Now That Huntington Has Won the America’s Best Communities Competition, Here’s What You Need to Know
Huntington has officially been named America’s Best Community! That has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?
Now that the victory of winning the America’s Best Communities competition and the $3 million grand prize has begun to sink in, you may have questions about what all of this means for Huntington and how the money will be used.
We’ll get to that in just a moment, but first, let’s provide a little background about the America’s Best Communities competition and the path that our community took to win the grand prize.
The competition, sponsored by Frontier Communications, The Weather Channel, DISH Network and CoBank, officially launched in September 2014. It was geared specifically for small towns and cities located within Frontier’s service territory and with a population between 9,500 and 80,000. The goal of the competition was to provide a platform to aid and inspire small communities with their economic revitalization plans.
There WAS NOT an entry fee to join the contest, and any travel costs associated with the contest were paid by the sponsors.
Fifty quarterfinalists were selected from the initial pool of 350-plus applicants based on their ability to demonstrate the greatest potential for revitalization. Those that made it to this round received $50,000 and were required to provide a $15,000 match in community funds. Our community actually raised $22,000 from 15 different individual/corporate donors and community events such as the play “Collis P.” at City Hall. No general fund dollars were used for this match.
Throughout the competition, as other needs arose, individuals/corporations contributed another $11,600 to cover them, such as the banner that was placed across 8th Street. So in total, $33,600 was raised from individuals, corporations and philanthropic institutions.
After the quarterfinal round, the contest was then narrowed to 15 semifinalists and then eight finalists. Huntington received an additional $100,000 for being named one of the finalists in April 2016. In the finalist round, each community was judged on how they could leverage this $100,000 cash award to achieve progress over an 11-month period. More specifically, the communities were judged on achievement of short-term tactics, community engagement and sustainable community revitalization.
After the 11-month period from April 2016 to March of this year, the eight finalists were judged and made presentations on their community revitalizations plan (which occurred yesterday in Denver). Statesboro, Georgia won third place and a $1 million prize, Lake Havasu City, Arizona won second place and a $2 million prize, and Huntington won the $3 million grand prize.
It is important to note that ALL of the winnings and community donations from the America’s Best Communities competition have not been, nor will they be, placed into the general fund. Rather, the money has been and will continue to be maintained by the Foundation for the Tri-State Community Inc., an independent, non-profit, tax-exempt philanthropic corporation – and the community foundation serving the Tri-State area of eastern Kentucky, southwestern West Virginia and southern Ohio.
Lastly, let’s discuss how the America’s Best Communities prize money will be used.
All winnings from the America’s Best Communities competition will be used to advanced Huntington’s community revitalization plan, also known as the Huntington Innovation Project (HIP). This plan is the culmination of three years of hard work by literally hundreds of community members. The four primary components of the plan are:
- The Highlawn Brownfields project
- The Fairfield Innovation Corridor
- West End Revitalization and the West Edge Factory (former Corbin factory)
- The city’s Gigabit City initiative (expanding high-speed broadband in Huntington)
I encourage you to read this detailed plan, the core of which is about economic revitalization and creating new jobs through innovative methods. I would also like to point you to the section beginning on page 41 titled “Leveraging Additional Investment.” This outlines the fact that since the beginning of the ABC competition, Huntington has secured and leveraged more than $12.7 million in resources for the components of our community revitalization plan. The additional $3 million will allow us to leverage additional state, federal, philanthropic and corporate resources to move these projects forward.