huntington's "Gigabit City" initiative. Together, they will renew our community, create job opportunities, enhance sustainability and be a gateway of revitalization for the Tri-State and Appalachian region.